A Farewell Letter from CLLAS founding director Lynn Stephen

Lynn Stephen holds a plaque that commemorates her service to CLLAS.
Lynn Stephen holds a plaque that commemorates her service to CLLAS.

Nine years ago, I worked with others to begin creating an intellectual community and collaborative research space that would connect UO faculty, students, and administrators to Latino and Latin American communities in Oregon, the United States, and abroad. Because this kind of space didn’t exist, we had to build it. Our vision was hemispheric, bringing together Latino/a and Latin American studies across many different borders, disciplines, and perspectives. We believed that intellectual and human connections that brought community into the university and the university into the community were at the heart of knowledge production, teaching, and research.

In the fall of 2007, the life of CLLAS began when an official advisory board was formed with Carlos Aguirre, Cecilia Enjuto Rangel, Pedro Garcia-Caro, Michael Hames-García, Kathryn Lynch, Ernesto Martínez, Gabriela Martínez, Edward Olivos, Analisa Taylor, Tania Triana, Stephanie Wood, and me as members. From that beginning, CLLAS has grown from a small center that was incubated with the support of the Center for the Study of Women in Society to an independent research center that sponsors dozens of events every year, supports graduate student and faculty research, runs four research action projects, and is widely connected in the state of Oregon, the United States, and in a number of Latin American countries.

On Saturday, April 24, 2010, CLLAS was formally launched at a family-friendly event at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art with CLLAS board members, community activists, students, and other supporters. Following are some of our outstanding accomplishments over the past six years: 

  • In 2010, UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives announced an agreement with Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon’s farmworker union, that they would curate the PCUN papers. CLLAS was the portal for a relationship that continues to this day.
  • CLLAS led discussions to initiate an exchange and collaboration agreement between the University of Oregon and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which came to fruition in 2012 and permits UO students to study at the UNAM in Mexico City and for UNAM students to come to UO. Since the program’s inception, seven UO students have studied at UNAM, with two more students accepted for fall 2016. Thus far, four UNAM undergraduate students have studied at UO.
  • During the 2012-2013 academic year I worked with others to restore CLLAS’s budget, which was cut to $4,000. I logged an extra 240 hours in meetings and conversations with the UO president, provost, deans, and other actors trying to secure funding for CLLAS into the future. We raised commitments to refund CLLAS from several key areas of the university including the Division of Equity and Inclusion, Office of International Affairs, College of Arts & Sciences, Office of Academic Affairs, and the Office of the Provost. In 2013 we received permanent funding in the UO budget that allowed us to have a permanent staff of an assistant director, currently filled by Eli Meyer, a part-time dissemination specialist, a part-time accountant, and one to two graduate teaching fellows per year. This institutionalization of CLLAS has been an important accomplishment and signal of the importance of CLLAS’s work to the University of Oregon.
  •  In fall 2012 we received notification that the U.S. Department of Education had selected our grant proposal, titled “Enhancing Latin American Studies at the University of Oregon,” which we coauthored with the Latin American Studies Program. The $186,000 grant was part of a larger fund of 1.5 million awarded to only 17 institutions across the country.
  • CLLAS was able to show by the end of 2012 that our faculty and grad grant programs, which seed-funded pilot projects, had resulted in $1.2 million in further funding for faculty and grad students as well as many academic products such as books, films, articles, chapters, websites, and more. We were also having a major impact on the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and students, and were leaders in connecting the university to the larger community and in fostering collaboration across many areas both inside and outside the university. UO now has 56 faculty members who conduct research in Latino/a and Latin American Studies, with several more slated to join the faculty in fall 2016. CLLAS has been integral to the recruitment and retention of these scholars and to the larger university mission of equity and inclusion.
  • Since 2008 CLLAS has funded 30 graduates students in summer research projects, 22 different faculty members in collaborative research projects, and nine different community organizations in collaborative projects including Juventud FACETA (Eugene), Northwest Federation of Community Organizations (Seattle), Centro Latinoamericano (Eugene), Huerto de la Familia (Eugene), Oregon Folklife Network (Eugene), Farmworker Housing Development Corporation (Woodburn and Salem), Cesar Chavez Leadership Conference (Oregon-wide), Culture, Exchange, Education and Diversity (CEED, Oaxaca, Mexico), PCUN, and Fundación Namaste Guatemala.
  • In 2013-2014, CLLAS kicked off the academic year with a retreat and planning process. This was a fruitful exercise and led to reorganizing CLLAS to include four research action projects (RAPS): Afro-Descendent and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas; Advancing Latino Equity in Oregon; Human Rights and Social Memory; and Latino History. CLLAS also outlined a series of professional development activities for CLLAS-affiliated faculty and students.
  • CLLAS began our scholar-in-residence program in 2014 with Dr. Ana-Maurine Lara in 2014-2015, and Dr. Anabel Lopez-Salinas, 2015-2016.
  • Over the past two years, CLLAS has developed new leadership and an active board. All CLLAS events are generated, planned, and organized by the board, which includes faculty, students, staff, and community members.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, we will be in the capable hands of Dr. Gabriela Martínez, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Communication (see p. 8 for more about Gabriela). Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, CLLAS will be led by the dynamic duo of Dr. Gerardo Sandoval, associate professor in the Department of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM) in the School of Allied Arts and Architecture, and Dr. Alaí Reyes-Santos, associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

I am excited that the center is passing to a new generation of leadership, and I know that Gabriela, Alaí, and Gerardo will bring many exciting ideas to CLLAS. It has been one of my greatest personal and professional satisfactions and accomplishments to be able to found CLLAS and pass it on as a thriving research center to the next generation of scholars and leaders.


Lynn Stephen, CLLAS Founding Director, Outgoing Co-Director; Distinguished Professor, College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Anthropology