Congratulations! ¡Felicidades! ¡Parabéns! The Duke Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies presents May 2020 graduates who have completed one of our certificate programs

In ordinary times, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies invites students who graduate with a certificate, along with their families and friends, to the John Hope Franklin Center for a ceremony in which they can explain their research, reminisce about their time at Duke, and thank their professors. This year, our ceremony is virtual, and we also honor our graduates and their achievements on these pages.

Completing certificate requirements in 2020 are undergraduate Imani Hicks and graduate students Francisco Jeria, Citlaly Mora, Virginia Patterson, and Amanda Ullman.

Imani Hicks

Imani Hicks, B.A. in Public Policy, earned both a certificate in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and in Human Rights. She completed her capstone paper, "Historical Reenactment in Patricio Guzman’s Films," for the course Memory and Documentary Cinema in Latin America with Professor Gustavo Furtado.

Imani started studying Latin America through a Duke Immerse program, Rights and Identities in the Americas, which involved a trip to Mexico to do field research and meet with grassroots organizations and students. "It was my first opportunity to do research in the field and made me interested in both Latin America and Human Rights," she said.

One of her favorite classes was taught by Mellon Visiting Professor Jill Anderson. Anderson leads the non-profit organization Otros Dreams in Acción (ODA) in Mexico City, working with the deported and returning population of Mexican immigrants.

"The fall of my junior year, I studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in a program centered on social movements and human rights, which was by far one of my most memorable experiences studying Latin America," Imani said. "I had the opportunity to go to the annual conference called the Encuentro Nacional de Mujeres, where a series of workshops were held for 3-4 days about different topics impacting women in Argentina. It was amazing to see thousands of people and grassroots/advocacy organizations take over this town in southern Argentina and be in a supportive environment where women shared their experiences and worked collaboratively toward addressing problems."

Future plans: "After graduation, I will be working in Washington, D.C., on policy and then eventually studying law, so my Spanish skills, knowledge of immigration law, and experiences studying Latin America will all be useful in this next phase of my life."

Francisco Jeria

Francisco Jeria completed a Master of International Development Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy with his project, "Is Chile’s Tax System Converging to OECD Norms?: Closing Institutional Development Gaps in a Newly High-Income Economy."

Francisco's research found that while Chile has been considered an exemplary case of a country that escaped the middle-income trap and graduated to a high-income economy in the last decade, its growth in income has outstripped the development of institutions. While income per capita shows the picture of a developed country, Chile’s institutional development, as proxied by its public finance, still seems to reflect a middle-income economy. His paper explores how Chile can mobilize the required additional revenues between 2020 and 2030 to address its unresolved structural inequalities.

"The main takeaway after these two years as graduate student in International Development Policy, with a focus on Latin America, is that the region is full of opportunities in terms of sustainable and inclusive economic development. Solving structural issues in income inequality, poverty reduction, and political institutions are the most urgent challenges for Latin American governments," Francisco said.

He gave a lot of credit to his public policy professors at Duke: "My coursework at Duke enabled me to address these issues from different angles. In the course Big Debates for Development by professor Indermit Gill, I studied in depth how countries like Peru can reduce structural poverty, address economic informality, and build stronger political institutions. In Development Finances with Professors Roy Kelly and Richard Hemming, I explored the current state and future of public debt in Latin America. This issue became extremely relevant in the present day, given the size of the economic policies that are needed in the region to fight the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. In Governance for Development with Professor Phyllis Pomerantz, I took a deep dive into studying how democracy, civil service reform, and public investment systems can shape the governing context of a developing country like El Salvador."

Future plans: "As a public financial management specialist, I intend to leverage this experience at Duke into working with governments in the region to make public expenditures more relevant and efficient to strengthen our economies and satisfy people’s needs, especially those in the most vulnerable contexts. Finally, I’m graduating from Duke inspired by the energy and passion of the Latin American community at the Sanford School of Public Policy. This fantastic group of professionals has been a constant source of inspiration, happiness, and good vibes. Being one of them has been one of my most memorable experiences at Duke."

Citlaly Mora, Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Citlaly's thesis, "Luchadoras del Sur: Immigrant Women Organizers in the South," focuses on the multi-layered identities of immigrant women organizers in North Carolina through ethnographic interviews and research.

"I explored how identities and experiences have influenced women activists in the state. Integral parts of their identity such as gender, motherhood, and bi-culturalism provide insight on how their experiences as undocumented women in the United States have formed their perceptions of activism and immigrant justice in North Carolina."

Citlaly said her knowledge of and curiosity about Latin America grew and flourished at Duke. "I enjoyed courses that explored Latin America’s rich history and Mexican politics, and the development of human rights in the Global South. I also thoroughly enjoyed courses in Anthropology, Spanish, and the History Department. My most memorable experiences were attending the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies conference my two years as a master’s student."

Future plans: Citlaly will continue working for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. “I hope to be able to use my gained knowledge and expertise to further my career and the work with the Latin American community in the United States and beyond," she said.

Virginia Patterson, Master of Environmental Management

Virginia's group master's project, "Establishing a Biological Corridor in Oaxaca, Mexico," undertook field research within two indigenous communities in Oaxaca to design a biological corridor based on the migratory patterns of jaguars, deer, and coati.

"The aim of the corridor is to physically connect the two communities and establish a protected conservation area," she said. "We also conducted semi-formal interviews with community leaders to determine what existing forms of alternative sustainable livelihood were working (ecotourism, carbon sequestration, water bottling, and sustainable agroforestry) and what needed to be improved."

Virginia on her studies at Duke: "My Latin American studies and research at Duke have been nothing short of life changing. It has opened doors for me in my professional career, and introduced me to people and issues I am passionate about. My favorite professor is Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza. She became my MP advisor and my professor for two courses. She opened my eyes to many new concepts and opportunities; any student is lucky to study with her."

Future plans: "I hope to start the graduate certificate program in Data Science at Duke, and I am looking at Environmental Law/Policy programs. Environmental justice is big on my list."

Amanda Ullman

Amanda Ullman earned her Master of Environmental Management with her project "Analyzing Drivers of Residential Electricity Consumption in Mexico."

The project presents an overview of household appliance penetration across Mexican households in the years 2008 – 2018. Findings of her analysis indicate relatively greater penetration levels of all appliances in higher socioeconomic status households, but significantly lower levels of penetration of air conditioners and heaters in all socioeconomic status levels and geographic regions.

On her time at Duke, she said, "Studying Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) at Duke was an incredibly valuable experience in large part due to the large, interconnected network of professors and students who are from LAC countries and/or who share a passion for research and work across the region. From Ambassador Patrick Duddy’s course on U.S. Policy in Latin America to Professor Magda Silva’s Portuguese language classes, Duke provided me with an immersive look into Latin America from the perspective of policymakers, NGOs, and various cultures and socioeconomic groups. Pursuing the certificate has allowed me to travel to and conduct research across Colombia, as well as produce a variety of academic projects on Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and the Bahamas."

As for the future, Amanda plans to enter the PhD program in City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall.

Congratulations to all of our graduating certificate recipients!

For more information on the graduate and undergraduate certificates in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, see our website or contact Kenneth Maffitt at kmaffitt@duke.edu

Created By
Jennifer Prather