Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whitworth launches new course on Latinos in the U.S. in response to rising number of Latino students, growing interest in Latin American culture

Other initiatives related to Latin American studies include new satellite center in Costa Rica

As of May 2008, Latinos made up 15 percent of the U.S. population, according to the most recent available statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau. Reflecting these changing national demographics, the number of Latino students at Whitworth has more than doubled since 2001, according to the university's tenth-day report. Meanwhile, the number of Spanish majors at Whitworth also has risen in recent years.

The university is responding to the growing number of Latino students, and to increasing interest in Latin American culture, by launching a class that examines Latin American culture in the U.S. The university also is opening an international study center in Costa Rica.

"Latinos in the U.S." class

In the past few years, students and modern language professors at Whitworth have expressed keen interest in a class that would concentrate on Latino culture in the U.S.; but until recently, a number of factors prevented such a class from taking shape. Those roadblocks have been removed, thanks in part to available funding, an increasing number of Spanish majors, and a professor who is willing to teach the class. As a result, this spring the university is introducing a new course, Latinos in the U.S.

Lindy Scott, professor of modern languages, is teaching the new class. Scott taught a similar course at Wheaton College, where he worked before coming to Whitworth. He says the class helps develop greater cultural pride in Hispanic-American students and prompts students of various ethnic origins to study their own cultural backgrounds.

"The students who have taken the course have been almost universally amazed by the history of Hispanics in the U.S.," Scott said in a Nov. 23, 2009, issue of The Whitworthian. "They become aware of the important, positive contributions of Latinos and more appreciative of them."

The course will cover the history of Latinos in the U.S. as well as themes of acculturation, education, employment, family, immigration and religion. It has been approved to satisfy the American diversity general education requirement, which increases the likelihood that it will be offered on a recurring basis, Scott says.

"We hope that this class will help diminish stereotypes and prejudices that demean a beautiful culture," says Luis Flores, vice president of the newly formed Latino Student Union at Whitworth. "Learning the history of Latinos and the important roles they have played in this country will help shed light on their contributions to American culture and the sacrifices they have endured, which ultimately have benefited the American economy."

In the first week of the spring semester, Scott says he already has had to increase the capacity of the class to 30 students from 20 because of strong demand. If demand continues to be high, the class will likely be offered on a rotating basis every two or three years, Scott says.

Costa Rica Study Center

Seven years after the idea was first developed, an international study center – the first of its kind for Whitworth – will allow students to live and study in Costa Rica this coming fall.

The center, which will include classrooms, food services and a residence hall, is located less than an hour from the country's capital city, San José. In the program's first year, up to 30 students will be able to study at the center every semester and Jan Term. Once the program is up to full speed, more than 100 students each year will be able to take advantage of the opportunity to learn in another country, Scott says.

"This will provide an excellent opportunity for personal growth," he says. "Students will become more fluent in Spanish, see family life up close with their host families, become more informed global citizens, and learn how Costa Ricans walk their faith."

Scott also says the center will help Whitworth become more globally minded, and he hopes that eventually Whitworth will become known for operating a premiere program in Latin American studies.

Scott will be able to oversee the growth and success of the new satellite center personally. On Jan. 20, in an e-mail to the Whitworth community, Michael LeRoy, Whitworth's vice president of academic affairs, announced that Scott will be the director of the Costa Rica Center.

"Lindy takes on this role with considerable interdisciplinary experience in Latin America and strong leadership experience with student programs in México and the southern cone of Latin America," LeRoy wrote in the e-mail.

Dinorah Scott, assistant professor of modern languages and Lindy's wife, will teach Spanish, supervise Spanish courses taught by Costa Rican professors, and provide leadership for the home-stay placement program. Jan Term classes will be taught by Rick Hornor, professor of theatre; Karla Morgan, assistant professor of economics and business; and Joshue Orozco, assistant professor of philosophy.

Students may enroll in several courses, including Spanish language; Latin American history, politics and theology; ecology or environmental science; and Core 350.

"One of the biggest problems on Earth today is the growing divide between the global north and south," Scott says. "Whitworth's Costa Rica Center can play a small, but significant, role in contributing to greater communication, cooperation and healing within our world community."

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,700 students, offers 55 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Contacts:

Lindy Scott, professor of modern languages, Director of the Costa Rica Center, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4837 or lscott@whitworth.edu

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or eproffitt@whitworth.edu.