Summer Seminar Draws Latin Americanists
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For the third consecutive year the University of Michigan hosted a unique educational event for an international group of scholars doing research in Latin American Studies. Building on the successful experience of similar programs offered during the previous two years, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program (LACS), the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), and the International Institute joined forces to organized the 1994 Summer Program on Research Methodology. Comprised of a series of workshops, lectures and other academic events, since 1992 the main goal of the program has been to provide intensive, 2-month graduate training on research methodology, with special emphasis on quantitative research methods and its applicability to the study of society and politics in Latin America. Furthermore, the program provides an international and multi-disciplinary academic environment which fosters opportunities for interchange and international collaborations among scholars from Latin America and Latin Americanists from the University of Michigan and other U.S. and overseas universities.
Twenty two scholars from a total of almost 50 applicants were selected to participate in this year's program. The majority of the scholars—fifteen of them—came from different countries in Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela. Most of these Latin American participants received fellowships—varying between approximately $1,000 and $3,000—to assist with their traveling costs, program fees and living expenses. Seven of the fellowships were provided by the International Institute. ICPSR awarded six other fellowships, from a grant provided by the Mellon Foundation aimed at increasing Latin American participation in the ICPSR programs. And one additional fellowship came from the University of Michigan's Guatemalan Scholarship Fund, administered by the Office of Financial Aid in conjunction with LACS. (In a few cases, partial fellowships that covered only the program's fees were matched by additional financial support from the fellows' own home institution in Latin America.)
In addition to the Latin American fellows, six U.S. scholars and one scholar from Spain were also selected to participate in the program. All twenty two participants shared a strong academic background in Latin American Studies and an interest in using quantitative methods in their research. The majority of participants were advanced graduate students who saw the Summer Program as an opportunity for acquiring methodological training in preparation for their dissertation research; others were social science researchers or instructors who, typically, have recently completed their masters' degree and who intend to pursue their studies at the doctoral level; and a few of them were scholars at the faculty or post-doctoral level interested in improving their understanding and use of quantitative analysis. Political science, sociology and economics were the disciplines represented by most of the participants, who as a group displayed a wide variety of subfields and topics of research interests.
During July and August the participants attended daily lectures and workshops as well as other academic events. As in previous years, two main components formed the backbone of the program:
(1) The ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research, an internationally renowned training program which offers a wide selection of courses on statistics and data analysis and which allows the students hands-on experience in the usage of datasets and computer programs for quantitative data analysis. The ICPSR Summer Program has been held at the University of Michigan campus since the 1960s, and it has established at the University a unique advanced training environment in the area of quantitative research. Every summer it brings to Ann Arbor hundreds of students and scholars from different parts of the U.S. and from all over the world; students from more than fifty countries participated in this year's program.
(2) A specialized workshop on "Quantitative Research on Latin America" offered by LACS, as a University of Michigan graduate seminar (course number LACS 799), in conjunction with the regular ICPSR Summer Program. This graduate workshop was offered for the first time in the summer of 1992, and again in 1993, under the joint sponsorship of LACS, ICPSR and the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies (CILAS) at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). It was then designed by Peter H. Smith, Simon Bolivar Professor of Latin American Studies and Director of CILAS at UCSD, who has come to Michigan to teach this graduate course every summer for the past three years. The seminar examines the applicability of quantitative research methods to Latin American studies. This past summer, course sessions were focused on studies of elite formation, electoral behavior, popular opinion, and social movements, among other topics; case studies were drawn from analyses of several countries throughout the region, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru. A substantial part of the class was dedicated to the students' presentation of their own research projects, followed by discussion sessions.
In addition to these two main components, several other lectures and academic events provided further opportunities for interchange between the Summer Program participants and the University's faculty and graduate students. A round-table discussion brought program participants and the University's graduate students together to discuss "Current Issues in Latin America," including a variety of topics such as U.S.-Latin American relations after the Cold War, elections and democracy, and inequality and social movements in contemporary Latin America. Furthermore, in conjunction with the International Institute, LACS organized two guest lectures on comparative research strategies which attempt to bridge the gaps between quantitative and qualitative research on Latin America: Professor Leslie Anderson, from the University of Colorado, discussed her work on peasant beliefs and behavior in Central America, and Professor Timothy Wickham-Crowley from Georgetown University delivered the other talk based on his work on guerrillas in Latin America. Several of the University's faculty and graduate students attended these lectures along with the program's participants. Finally, seizing the opportunity created by the presence of so many area specialists brought to campus by the Summer Program, the Latin American Solidarity Committee (L.A.S.C.) organized a "Latin American Scholars Series" consisting of five talks delivered by Programs's participants. These meetings—covering a variety of topics concerning Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Argentina—gave the program's participants the opportunity to discuss their research projects and to interact with a broader group of people, which included not only University's students and faculty but also members of the community at large who are interested in Latin American issues.
