The Latina/Latino Studies Program was established at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus in 1996 as a result of vocal student activism for an academic program to provide courses, recruit faculty, and do community outreach around Latina/o issues, research, and scholarship. Since then, the Program has grown and developed, offering undergraduates an interdisciplinary minor and major in Latina/Latino Studies and a minor in Latina/Latino Studies for graduate students. In the fall of 2010 the Program became a department and began offering the undergraduate major. The Department now offers forty courses annually, including several graduate level courses. A host of students have received a minor and major in Latina/Latino Studies. Some of these students have gone on to pursue graduate work in Latina/o Studies.
The Department has made significant strides in recruiting and attracting well-known scholars across the humanities and social sciences. The Department now has nineteen faculty and faculty affiliates. In 2001, the Department began offering postdoctoral fellowships. Since then, twenty-two postdoctoral fellows have spent an academic year at the Program conducting research and teaching classes for the unit. Latina/Latino Studies faculty have been particularly concerned with making links to local communities and constituencies in Illinois, and thus, some have conducted research among Illinois Latinas/os. Others have supervised graduate and undergraduate student research in Latina/o communities. In addition, some of the Department’s curricular offerings have focused on Latinas/os in the Midwest and in Chicago specifically, home communities of many of our undergraduates.
The Department of Latina/Latino Studies has hosted several national conferences and invited Latina/o Studies scholars, artists, and writers who are prominent in their respective fields to give public lectures. These events, as well as the hiring of distinguished faculty in the field of Latina/Latino Studies, have continued to enhance the unit. The Department aims to serve University of Illinois students, the campus more broadly, and the wider population of the state of Illinois.