Latin American Studies Minor (LAST)
Essay Option for Latin America Studies Minor
Students may replace one of their five required content courses with an essay on a topic related to Latin America. Choosing this option requires registering for the "Area Studies Essay: Latin American Course" (AL 48003), for which you need approval from the LASP office.
Students who choose this option must find a faculty advisor early in the fall semester (or during the junior year). In order to register for AL 48003 students must have the faculty advisor sign an Advisor Approval Form and submit it to the LASP office in advance of the third week of classes.
Students should meet with their advisor regularly over the course of the semester, and the advisor will assign the final grade for the essay and the course. Final essays are due in the office no later than the first day of finals week, and will not be accepted without a Final Grade Form completed and signed by the advisor.
The topic should be one that interests you. Often the student starts with a broad field of interest (for example, Mexican politics), narrows it down (contemporary party politics) and then focuses in on something quite specific for the paper itself (the role of the National Action Party in a particular Mexican state over the last decade). The topic must be approved by your advisor before you begin research.
Often the topic arises out of a particular course, from a reading, a discussion, or a class paper. The LASP essay can build on previous or concurrent work in a class, but must constitute substantial additional research and analysis.
Finding an Advisor
The advisor needs to be 1) a Notre Dame faculty member, 2) reasonably knowledgeable about the general topic you have selected, and 3) willing to serve as your advisor. Often it is obvious who should be the advisor. If you are expanding a paper you did in a class, for example, the logical choice is the person that taught the class. If you want some direction in terms of an advisor, discuss this matter with the director of LASP.
Sometimes faculty members may decline your request because of various claims on their time during a particular semester. Pursue secondary choices and remember that the advisor need not be an "expert" in the narrow field of your topic. You may consult with the LASP director for suggestions.
Role of Advisor
The advisor should meet with you periodically to make suggestions, answer questions, and review progress. There is no one model for this relationship, but you and the advisor should be clear about the schedule and expectations. It is up to you to make sure that meetings and necessary communication take place. The advisor is responsible for monitoring your progress and for grading the completed essay.
The Notre Dame libraries contain a sizable collection of primary and secondary materials on Latin America, and many more are available through electronic search systems or interlibrary loan. Students are encouraged to do "field research" in Latin America or in other US collections and may apply for a grant in the Kellogg Institute's undergraduate summer grant competition for travel funding during the summer before their senior year. You should consult with your advisor to determine the availability of research materials on your topic as early as possible.
Format, Length, Due Dates, Etc.
The LASP essays should be presented as formal papers. Their structure, organization, footnotes, and bibliographies should conform to the accepted standards of the student's department, which can be clarified by your advisor. There is no formal length requirement, but essays normally run between 35 and 60 pages. The student should agree with the advisor on a schedule that will allow the advisor sufficient time to read and evaluate the essay prior to the first day of finals week. The final essay must be submitted by the student to the LASP office no later than the first day of finals week and will not be accepted without a Final Grade Form completed and signed by the advisor.
Each year LASP gives the John J. Kennedy Award for the best essay. The award is named after a Notre Dame Government Department professor who did much to develop Latin American studies on this campus. It carries a monetary award of $300 but, more importantly, it is something that adds to your professional growth by demonstrating the quality of your work at Notre Dame. To qualify for this award, the paper has to be completed at an earlier date - usually around late March.
Advantages of Writing an Essay
Besides being a requirement for the minor, the essay offers you the opportunity to do research on a topic of your interest and thereby provides more in-depth knowledge than the normal undergraduate class. It shows evaluators of your transcript that you have done a serious research project and gives you experience in doing original research, a skill that can be helpful in many different professions.
Remember, unlike directed coursework, writing the essay demands a great deal of self-discipline. Sometimes students allow class assignments to push progress on the essay to a lower priority, leaving scant time at the end of the semester to complete the essay and jeopardizing eligibility for the LASP minor. This is an important problem. From the first week of class the essay must have a high priority or it will not get completed.
The current director is Thomas Anderson. He can be reached by phone (1-8448) or by email.
The assistant director for LASP is Holly Rivers, assistant director at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. She can be reached by phone/voice mail at (1-6023) or by email.
Both are pleased to answer your questions or offer advice on any aspect of the essay process.