Program provides insight into current Latino/a events

Alli Kolick

While many ISU students take their first course in U.S. Latino/a Studies (USLS) to meet the U.S. diversity requirement, the program also offers an in-depth look at domestic issues facing the Latino community, and is open to any interested student.

USLS is an emphasis in the Interdisciplinary Studies program.

Loreto Prieto, director of USLS and professor of psychology, said one of the goals of the program is to get students to think critically about their views and current events.

“Our goal primarily, I believe, is to teach students to think critically about what they hear in the media and on the streets as far as Latino/as in the United States are concerned,” Prieto said.

When explaining the mission of the program, Prieto made a clear distinction between USLS and Latin American Studies.

Iowa State has the Latin American Studies certificate, which focuses specifically on Latin American countries. USLS focuses primarily on U.S. domestic issues facing the Latino/a community, while also providing some background history of Latino/a indigenous countries.

USLS discusses immigration, politics, education and work issues and how they each influence the Latino community.

The program hosts three faculty members, all of whom belong to three different departments.

Marta Maldonado, assistant professor of sociology, Brian Behnken, assistant professor of history and Prieto make up the USLS faculty and are active participants in the ISU Latino community.

“When the [immigration] law in Arizona was passed, many of the Latino organizations got together in a protest march. Myself, Marta and Brian were all a part of that,” Prieto said. “We marched with the students around campus protesting the law.”

Prieto is also the adviser for MAYAS, the Mexican-American Young Achievers Society.

“We’re also involved in different ways in community work,” Prieto said. “I am on the planning committee for the Iowa Latino Conference, which happens every year.”

Prieto has worked on the Iowa Latino Conference planning committee for the last three years.

The Iowa Latino Conference is where agencies from all over Iowa present at a two-day conference, usually in Des Moines, about issues that affect all Latinos in Iowa.

“[Iowa State] is really proud to be a part of that,” Prieto said.

Currently, USLS is not available as a stand-alone major or minor at Iowa State.

“If one wanted to ‘get a degree’ in USLS, the way they would need to do that is major in interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis in USLS,” Prieto said.

However there is a proposal for a minor in USLS on the table.

“Hopefully by the end of this semester the approval of that minor will be in place,” Prieto said.

Prieto said the minor will work like any other minor at Iowa State.