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CLACS Graduate Student Research Fellowships

MSU's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies announces its annual competition to support graduate student predissertation research in Latin America and the Caribbean.

These funds enable students to select field research sites, establish relationships with community members, pilot research methods and make contacts with local scholars working on related issues. These activities lay the foundation for students to produce dissertation proposals that can effectively compete for external funding.


CLACS Graduate Student Research Fellowship Flyer (PDF).



  • Awardees must be doctoral or master's students in good standing. Preference is given to doctoral students in the early stages of their studies.

  • Awardees must travel abroad for at least two weeks, though a longer stay is preferred. Travel should be completed before the end of the calendar year for which the fellowship was awarded. 

  • No awards will be made to support study abroad programs or alternative spring break activities.

Terms of the Award

As a condition of the award, students offered a fellowship through the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies will be required to:

  1. Submit a report upon completion of their fieldwork
  2. Present at the annual CLACS Graduate Student Conference, and
  3. Enroll in the Graduate Certificate Program in Latin America/Caribbean studies through CLACS. (Please email Emily Holley at holleyem(at) Graduate students do not need to be enrolled at the time of the application but if awarded, they will be expected to enroll prior to their travel. 

To apply, complete the application, which is due the last day of February of each year.


2024 Graduate Student Projects

Kevin Cabrera.pngKevin Cabrera, Ph.D. student, Anthropology

Tracing Trading Routes Through Mortuary Practices at the Coastal Maya Site of Marco Gonzales, Belize

This research focuses on the use of human remains from the archaeological site of Marco Gonzalez and explores how the local population interacted with their unique coastal environment. This will involve collecting evidence for biological impacts, such as health and diet, and cultural practices, such as social structures, economic activities, and mortuary practices. Through this bioarcheological project, Kevin seeks insight into questions about how individuals lived experiences can be contextualized within the larger population. 


Estela Goncalves copy.jpgEstela Maria Gonçalves de Souza, Ph.D. student, History

In the courtroom of Juiz de Fora: interconnections of Race, Gender, Citizenship, and Class in post-emancipated Black Masculinities (1880-1910)

Estela seeks to gather more archival sources to supplement the present research in this second field trip to the Arquivo Histórico de Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais - Brazil. Through that, she will navigate the lives of slaves and free(d) men in the process of abolition in Juiz de Fora, analyzing court cases, criminal records, and testimonies in which Afro-Brazilians were prominent protagonists either as defendants, plaintiffs, or witnesses. Estela's objective is to put their narrative in dialogue within the Atlantic Diaspora, emancipation, Brazilian, and Latin American scholarships, arguing that Black masculinities emerged as contested identities in the Mineiro city.


LeilaneRodrigues.2.jpgLeilane Rodrigues, Ph.D. student in Journalism

Images of racialized violence in white media versus Black media in Brazil: a media genealogy

Images of violence against people racialized as Black have been both an important part of the argument for civil rights and an instrument to normalize racial violence, reinforcing White supremacy. Leilane's research analyzes the discourse present in images of racialized violence in white and Black media over time in Brazil to reinforce the historical importance of Black media as spaces for self-defense for Black individuals.

2023 Graduate Student Projects

Kiana Gonzalez-Cedeno.JPG

Kiana Gonzalez-Cedeno, Ph.D. candidate, English

Entre llantos: Literary and Embodied Representations of Lamentations in Puerto Rican and Boricua Popular Culture

Kiana will conduct a study of Puerto Rican bomba and performance, as well as do archival research for her dissertation project.

Mayra Floresmejia photo.jpgMayra Flores Mejía, Ph.D. student, Hispanic Cultural Studies

Entre lo sagrado y lo profano: mediació, censura y género. Edición critica de casos de hechicería indigena de los Andes centrales, sigo XVII

Mayra will conduct research in the archives in Cusco, Peru. Her doctoral dissertation project includes the transcription and annotated edition of criminal cases against indigenous women accused of sorcery and idolatry in seventeenth century Peru. Even though most of these women refused to be called witches or sorcerers, since they were considered healers by their people, the Spanish colonial authorities prosecuted and judged them as witches. 



Estela.jpegEstela Maria Gonçalves de Souza, Ph.D. student, History

Black Masculinities and Agency: a closer look at racialized-gendered relations in the Brazilian Post-Emancipated Society 1890-1910

Estela's initial project takes place in the archives and museums in Minas Gerais state, a prominent region in the Brazilian southeast. Through the nineteenth century, Minas Gerais had the largest number of enslaved people working on coffee plantations, gold extraction, and mining labor. In recent scholarships of the southeast, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have prominence in the analysis, while in comparison Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo are less investigated. Based on this Estela wants to understand how the construction of black masculinities occurred in the whitening context of Brazil, considering the post-abolition background and the social consequences for ex-enslaved people. Over an archival analysis of court cases and testimonies in which Afro-Brazilians were prominent protagonists either as defendants, plaintiffs, or witnesses, she will navigate these subjects' everyday lives and dialogue with their narratives within the historiography.

