First recipients of the LAS Engagement Awards announced for 2021-22

September 20, 2021 by Berenice Villagómez

The Latin American Studies (LAS) program is delighted to announce the results of its first Undergraduate Engagement Awards competition for 2021-22.

The Undergraduate Engagement Award 2021 will provide support for peer-to-peer engagement through the organization of online remote events focused on issues related to Latin America or its diasporas. These events aim to increase knowledge of, and commitment towards, Latin America among University of Toronto students.

After careful consideration, the LAS Selection Committee decided to award funding this year to the following projects: (in alphabetical order by last name of awardee)

* Telling Our Stories: Podcasting Workshop and Resources – by Salvador Alanis, a PhD student beginning his program in Spanish. His research interests include Spanish American poetry and its notion of voice. As part of his undergraduate engagement project, Salvador will offer a series of podcasting workshops and curate a list of resources to be shared through a new project with “El CafeciTO”, the podcast for the Latin American Studies program. After learning of the funding granted to his project, he said: “I am excited to share my 25+ years of experience as a TV, radio and commercial marketing producer with undergraduate students. My hope is that the workshops will help students learn if a podcast or an audio series is right for them, how to find their voice and some of the technical aspects related to podcasting. The list of resources will be useful beyond these specific workshops and open to those involved with “El CafeciTO” for years to come”.

* Queer Table Talk – a collaboration between Nayid Contreras and Jesús Porras Vielma, both PhD students in Spanish. As scholars, their research interests intersect on contemporary representations of queer experience in Latin American LGBTQ+ cultural and audiovisual productions. Nayid and Jesús will organize an online series of events to discuss research topics related to the queer experience. Upon hearing the news that their project was selected for funding, Nayid said: “This award will allow us to open spaces at UofT to talk about important topics to the LGBTQ2S+ community, such as illness, rejection, representation and queerbating on media and the arts.” Jesús added: “It is an honor to win this Engagement Award competition. We are so happy! Now we can share with our undergraduate community the importance of queer scholarship. Amid the recent violent events in Spain and the constant oppression that LGBTQ+ community members suffer in the Hispanic world, today queer issues are more relevant than ever: let's speak loud and clear, let's be the voice of those who are still afraid to speak out and live their queer truth.”

* Anti-Racism in the Latin American Context: A Workshop Series – by Sebastián Mendoza-Price. They are a third-year undergraduate student completing Majors in Latin American Studies and Urban Studies, as well as a Minor in Religion. Their academic and activism interests center around the intersections of cultural preservation and justice, with a particular focus on cultural preservation in the urban context. After learning of the funding granted to their project, they shared: “I am excited to collaborate with the Latin American Studies program in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese to organize a workshop series to help develop anti-racist consciousness in the Latin American context for students and faculty who are actively working, studying, or pursuing their interests on the continent. In so-called Canada, we have seen a recent uptick of well-attended protest movements mobilizing in honour of Black and Indigenous lives. It is important that one understands the injustices these two groups face is simply the story of the Americas. Our perspective and our anti-racist practice must expand beyond the colonial borders.”

* Literature in Latin America – by Zeyi Zhang, a third-year undergraduate student completing a Specialist in Biology and a Minor in Latin American Studies. Her interest in Latin American literature prompted her to apply for the Engagement Award and she was glad to be selected for funding. Reacting to the news, she said: “It’s a great pleasure to be selected by the Latin American Studies program for the event “Literature in Latin America”, an opportunity for English- and Chinese-speaking students to talk about literature of the Boom and other contemporary writers from the region”.

The Department of Spanish & Portuguese offers Major and Minor undergraduate programs in Latin American Studies. The LAS Engagement Awards are offered for the first time in 2021-22. Each engagement project can receive up to $1,000 CAD and events will be hosted online during the academic year (September 1 – April 30).