"First a story: I was in a bar in Uruguay whereupon I casually met the husband of the Brazilian Consul General in Montevideo. My briefing prior to coming to Argentina omitted regional studies or issues, and maybe I would have panicked about saying something inappropriate or stupid. Yet, in this moment, my LAS degree seemed astonishingly relevant — to know historical and present trends in the region and even a sampling of Brazil’s complex political history (and present) served greatly in this conversation. It is hardly the only time I’ve thought to myself about the applicability of that degree.
I am a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department. I’ve served in Mumbai and Buenos Aires and am preparing for a third tour in Ho Chi Minh City. My LAS degree equipped me with tools critical to my success, especially during my tour in Buenos Aires. The theoretical frameworks to interrogate questions of poverty and class issues in a globalist context proved invaluable as well as substantive knowledge regarding historical development trends of Latin America. The ability, largely honed in LAS, to consider these trends and specific history when informing policy makers as well as establishing my own understanding of complex political and economic processes ongoing allowed me to contribute meaningfully in my work as a diplomat.
Similarly, the network I developed while at the U of A’s LAS program has kept in touch with community activists, drug policy actors, and business leaders. I specifically chose U of A’s LAS program because of the strong anthropological base and work of key professors in Central American violence and power struggles, especially from a bottom-up perspective (compared to the more common International Relations top-down view). On numerous times when working on a specific policy issue, I’ve been able to reach across to folks I studied and worked with to seek further clarity on the matter. The biggest surprise, undoubtedly, was how relevant my degree proved across the world. Whether attempting to understand the appeal of an ethnocentric populist in India or the government efforts to suppress indigenous minorities in East Asia, this degree has proven widely applicable and relevant."