Antolini Marialina.jpgMarialina Côgo Antolini, Ph.D. student in Information and Media

Girls Activists and media usage in low-income communities in Brazil

Marialina's research proposal seeks to understand how different types of media shape the daily lives of girls activists in low-income communities in Brazil. The idea is to understand how the usage of social media platforms and other media, especially the mainstream media, influence the daily lives of young girls between 15 and 18 years old who act as leaders in their communities. The research is based on a mix of qualitative methods approach, using interviews, online ethnography and in person participant observation. 

Jessica Reed.jpegJess Reed, doctoral student, Curriculum, Instruction and Teaching Education

Black Girl, Infinite: Pursuing Generative Relationships Across Diasporic Geographies

What personal, collective, and educative possibilities emerge when Black girl storytellers in the United States co-learn about African diasporic experiences of Blackness and Black girlhood? With the CLACS fellowship, Jess hopes to begin witnessing and considering localized and diasporic ways of knowing and remembering Blackness through art and other practices. Jess hopes to honor perspectives and possibilities for Blackness and Black girlhood in São Paulo and Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.



RCS Ana Ponce.jpgAna Patricia Ponce Castañeda, Ph.D. student, Hispanic Cultural Studies

Female Representation Throughout the History of Mexican Horror Cinema

Ana's research aims to produce a state-of-the-art project on women's representation in Mexican horror cinema. It will explore Mexican horror films created between 1930 and 2023, with female characters either as heroines, victims or monsters in a protagonist or secondary role. Stereotypes and subversions present in female representation will be analyzed through an aesthetic, semiotic and cultural approach. Research will be held in Cineteca Nacional de México in México City.

2021-2022 Graduate Student Projects

Vanessa J. Aguilar (Dual Ph.D. student, Chicano/Latino Studies and English, CSS and CAL)

Untitled design (4).pngDiscursive Power: Rewriting Women's Authoritative Presence within Supernatural Sabidurías (Wisdoms) in New Galicia


Vanessa's research explores how women in New Galicia sought relief in spiritual practices and magic to put social justice into their own hands. Through archival research, Vanessa will explore colonial Mexican inquisition documents that contain testimonies of how women's agency was perceived as threatening and how women navigated around oppressive patriarchal structures.

Armando Dans Chavarria (MS student, Fisheries and Wildlife, CANR)

Armando_D.jpgConservation of Baird's Tapirs in Potential Protected Areas in Nicaragua


Armando's research project aims to assess the conservation potential of two of the remaining key territorial areas for Baird's tapir survival in southeast Nicaragua by understanding the anthropogenic factors that threaten Baird's tapir and collecting ecological information of the species' population and its habitat.


Jaime Eduardo García Vila (M.S. student, Community Sustainability, CANR)

jaime vila garcia.jpgDiversity and Inclusion practices in Colombia's food sector


Jaime traveled to Colombia and partnered with the Food Industry Chamber, under the Colombian National Business Association to conduct interviews with several of its corporate members, as well as with policy makers and human resources officers. Jaime will document diversity and inclusion practices in the food industry and competitive advantages for companies that are more diverse and inclusive, including attracting and retaining talent, fostering innovation, reducing operational costs, and improving market knowledge.


Aubree Marshall (Ph.D. student, Anthropology, SSC)

Untitled design (2).pngResiliency in the Face of Collapse: Health and Diet at the Coastal Maya Site of Marco Gonzalez, Belize


Aubree traveled to Marco Gonzalez, Belize to conduct bioarchaeological excavations of the site. These excavations will allow her to analyze the biological condition of the population as they dealt with the significant social and economic disruptions of the Maya Collapse. 

Jonathan Vivas Aragon (PhD student, Community Sustainability, CANR)

JonathanVivas.jpgValues and Sustainability – Towards a system dynamic perspective to sustainable natural resource management


Jonathan traveled to Costa Rica on a pre-dissertation scoping trip to establish connections with researchers from local universities and CATIE and to explore prospective research collaborations around regenerative grazing as a management practice that could benefit the sustainability of cattle farms, building on the principles of long-term management of grasslands to promote ecological, social, and economic benefits.

