Latin American Politics

The study of Latin American politics has been a major strength of the Political Science program at Pitt for many years. The department has been home to numerous scholars of Latin American politics, both faculty and graduate students, who have made, and continue to make, path-breaking contributions to this subfield.  The approach to studying Latin American politics at Pitt goes well-beyond mere "area studies."

Researchers are engaged in projects that provide theoretical and empirical rigor to this field using cutting-edge techniques in survey design, network analysis, qualitative analysis, and statistical methods. The program greatly benefits from its many connections to related academic units both on and off campus, especially the federally funded Center for Latin American Studies

Latin American Politics: the Undergraduate Level

The department’s Latin American Politics field of study offers several in depth courses that explore key issues in Latin American politics and development, as well as opportunities to conduct research on specific topics that interest students most. Our courses combine detailed knowledge of Latin America (and our own passion for the countries and the people in the region) with the study of theories and methods in political science.

We encourage our students to discover Latin America, to learn about its politics, to do independent research, and eventually to take a step forward and pursue a Certificate in Latin American Studies at the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS). 

Latin American Politics: the Graduate Level

The graduate program in Political Science has four major strengths with regard to Latin American Politics.

First, our program is based on the premise that scholars must combine advanced research techniques with a detailed knowledge of Latin American countries. We seek to combine profound understanding of Latin America's history, economic development, and culture with intensive instruction in modern political science methods. In addition to field and research seminars in various aspects of Latin American politics, all of our students take at least two semesters in quantitative methods, and we strongly urge our Latin Americanists to take courses in social choice and game theory. While our program supports a wide variety of research methodologies (including qualitative methods), we believe that every student should be a well-trained informed consumer and/or critic of quantitative techniques and formal theory as applied to Latin America.

Second, we pride ourselves on working closely with graduate students and we have an idea faculty-student ratio to do so. As a result, nearly all of our students have been awarded fellowships for their dissertation year, including grants from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, the Inter-American Foundation, and the Wilson Center. Upon graduation, our students have been rewarded with fine jobs, both inside and outside of academia.

A third reason to study Latin American politics at Pitt is the availability of resources and the multidisciplinary environment provided by the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS). The University of Pittsburgh is a U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center in Latin American Studies, the only university in the entire northeast of the U.S. to have continuously received that status since the 1970s. Students can earn a Certificate in Latin American Studies through CLAS and engage in a broad interdisciplinary, resource-rich environment. The certificate allows students to take courses outside of our department from well-known scholars in anthropology, education, history, public policy, sociology, and other related fields.  

Also, CLAS provides support for conference travel and summer field research to many of our graduate students. We also offer FLASF fellowships, the Heinz Latin American Social Policy Fellowships, Mellon Fellowships and assistantships. There are currently more than 200 students in the Latin American Studies Certificate program, with a large number of students from Latin America.

Other important resources complement the support provided by CLAS. The headquarters of the Latin American Studies Association have been based at Pitt since 1986. The Eduardo Lozano Latin American collection, located at the Hillman Library, was established in 1967 and it is currently one of the strongest collections in the world, with more than 350,000 volumes.

Finally, our department makes a special effort to recruit the best graduate students interested in Latin American politics in the United States and abroad. As a consequence, every year we host a distinguished cohort of incoming scholars, many of them recruited from the best Latin American and U.S. universities. This creates a unique environment for the exchange of ideas, the understanding of the nuances of the region, and the advancement of comparative projects.