Cheers to the Class of 2020: The Stone Center sends off students with a virtual toast

On Thursday, May 14th, the Stone Center honored graduating Latin American Studies students with a virtual toast and recognition ceremony. Over 75 attendees, including faculty, staff, students, and their families, logged in to Zoom to celebrate the work of fourteen undergraduate majors and minors, six Master of Arts graduates, and three Doctors of Philosophy.

The event began with opening remarks from Stone Center Executive Director Thomas Reese, who underscored the strength and vibrancy of the Latin American Studies community at Tulane. While he lamented the inability to congratulate one another in person, he insisted that in spite of obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic “the bonds we created in our time at Tulane will remain as we face the challenging work we have ahead of us both at home and in Latin America.” Professor Reese was followed by Brian Edwards, the Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, and Lee Skinner, the Dean of Newcomb-Tulane College, who delivered praise and encouragement to students graduating in the midst of trying circumstances.

Professor Edie Wolfe, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Programs, presided over the recognition of outgoing Latin American Studies majors and minors. On a light-hearted note, she commended the endurance and resilience of these students, demonstrated by not only gracefully contending with the disruptions and difficulties presented at then end of the semester, but also by surviving “four years of people asking, ‘Latin American Studies? What are you going to do with that?’” She continued by emphasizing that Latin American Studies students, and this cohort in particular, are uniquely prepared to make positive change as global citizens and leaders, pointing to their “humanitarian instincts and intercultural competence demonstrated in all of their travels, their service, and their studies.” Following her general remarks, she highlighted the achievements of the following graduating students:

Fabiola Aguayo
Torsten Blue
Anna Dobard
Jasmine Gloria
Nile Pierre
Griffin Smith
Sydney Young
Bryna Loranger
Jane Prior
Aislinn Roberts
Joseph Sotile
Amy Urbina
Madeline Wilson
Gabriella Zimbalist

After acknowledgment of graduating seniors, Professor Jimmy Huck, Assistant Director for Graduate Programs, recognized the accomplishments of advanced degree students graduating over the course of the 2019 – 2020 academic year. The six individuals completing the Master’s program included Maisoon Fillo, who received her degree in August 2019, and Bryana Mattes, who received her degree in December 2019. The following four students defended their theses in Spring 2020:

Bethany Beachum, “Navigating Donors and the State: Power Dynamics in Guatemalan Civil Society” (DIRECTOR: James D. Huck, Jr., Stone Center)
Arielle Crook, “At the Intersection of Health, Healing, and Justice: Analyzing the African Botanical Legacy in Brazil” (CO-DIRECTORS: James D. Huck, Jr., Stone Center, & Kerri Brown, Anthropology, SMU)
Rubén Francisco de Jesús Morales Forte, “Maya Scripta: Applying Technology to Foster Indigenous Awareness in Guatemala, A Case Study with Community Engagement at Dolores, Petén” (DIRECTOR: Judith Maxwell, Anthropology)
Erika Pettersen, “The Image of La India in Oaxaca, Mexico: Forging Afro-Descendant Visibility and Trans-Modern Indigeneity at the 2019 Guelaguetza” (DIRECTOR: Marilyn Miller, Spanish & Portuguese)

The following three students defended their dissertations and received Doctoral degrees over the course of academic year:

Samantha J. Greenspun, “A Gender Sensitive Fiscal Incidence Analysis for Latin America: Brazil, Colombia, The Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Uruguay” (DIRECTOR: Nora Lustig, Economics) – Ph.D., December 2019
Susanne R. Hackett, “The Yoruba in the Construction of Cuban Revolutionary Nationalism” (DIRECTOR: Ana López, Communication) – Ph.D., May 2020
Jesús G. Ruiz, “Subjects of the King: Royalism and the Origins of the Haitian Revolution, 1763-1806” (DIRECTOR: Kris Lane, History) – Ph.D., May 2020

The online celebration closed with expressions of gratitude from graduating students along with well wishes and words of encouragement from their professors. All of the staff and faculty at the Stone Center are incredibly proud of the 2020 graduating class and wish them all the best in their forthcoming pursuits.