New CLACS faculty director discusses changes and goals for upcoming year



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As she moved into a new office in a brand new building, Anke Birkenmaier also moved into a new position as faculty director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

Offered the position last spring, Birkenmaier officially assumed her new role July 1.

This position makes Birkenmaier the point person between the affiliate faculty, full-time staff and higher administration.

Her job also includes developing a vision for the center and deciding what kind of programming the center should offer in the future.

“I had always identified myself as a Latin Americanist,” Birkenmaier said. “I was excited about the opportunity to work in a more interdisciplinary way with faculty from different departments.”

Among her goals for the next four years, Birkenmaier said she would like to promote Latin American studies to all students.

“I would like to grow our numbers, bring the program to more undergraduates and graduate students and make the kind of programming that is able to attract a lot of different people,” 
Birkenmaier said.

Another goal of Birkenmaier’s is to work on a Cuba initiative with Gerardo Gonzalez, the retired dean of the School of 
Education.

The initiative would help IU faculty collaborate with Cuban institutions and groups.

“What I’d like to do is promote interest in Cuba — I guess that would be a short term goal,” Birkenmaier said. “We’re trying to find interested faculty and identify interesting projects that faculty here at IU would like to do with Cuba.”

Because CLACS is now part of the School of International and Global Studies, Birkenmaier said there were a few associated challenges, including finding the center’s place in the school and coordinating with other area studies institutes and other programs in the school.

Birkenmaier said the new SGIS building helps with the coordination.

“It’s becoming visible in this building itself because, for the first time, we’re all together here in this building,” Birkenmaier said. “We used to be sort of spread out all over 
campus.”

Birkenmaier said she was excited to work in the interdisciplinary setting CLACS currently has to 
offer.

CLACS has about 120 affiliated faculty who 
represent 22 departments.

These faculty members come from 11 schools at both IU-Bloomington and IU-Purdue University Indianapolis campuses, according to the CLACS 
website.

“I think what makes us strong as an area studies program is that we are interdisciplinary, so we have a very long list of affiliate faculty,” Birkenmaier said.

CLACS is an area studies program, which means it focuses on specific areas of knowledge. CLACS deals with a lot of research involving Latin America and the Caribbean.

CLACS offers four different types of graduate funding and study abroad opportunities, as well as funding and study abroad options for 
undergraduates.

There are also three faculty funding opportunities, according to the CLACS website.

“We are sort of a research hub for anybody who is involved with Latin American or Caribbean studies, so we want to bring together people who want to focus on Latin America and who might be interested in working with other colleagues or with other graduate students,” Birkenmaier said.

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