LAS Graduate Program Description

The LAS MA is a versatile and rigorous four semester program that both exposes students to a range of facets of Latin America and provides them with in-depth training in Issue Areas chosen by the student.  In addition to coursework at Boston University, students study abroad in Latin America, compose a Master’s Paper, and fulfill a foreign language requirement.

Requirements of the Program

  • Three required courses
  • Seven issue area courses
  • Semester study abroad in Latin America
  • Language (Spanish or Portuguese) examination
  • Master’s Paper and an Oral Defense of that paper


Required Courses

The LAS MA includes three required courses, as follows.

IR 702 is normally taken during the first semester in the program.  This research methods class reviews how to formulate researchable questions and builds students’ research skill set.

IR 766 is the cornerstone course of the program.  It familiarizes students with the contemporary reality of Latin America and fosters a sense of camaraderie and community among LAS MA students. IR 766 is normally taken during the first semester in the program.

In order to facilitate completion of their MA Papers, students take a Directed Study with their chosen MA Paper advisers.  This class is taken during the final, fourth semester in the program while students are working on their MA Papers.

Issue Area Courses

Students take four courses in one issue area, two in a second issue area, and an additional course from any issue area. All issue area courses must be non-overlapping (i.e., students cannot count a course toward more than one issue area even if the course is present in the lists for more than one issue area).

It is expected that students will take these courses during their first year.  The courses available in each issue area can be found by following the links below.  All Issue Area courses are worth four credits.

Globalization & Development Politics & Civil Society U.S. Policy & Inter-American Relations
History & Archaeology Literature, Art & Culture

Semester Study Abroad

Students spend the first semester of the second year studying abroad.  Students are required to complete a minimum of twelve credits at an approved institution in Latin America.  To facilitate completion of this requirement, BU has arranged for students to study at the Universidad de Belgrano (UB) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This semester will include four 3 credit classes.

Among the courses offered at UB are the following.

  • International Economics and Integration Processes in Latin America
  • Economic Challenges in Latin America
  • The Sociology of Argentina and Latin America
  • Contemporary Political Problems in Latin America
  • Comparative Foreign Policy
  • Human Rights in the “Global Era”
  • Civil-Military Relations
  • Public International Law

Students with insufficient Spanish language skills for graduate study abroad will also need to enroll in an intensive language course offered at UB prior to the start of the regular semester.  This language course will not count toward the MA degree and will incur an additional cost for the student.

Students whose language skills are in Portuguese rather than Spanish can work with the LAS Director and BU’s International Programs Office to identify an appropriate Portuguese language institution.

Language Requirement

Students must demonstrate a high level of competence in either Spanish or Portuguese, including the capability to read, write, and speak the language with sufficient proficiency to understand and be understood, though a few errors in grammar and accent are allowed.  Competence in the foreign language of the students’ choosing will be determined by examination by BU language instructors.  Students must pass this examination in order to complete the degree.

MA Paper and Oral Examination

All students complete a Master’s Paper under the direction of a faculty adviser and orally defend that paper before a panel of three professors selected by the LAS Director.  In coordination with their advisers, students may choose to write either a traditional research paper or a policy paper on a topic in the field of Latin American Studies.

The MA Paper and the Oral Examination thereof follow the guidelines for MA Papers of the International Relations Department. More details on the MA Paper can be found here and here.