2020 Tinker Graduate Student Projects

Maria Alejandra Garcia (PhD student, Community Sustainability, CANR)

Maria Alejandra_website.jpg

Gendered Intra-household Decisions and Alternative Coffee Markets in Colombia

Maria Alejandra's study focuses on gendered intra-household decision-making over the use of agricultural land among small-scale farmers. This gender analysis examines small-scale farmers' engagement with alternative markets in the Colombian coffee sector (e.g., specialty, organic, fair-trade, or biodiversity coffee). Do women have the same power as men to decide to pursue new initiatives on their land? What are the gendered impacts of alternative markets on a micro-scale? 

As a Ph.D. candidate in 2023, she talks about her research in this video.

Ernesto Granados Acoltzin (PhD student, Anthropology and Environmental Science & Policy, SSC)


Water Policies in the Local Context: Baja California and the Colorado River

Ernesto will initiate research with indigenous communities, organizations and stakeholders in Baja California, Mexico to identify the narratives that frame the management of the Colorado River in local cultures and how these cultures are affected by major policy decisions.


Kyle Jaynes (PhD student, Integrative Biology, CNS)

Kyle_Jaynes_Photo for website and news article.jpg

Genomics of Population Declines and Recoveries in Iconic Harlequin Toads and the Amphibian Killing Fungus in Ecuador

Kyle's research will examine the genomics of species persistence and recovery and environmental predictors of a deadly amphibian pathogen through study of a highly vulnerable group of frogs: Harlequin toads in the Ecuadorian Andes. This work will contribute to knowledge concerning how declining populations respond to a rapidly changing world.

Isabela Lima Borges (PhD student, Integrative Biology and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior, CNS)

Isabela lima_website.jpg

 Ecological Drivers of Plant Population Structure in Brazilian Rupestrian Fields

Mountainous regions in central Brazil are home to an enormous diversity of endemic plants, most of which are distributed in small, isolated fragments. Isabela will study the genetics and ecology of these endemic plants to understand the conservation status of these species and explore how small populations persist and adapt to novel conditions.

Jessica Martinez Cruz (PhD student, Philosophy, CAL)

Jessica Martinez_webite.jpg

Land Struggles and Indigenous Healer Practices in Nicaragua

Jessica will travel to the Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamérica/History Institute of Nicaragua and Central America in Nicaragua to conduct research on land struggles and the practices of Indigenous healers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Nicaragua.


Marisol Masso (PhD student, Curriculum, Instruction, & Teacher Education, COE)


US Policymakers' Perceptions of the Argentine Education System

Marisol will study how a group of senior US educational policy experts perceives and understands the Argentine education system over the course of a professional exchange visit to Argentina. Using interviews and participant observation to 'see' Argentine education through the eyes of US policy makers, Marisol will use the perceptions of the US policy makers to identify blind spots and overlooked issues in Argentine research and policy on education, in order to frame new directions for research on Argentine education policy.

Emily Milton (PhD, student, Anthropology and Environmental Science & Policy, SSC)


By Land or by Sea: An Isoscape for Paleo Mobility and Diet in the Central Andes

Emily will conduct environmental sampling in the departments of Junín and Arequipa, Peru, to establish preliminary isotope baselines for prehistoric archaeological studies of human mobility and diet in the Andes.


Tiago Sousa Prado (PhD student, Media & Information Studies, CCAS)

Tiago_Sousa _photo for website and news article.jpg

The Role of Technology and Innovation Policies in Reducing Digital Inequalities in Brazil

Tiago seeks to understand how innovation and technology policies have been designed and implemented with the aim of reducing digital divides in low- and middle-income countries. He plans to explore policy design and implementation in Brazil, via interviews with both public and private stakeholders involved in these processes.

Alyssa Wolfe (PhD student, Second Language Studies Program, CAL/COE/CCAS)


Investigating Learner Phrasal Verb Form Knowledge with Eye Tracking

Alyssa Wolfe is working to understand English learner knowledge and processing of phrasal verbs, focusing on native Spanish-speaking learners of English. Her project will use eye tracking measurements of reading behavior to investigate learner processing of phrasal verbs as units, rather than individual words.

Leonardo Ziccardi (PhD student, Forestry and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior, CANR and CNS)

Leonardo_2_Photo for website and news article.jpg

Testing Drivers of Amazon Forest Response to Climate: A Novel Approach Upscaling from Leaf Level Traits and Environments to Canopy Tower and Satellite Observations

Using innovative technology developed at MSU and climbing techniques to access the Amazon canopy, Leonardo will take leaf-level measurements of microenvironments, photosynthetic parameters, and hydraulic traits to improve our understanding of photosynthetic responses and hydraulic strategies among species and environmental conditions in tropical forests.

