About El Instituto

Our Mission

El Instituto is a multidisciplinary research and teaching institute in the University of Connecticut’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

We advance scholarship, support creative endeavors, and sustain undergraduate  and graduate degree programs in the fields of Latina/o, Latin American, and Caribbean studies. We advocate meaningful and respectful inclusion of Latina/o people, statewide, nationally, and globally. We co-produce and share information with the public, K-12 teachers, policymakers, and not-for-profit organizations.

Recognizing the centrality of the Puerto Rican community to Connecticut’s history and cultural wealth, the study of Puerto Rico and its diaspora has been and always will be at the center of El Instituto’s scholarly mission.

Above: Meet our faculty and get to know our community!

Our Priorities

A group discussion in a small seminar class.

Innovative Scholarship

El Instituto supports rigorous research and innovative creative endeavors in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. Our lodestar is Latina/o people’s struggles for dignity, inclusion, respect, and prosperity in places across the American hemisphere.

We do not just facilitate more research on minoritized people; we also seek to undo anti-Latino biases implicit in mainstream academia, which too often looks at Latina/o people in terms of deficits and problems rather than as cultural wealth-generators, intellectual innovators, political leaders, and economic entrepreneurs.

“The Institute’s intellectual and financial support provides a vital space that brings together knowledge production across disciplines and across geographic regions.”

Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Professor of History and University Campus Director UConn-Hartford

A group of students participate in an outdoor community engagement activity.

Equity and Inclusion

Home to the greatest concentration of Latina/o faculty and students at UConn, El Instituto’s students see themselves reflected in our instructors and courses, finding affirmation of Latino cultural wealth and intercultural skills.

Our graduate assistantships to MA candidates each year open the door to graduate school for first-generation and lower-income students, giving them the chance to be mentored by any of our 70+ affiliate faculty and demonstrate that they can excel in graduate courses.

As Latina/o populations continue to grow faster than any other racial/ethnic demographic in Connecticut, the value of these contributions will grow.

“Many [undergraduates] comment that speaking with a faculty member who ‘looks like them’ and researches topics that matter to the Latinx community have been critical to their sense of belonging on our campus.”

H. Kenny Nienhusser, Associate Professor of Education and Director of La Comunidad Intelectual

Rigoberta Menchü Tom speaks with students in a seminar class.

Teaching, Learning, and Student Success

Our undergraduate major in Latino and Latin American Studies is a model curriculum for interdisciplinary programs. It unites the teaching of research skills with learning in service of communities.

By doing research for community partners, our undergraduate majors and minors learn research methods and find real-world applications for their skills. Our programs of study are flexible enough to combine with a range of other majors, enabling our graduates to optimize their career opportunities and compete more successfully for admission into the Graduate school.

“I am in awe of all that El Instituto does at the undergraduate level through community research and engagement. Truly a model.”

Manisha Desai, Professor and Head of Sociology and Instituto Faculty Affiliate

Screen shot of a virtual meeting with more than a dozen diverse participants.

Community Engagement

As an institute, we are dedicated to promoting Latina/o voices and inclusion at the University, in state government, and across the nation.

Instituto core faculty have in recent years:

  • done externally-funded surveys of Hurricane María displaced people in the Hartford and Holyoke areas,
  • mentored Latina/o college applicants and first-year students,
  • led innovative economic research on VAW and disease transmission prevention strategies, and
  • studied media portrayals of Latinos and immigrants.

Our majors in the Writing in Service of the Community core course have contributed to the development of a resource guide for Connecticut public high school history teachers, helping them prepare for a new state-mandated 12th grade Latina/o history course. We help UConn faculty and students in gathering, analyzing, processing, and disseminating demographic and socioeconomic data on Latina/o populations in the Northeastern United States and nationwide.

“Innovative research by El Instituto’s students speaks not only to the talent pool but also to the dedication of the program’s advisors and the benefits of ELIN’s (relatively) small scale, which provides a nurturing environment for young scholars.”

Michele Back, Associate Professor of Education and Instituto Faculty Affiliate