Grant Creates New Faculty Fellows for Border Studies

Last Updated on May 9, 2014 at 1:13 pm

For more than two decades, UTEP’s Center for Inter-American and Border Studies (CIBS) has been offering students, faculty and researchers the opportunity to concentrate on topics related to borders at an institution located along the U.S.-Mexico border.

A new two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will further the center’s mission and activities by promoting a greater awareness of the human complexities involved in the issues and discourse of border security.

From left, “Border Security and the Humanities: Enhancing the Curriculum in Two Master of Art Programs” program director Sandra Garabano, Ph.D., is pictured with co-directors Zulma Y. Méndez, Ph.D. and Meredith Abarca, Ph.D. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

From left, “Border Security and the Humanities: Enhancing the Curriculum in Two Master of Art Programs” program director Sandra Garabano, Ph.D., is pictured with co-directors Zulma Y. Méndez, Ph.D. and Meredith Abarca, Ph.D. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP News Service

The $89,000 NEH grant establishes a faculty fellows program that will enhance two master’s programs at UTEP, while broadening the scope of discussion about border existence and security. UTEP faculty with specialties in history, literature, cultural anthropology, communication, languages and linguistics will participate.

“While border security has been at the center of public debates and has received the attention of scholarship in the social sciences, there is an ample body of work on cultural understanding, philology, language proficiency and the appreciation of different cultures that might deepen the conversation,” said Sandra Garabano, Ph.D., associate professor of Spanish and the interim director of CIBS.

The faculty fellows project proposes to study the experience of living and crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as portrayed in fiction, personal narratives, folktales and anecdotes to contribute a renewed perspective on security that has been absent from national media and political discourses.

“Engaging the humanities in topics such as border security will probe the scope and reach of its various disciplines in addressing the contemporary problems of an increasingly interconnected world,” Garabano added.

Through development of curriculum and specific courses, the program will enhance two existing UTEP graduate programs: the M.A. in Latin American and Border Studies and the M.S. in Intelligence and National Security Studies (INSS).

The grant covers funding to bring four distinguished scholars to the UTEP campus. Through a series of seminars and workshops, the leading scholars will guide the conceptual work that nine faculty fellows from across humanities fields at UTEP will undertake in considering and reconsidering border security.

“All the courses designed by the fellows will be used to create a new concentration of study for students in Latin American and Border Studies and INSS,” said Meredith Abarca, Ph.D., associate professor of English and CIBS academic adviser. “UTEP will benefit from the concentration on this timely social issue as it attracts more students to these two programs.”

Nationally and internationally renowned scholars will lead the fellows program. They include New York University Professor of Philosophy and Law Anthony Appiah, Ph.D.; PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author and UTEP creative writing department Chair Benjamin Alire Sáenz; University of Michigan Professor of Anthropology Ruth Behar, Ph.D.; and University of California, Berkeley Professor of Law Kathryn Abrams, J.D.

UTEP faculty selected for the fellowship are: associate professors of English Robert L. Gunn, Ph.D., and Marion Rohrleitner, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Languages and Linguistics Lowry Martin, Ph.D.; languages and linguistics Director Kristen Nigro, Ph.D.; languages and linguistics department Chair María-Socorro Tabuenca, Ph.D.; history department Chair Yolanda Chávez Leyva, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Communication Eduardo Barrera, Ph.D.; Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Howard Campbell, Ph.D.; and sociology and anthropology department Chair Josiah Heyman, Ph.D., who will begin his term as director of CIBS on Sept. 1.

Once Heyman’s term officially begins, Garabano will return to the Department of Languages and Linguistics and continue acting as principle investigator for the border security grant. One of Heyman’s main priorities as CIBS director is to strengthen the connections between the interdisciplinary faculty and projects on campus pertaining to border and Latin American studies. Grants like the one from NEH assist with this greater collaboration and awareness.

This kind of connectivity demonstrates a key element of CIBS’ mission: to establish innovative visions of the Border and Inter-American region that integrate traditionally separate fields of knowledge and the people who work in them. While Abarca is certain this grant is the first the center has received from the NEH, she also says, “It won’t be the last.”

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