A Bit of History
Under slightly different titles and sponsorship arrangements each year, what is now called the Summer Program on Research Methodology has been taking place at the University of Michigan every summer since 1992. It started by building on a grant give to ICPSR by the Mellon Foundation with the aim of increasing Latin American participation in the ICPSR activities. Additional monies were raised by LACS at the University of Michigan—especially funds from the University Council for International Academic Affairs and from the Office of the Vice-President for Research—and by CILAS, at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). With these resources, ICPSR, LACS and CILAS/UCSD joined forces to create a special set of activities focused on Latin American Studies.
Initially these activities were centered around the creation of an international course—which has since become the regular LACS 799 summer graduate seminar—in association with a fellowship program that would allow Latin American students to take full advantage of the ICPSR Summer Program. Starting in the summer of 1992, this course and associated fellowships have now been offered for three consecutive years, encompassing a total of 65 students, 40 of whom were fellows from Latin America. In time, these joint efforts came to embrace many other related international events focused on comparative and quantitative research on Latin America, bringing about the co-sponsorship or collaboration of other Latin American as well as U.S. institutions.
As an integral part of the 1992 Summer Program, in July of that year the Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) joined LACS, CILAS and ICPSR in co-sponsoring a two-day international conference in Ann Arbor on the current prospects for social science research in Latin America, with special emphasis on quantitative research. A second international conference took place a year later, in the Summer of 1993, in Quito, Ecuador, focusing on comparative research methods. It was jointly sponsored by CLACSO, CILAS and the Faculdad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO/Ecuador), which hosted this and other related events. More than a dozen distinguished scholars, both from within and outside of Latin America participated in the conference. The papers will be part of a book, edited by Peter H. Smith, to be published by Westview Press and CILAS by the end of 1994. (Plans have also been outlined for a Spanish-language versio, with the additional editing by Amparo Menendez-Carrion and Marcia Rivera.)
At the same time and in conjunction with this second conference, an intensive 2-day follow-up training seminar also took place in Quito in the summer of 1993. This seminar was jointly sponsored by FLACSO, CILAS and LACS, and it aimed at providing students who took part in the Summer Program in Ann Arbor the year before another opportunity to discuss their on-going research projects. About half of the students of the 1992 class participated in this seminar, which also included the participation of the professor and the teaching assistant of the original workshop in Ann Arbor, and of several scholars from FLACSO/Ecuador. Contingent upon the availability of funding and on the active involvement of Latin American hosting institutions, a similar follow-up seminar may be developed for the 1993/1994 and futures classes.
A Look at the Future
At present, everything indicates that a 1995 Summer Program on Research Methodology will take place. The continuing success of this initiative has animated the major sponsoring institutions to consolidate and even expand the program's scope. The number of applicants has increased steadily every year since 1992, and several inquires about next year's program have already been received.
Within the University of Michigan, the International Institute, the ICPSR Summer Program and the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Program (LACS) are committed to the program and have already initiated preliminary contacts regarding next year's program. ICPSR would like to see the expansion of Latin America participation in its activities continue and to have other Latin American countries join the Consortium through 'national membership' contracts. LACS would like to see this year's successful experience with quantitative/qualitative guest lectures and other special activities (such as the round-table discussion) consolidated as an integral part of future Summer Programs. In addition, both LACS and the CILAS at the University of California/San Diego would like to see another follow-up seminar (similar to the one in Quito) take place somewhere in Latin America, and they have already started looking for potential hosting institutions in the region. Finally, the International Institute also sees the potential for a gradual expansion to include other geographic areas in addition to Latin America—contingent on additional fellowship monies that would have to be raised, scholars from other areas of the globe (outside Latin America) could also be awarded fellowships to participate in the Program. (New lectures and activities would have to be designed to attend the research interests of these other, non Latin American segments of the Program.) These and other program features will likely be reviewed in the next couple of months by all the institutions involved.