Tinker Symposium Showcases Graduate Field Work in Latin America

The University of Arizona's Center for Latin American Studies will host Susan Eckstein, a researcher who specializes in urbanization, immigration, poverty and social movements in developing nations, as part of its 4th Annual Tinker Symposium.

The symposium is held as an opportunity for graduate students to share their Tinker Foundation-funded research in Latin America, Spain and Portugal with the UA community and the public. Students also plan to address regional issues and inspire new graduate work in the region.

The symposium will be held on Thursday, Oct. 30 at the Marriott University Park Hotel and is free and open to the public.

Eckstein, a professor of sociology and international relations at Boston University, has written several books on Latin America and is currently studying immigration and its impact across borders, focusing on the Cuban experience.

"My overall research and my talk on Thursday show the importance of looking at the world across borders," Eckstein said. "American members of ethnic groups in the U.S. have had affects on U.S. policy particularly during elections, but those policies affect the countries from which those Americans migrate as well -- each nation's policy affects the other."

Eckstein's talk "On Immigrant Power: Cuban-Americans and the Presidential Electoral Policy Cycle" will begin at 4:30 p.m.

Eckstein's work is reflective of the type of research UA graduate students undertake as part of the Tinker Foundation grants they received. This year the UA funded 22 graduate students to conduct original research in Latin America through the grant.

Additional funding for graduate students also was provided by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, College of Humanities, College of Public Health, the Vice President for Research, International Affairs and the Center for Latin American Studies.

UA Latin American Studies graduate student Andrea Helmus will present her research during the symposium. She spent three weeks in Argentina this past summer, studying the organizational structures that a community-based environmental group developed as a result of the 2001 Argentinean economic crisis.

"The group I studied formed in 2006 to address environmental issues such as water contamination. They organized horizontally and had no elected leaders and made decisions collectively," Helmus said. "Their organizational structure was a direct result of the 2001 economic crisis and their disillusion with the election process and hierarchical rule. I wanted to know how effective the organization's approach and structure has been."

Sara Bollinger, a Latin American Studies graduate student, is also presenting her field research during the symposium. Bollinger spent eight weeks in Mexico speaking with disappeared migrants' family members.

Her master's work focuses on changes in U.S. border policy and the effects upon family members dealing with the unknown status of their disappeared loved ones, and their attempts to navigate through U.S. and Mexico bureaucracies to find them.

"Funding from the Tinker Foundation was critical for the type of research I and my colleagues undertook," Bollinger said. "My hope is that the research I am doing and that of others will add to the dialogue to move ahead with reform."