On Campus and Abroad: Global area studies centers offer resources and expertise on world regions

Associate professor of women’s and gender studies Emily Burrill credited the African Studies Center with helping her further her research when she first came to UNC.

Burrill is a gender historian focusing on 20th century Africa. Through Title VI funds, she was able to return to Mali and Senegal, which resulted in her book, States of Marriage: Gender, Justice, and Rights in Colonial Mali (Ohio University Press, 2015). Burrill, who is now director of the African Studies Center, said that the center “can serve as a hub for those of us who work on Africa, regardless of our disciplinary orientation.”

The College of Arts and Sciences actively promotes the research and study of global issues. A total of six global area studies centers, including the African Studies Center, the Carolina Asia Center, the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Slavic, Eurasian and East European Studies and the Institute for the Study of the Americas, focus on world regions.

UNC is also one of a few universities in the country with several National Resource Centers (NRCs), many of which are in the College. These centers, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI program, provide resources for teachers, students and the public to learn, teach and research global issues.

The centers’ interdisciplinary approach provides an array of resources and programs on and off campus, from Foreign Language and Area Study (FLAS) Fellowships to culture kits that are shared with K-12 classrooms across the United States.

The centers offer their expertise to faculty and students not only in the College, but across the university.

Leslie Puzo recently completed her J.D. at the UNC School of Law and ultimately plans to do foreign policy work in South America. Already fluent in English, Spanish and French, she can now add Portuguese to the list thanks to a FLAS Fellowship through the Institute for the Study of the Americas.

The funds helped pay for tuition, allowing her to focus on her law and Portuguese studies.

“It’s a great program because it’s a holistic program; you don’t only learn that language, but you also take these classes that teach about the culture in South America or Brazil, where the language comes from and why they speak it,” said Puzo. “You’re not only getting the linguistic needs but also the cultural needs.”

Story and video by Kristen Chavez ’13, UNC College of Arts and Sciences