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New Puerto Rican, Latino Studies director hopes to expand program

by Sherry Fisher - January 22, 2007

Guillermo Irizarry, the new director of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute, fits the job well.

"I have always been involved in areas of interdisciplinary exchange, particularly in the contact zone between the humanities and social sciences," he says.

"I am also interested in how Latinas and Latinos are becoming a globalized community, and one with multiple intersections.

"My position as director allows me to advance this perspective," he adds, "and I'm deeply encouraged by the superb faculty involved with Latino and Latin American Studies at UConn."

Irizarry's academic interests include U.S. Latina/o culture, Spanish Caribbean literature and culture, Latin American theater, and post-colonial and cultural studies in transnational contexts.

He is an assistant professor of modern and classical languages, and teaches Latin American and Latino literature and culture.

Ron Taylor, vice provost for multicultural and international affairs says Irizarry is a "very fine addition to the University and certainly an excellent choice for the position.

"He comes to us with a great deal of experience in the area and an excellent reputation as a scholar, which will serve us well as we try to build a strong program," adds Taylor.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Irizarry has spent his adult life on the U.S. mainland.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1987 from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and a master's degree in dramatic theory and criticism in 1989 from Florida State University.

In 1996, he received a Ph.D. in Hispanic literatures from the University of Texas at Austin.

Before joining the UConn faculty in the fall, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin; Bucknell; Yale; the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; and Brown University.

His book, José Luis González: el intelectual nómada, published in 2006, was cited as one of the notable publications of the year by El Nuevo Día, a newspaper in Puerto Rico.

Guillermo Irizarry, assistant professor of modern and classical languages and director of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute.
Guillermo Irizarry, assistant professor of modern and classical languages and director of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute. He joined UConn last semester from the University of Texas at Austin.
Photo by Peter Morenus

He has also published articles in scholarly journals.

Irizarry says he is devoted to enhancing the intellectual presence of Latino matters on campus.

"I hope to bring in interesting speakers and develop collaborative research projects between people in Latin American Studies, history, Spanish, political science, and sociology," he says.

"One of our primary areas of endeavor is the enrichment of students and their intellectual formation. In addition to offering them courses in a variety of disciplines, we're also involved in mentoring and empowering them. Part of that includes sponsoring undergraduate and graduate students in research projects."

Irizarry says the faculty base at the institute is being broadened. This year, two joint positions have been created with the departments of political science and sociology.

The political science position has been filled, and an offer has been made on the sociology position.

He also says faculty in disciplines such as art history, Spanish, and theater enrich the institute, and he plans to reinforce the relationships with professors in those areas: "When we plan an activity, we have resources from a variety of departments. This is possible because the University is devoted to interdisciplinary endeavors associated with multiculturalism."

The Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute is also involved in outreach, Irizarry says: "We're very committed to having our students and faculty work in the community. They become deeply involved in organizations such as the Hispanic Health Council and local schools."

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