The nationally recognized University of Kansas Center of Latin American Studies this week will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a conference Saturday on the Lawrence campus.
Panelists will discuss topics that include career choices in Latin American studies, the field research experience and the future of Latin American Studies in a global context. Featured panelists include alumni, University of Kansas faculty and faculty from universities in Latin America with ties to the center.
The keynote speaker is Maria Eugenia Bozzoli, who is emeritus professor and vice chancellor at the University of Costa Rica. The professor is a 1958 Kansas graduate.
The interdisciplinary center was established in 1961 as the Latin American Area Program. The establishment of the program was designed to equip students with knowledge to face political, economic, sociological and geographical realities of the late 20th century. The center still strives to serve those ideals, now with Title VI funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the university said.
Since geography professor John P. Augelli was appointed the center’s first director in 1961, the program has continued to grow and expand. The university’s strong ties to the University of Costa Rica have continued, and the center’s connections have expanded in Mexico, the Caribbean and South America, the university said. The center has also seen an increase in the number of students choosing to major and minor in the program, it added.
The darkest time for the university came May 13, 2001, when Shannon Martin, a Kansas student, was murdered brutally near Golfito. She came to Costa Rica to conduct six days of additional environmental research for her senior year thesis.
She was supposed to graduate a few days after her death. She was staying with a host family in Golfito, and the crime happened between a bar and the host family home. The woman had spent time in Costa Rica under a University of Kansas program earlier. A local woman was convicted in the murder.