by Fernando Quintero
"The Peso Plummets." "Drug Trade Destroying Colombian Jungle." Two recent headlines that indicate growing public concern with the Latin American sectors of our global village.
In academia, the award of a $450,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation for fellowships in Latin American sociology "indicates in general a growing concern with Latin American studies," said Laura Enriquez, assistant professor of sociology.
Enriquez, who along with sociology Professor Peter Evans, is coordinating the fellowship application process, said the Mellon grant also represents a shift in the major foundation's approach to funding area studies.
"In the past, the preference was to fund centers," said Enriquez. "Now, they've decided they can do more working with disciplines, starting with sociology."
The fellowships provide a stipend of $12,000 during the academic year for up to three years. In addition, fellows may also receive a $3,000 summer stipend and assistance with travel expenses.
Enriquez said a number of graduate sociology students at Berkeley are studying a wide range of topics such as changing gender relations in the maquiladora industries along the U.S.-Mexico border, and how Puerto Rico and Cuba have pursued such different socio-economic paths despite having such familiar structures before 1959.
Berkeley is one of only four universities in the United States that was asked to submit a proposal for the Mellon grant. The other awards went to UCLA, Johns Hopkins and University of Texas at Austin.
As part of the fellowships program, Enriquez said Berkeley will work with other funded campuses to sponsor forums, lectures and other research-oriented activities.
Enriquez added that because of the grant funding, stepped-up activity in her department includes plans for more international collaboration, beginning with the University of Santiago in Chile.