2019 Tinker Graduate Student Projects

Vanessa Aguilar photo.pngVanessa Aguilar
(Chicano/Latino Studies) will conduct archival research in Guadalajara, Mexico to examine writings and records from indigenous and enslaved women who used mysticism as a form of liberation from dominant systems of gender and racial oppression.




Laura Castro Diaz.pngLaura Castro-Diaz
(Community Sustainability) will examine how people adapt to the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Brazilian Amazon, in order to understand the impacts of large-scale infrastructure projects and if/how people's adaptation strategies may differ by gender.




Groendyk, Tinker 2019.pngSarah Groendyk
(Integrative Biology) will study the impact of urbanization on avian behavior and community structure in Costa Rica by comparing bird populations in urban and natural areas. She will work with a network of scientists at the Organization of Tropical Studies.




Kamnikar_photo.pngKelly Kamnikar
(Anthropology) will analyze cranial metric and nonmetric variation in skeletal collections in southeast Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador, in order to develop means to identify the ancestry of remains of immigrants to the United States.




Maritza.pngMaritza Medina
(Teaching English as a Second Language) will pilot innovative techniques for teaching English as a foreign language to visually impaired learners in Colombia. She will assess the degree to which these techniques improve students' understanding, perception and production of the sounds of American English.



Peralta, Silvana.pngSilvana Peralta-Bogarin
(Community Sustainability) will assess the organizational structure of rural agricultural extension services in southeast Paraguay, in both public and non-public sectors.





Juan Carlos Rico Noguera.pngJuan Carlos Rico Noguera
(Anthropology) will explore transitional justice and the production of collective memory in Colombia. He will focus on experts working with the Colombian Truth Commission across four regions of the country to compare their distinct contexts of memory production.




Laura Romero.pngLaura Romero-Quintana
(Hispanic Cultural Studies) will conduct research at the Chilean National Library on lesser-known letters of Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.




Giovanni Salazar .pngGiovanni Salazar
(Hispanic Cultural Studies) will explore European rejection of psychotropic plants used in ritual, sexual, festive and recreative contexts between 1550 and 1650 in Mexico. He will focus especially on legal proceedings against indigenous people who used peyote, ololiuhqui and psychotropic mushrooms for divination.



Mikiko's Headshot.pngMikiko Sato
(Human Development and Family Studies) will explore the impact of mentoring on the psychosocial development and educational outcomes of rural, indigenous girls in Guatemala. She seeks to identify ways that mentors facilitate the development of leadership and positive ethnic and gender identities in their mentees.



Lauren Cooper (Forestry) will identify best practices in benefit sharing to conserve forests, inform policymaking, reduce poverty, and improve stakeholder commitment in the Peruvian Andean-Amazon interface. 

2018 Graduate Student Projects

552px_552px Carolina Vargas.jpgCarolina Vargas (Agriculture Food and Resource Economics) will carry out research in Colombia on the structure of agrifood systems in relation to regional economic development. 





Clay edited 2.jpgClayton Oppenhuizen (History) will travel to Chile to conduct research on how Chilean exiles were able to connect with their compatriots who remained in Chile and work to unravel the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.




552px_552px Gauthier 2.jpgCristina Gauthier (Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences) will pursue research in Brazil on socioeconomic disparities in solid waste and water management in relation to the environmental and health risks created by the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.




Marcela Omans Photo 1 (2).jpgMarcela Omans (Anthropology) will travel to Mexico and Peru. Focusing on Chinatowns, she will study how Chinese communities in Latin America create transnational social networks that play a role in the intensification of political and economic relations between China and Latin America.




552px_552pxbilbao.jpgMaría Isidora Bilbao (Ecological Community Psychology) will conduct research in Chile on the meaning of wellbeing for a group of Chilean adolescents from low-income families, exploring how factors such as ethnicity and gender identity impact adolescents´ understanding of wellbeing.




paredes edited 2.jpgNerli Paredes (Anthropology) will travel to Mexico to collect data on the impact of distress and social support on maternal and infant feeding practices of Zapotec mothers, after a natural disaster in Oaxaca.





ogrady edited 2.jpgPatrick O'Grady (History) will conduct archival research on the rise of Evangelical Christianity in Chile during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.





552px_552pxCarneiro 3.jpgPaulo Carneiro (Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology) will pursue research in Amazonas state in Brazil on the relationship between bovine tuberculosis and high rates of human tuberculosis in that state.

