St. Olaf team creates Caribbean Studies Network


Many thanks to Peter Jordens for contributing a follow-up to our previous post on Launched: Caribbean Studies Network / Red de Estudios Caribeños. Here are excerpts from a report by Kristina I. Medina Vilariño (St. Olaf College News).

Is the Caribbean a geographical region? Has it been redefined by monster hurricanes? How has it changed over time? Because the Caribbean has most recently been known through the devastation caused by natural disasters, there is an increasing need to redefine the knowledge that emerges from and about their communities and culture in order to understand what is really happening in this part of the world.

Thanks to the research and funding opportunities provided by the Collaborative Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (CURI) program, the TRIO McNair Scholars Program, and the Institute for Freedom and Community, St. Olaf College now serves as the official headquarters of a collaborative network of academics and community leaders who have teamed up to explore these and many other questions.

Three students and a Spanish professor created a new online platform — the Caribbean Studies Network (CSN) — that includes interactive materials, multimedia, and virtual maps, among other resources. It has rapidly expanded beyond Minnesota and continues to bloom. Under the leadership and vision of Associate Professor of Spanish, Latin American Studies, and Race and Ethnic Studies Kristina I. Medina Vilariño, student researchers Carlos Fernández López ’21, Leslie Rodriguez Vazquez ’20, and Camila Ávila-Martinez ’21 embarked on an ambitious mission to create a comprehensive research tool to provide open “access to a variety of human resources and materials about the Hispanic Caribbean, where the impact of colonization and imperialism is still visible.”

CSN is currently being used as a pedagogical tool at Rollins College, and has been presented at the University of Puerto Rico and the Northfield Public Library. Additionally, Medina Vilariño and all three students presented CSN on an international radio talk show. It will also be presented at Bielefeld University  (Germany), Fundación Puertorriqueña para las Humanidades (an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), and Marquette University during the summer of 2020, among many other civic and academic spaces.

“In every single form I can think of, we are living the unprecedented. This urges us to change and innovate in the way academia plays a role through its research in our societies,” says Fernández. “We decided to go beyond a single research project, and we created a space that serves and connects educators, researchers, organizations, students, social leaders, and changemakers to have a fluid conversation, and share content that can be helpful to develop new strategies of development, understand social trends, and open new channels of cooperation for projects that go from education, to the environment, to the community, among others.”

Fernández is designing his own major in Global Development and Social Enterprises at St. Olaf. “The project of the Caribbean Studies Network has been one of the best opportunities to put the theoretical framework of my major in practice, showing the benefits of interdisciplinary studies and cultural adaptation,” he says.

Ávila-Martinez agrees, noting that as a student interested in Latin America and International Relations, she was able to dive into policies and laws to better understand certain historical contexts of the Hispanic Caribbean. The project also provided her with an opportunity to apply Spanish in a much more academic setting, enhancing her bilingual skills and enabling her to better communicate with others from different parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. [. . .]

For full article, see

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