2017 Graduate Student Projects

BettsJoel_canoe-sbs.jpgJoel Betts is a graduate student in fisheries and wildlife.  He conducted research in Nicaragua for a project tentatively titled, "Combined Effects of the Agricultural Frontier and Hurricane Otto on ResRiver ources in the Rama-Kriol Territory, Southeast Nicaragua." 






paulo sepror sbs.jpgPaulo Carneiro is a doctoral student in comparative medicine and integrative biology.  He examined the status of the Mycobacterium bovis and the interrelation with the human health in Amazonas State, Brazil.   



ocampo-field-sbs.jpgNatalia Ocampo-Diaz is a graduate student in community sustainability. She will research Afro-Colombian community councils in the Colombian Pacific Region.









Nerli Paredes is a graduate student in anthropology. She traveled to Juchitán, Oaxaca in Mexico for Zapotec language training. There, she also conducted pre-dissertation research which consisted of interviewing mothers with infants regarding their infant feeding practices.  This preliminary research will inform her future investigation about how different infant-feeding practices may affect child development and maternal health.



2016 Graduate Student Projects


Laura Castro Diaz-sbs.jpg

Laura Castro, master's student in community sustainability. She wanted to expand her theoretical knowledge and methods in order to understand how humans behave and manage their natural resources as well as the implications on human and ecosystem health. In the summer of 2016, she traveled to the village, Vila Nova in the state of Para, in the Amazon of Brazil. Her goal was to understand the perspective of local fishers about how the Belo Monte Hydroelectric dam – the third largest in the world – affects them. In this area, women also work as fishers in a traditionally male-dominated profession.  Her research allowed her to incorporate a gendered approach. She went with fishers to Cajui, one of the main fishing spots in the area. Not only was Laura exploring the ecological context but also living the experience that fishers have every day in their fishing routine. Watch a short video from Laura's time in Brazil. 

eddins-sbs.jpgCrystal Eddins, dual Ph.D. candidate in both African American & African studies and sociology, plans to conduct archival and qualitative research in Cap-Haitien and Port-au-Prince to enhance her dissertation, "African Diaspora Collective Action: Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution."  She will visit the Archives Nationale in Port-au-Prince and the Biblioteque Sacred Coeur in Cap-Haitien.  In addition to secondary sources by Haitian scholars, she plans to gather oral history data about runaway slave communities and Africa-inspired rituals.  




gauthier-sbs.jpgCristina Gauthier-Hernandez, master's student in geography, will map the densities and locations of septic tanks, water wells, and dumping sites in the Brazilian Altamira neighborhoods and analyze their spatial distribution. Altamira is best known for its proximity to Belo Monte, the world's third largest hydroelectric dam. The investigation will analyze the relationship between solid waste and water management, addressing environmental, social and health issues that arise from hydroelectric expansion in the Amazon and elsewhere in the developing world. Video of Cristina in Brazil.

aldo gonzalez-sbs.jpgAldo Gonzalez, master's student in community sustainability, investigated the effects of empowerment in natural resource management by studying the case of community empowerment in Cheran, Michoacan, Mexico.  He seeks to know if community empowerment to protect their territory may translate into empowerment to create rules to sustainably manage their forest.  Video of Aldo in Mexico. 


lankford-sbs.jpgKathryn Lankford, doctoral student in history, will travel to Rio Piedras & Humacao, Puerto Rico to examine the clinical trials of the first birth control pill and other contraceptives in Puerto Rico between 1940-1970. She seeks to understand how and why the clinical trials occurred in Puerto Rico at the same time that the colonial relationship with the US was created anew through a democratically elected, populist, insular government.  Additionally, why did women participate in the clinical trials and what did the trials and contraceptives mean?  Finally, how did these participants seek to negotiate US political and economic power through their participation in the trials? 





MaryAnn Lugo, doctoral student in Hispanic Culture Studies, who fill focus on literary journalism in Colombia. There she plans to locate and interview Colombian journalists as well as professors who have written literary journalism about civilians caught in the nation's civil conflicts. Her specific focus would be conversations with Colombian journalists about their approaches to empathy in writing about civilians. The interviews would try to understand the journalists' process as well as their ideas about empathy and writing.

Julio paredes-sbs.jpgJulio César Paredes, doctoral student in Hispanic Culture Studies, conducted archival research in the Southern Cone.  His dissertation examines physical and symbolic attributes of masculinity in periodical publications from mid-nineteenth-century Austral America. His work examines the construction and fashioning of masculinities and the role of facial hair and other attributes of male gender in literary and visual texts of mid-nineteenth-century Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.