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Border Studies

Please note that we are in the process of building a new website for the Border Studies Program. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

Join us in the transnational U.S.-Mexico borderlands for a semester on the frontline, where you’ll take a deep dive into the salient issues emerging on the border. Your engagement today will help shape our tomorrow. Apply now by following the links below.

For more information about the spring 2021 Border Studies Program virtual content and speaker’s bureau, visit www.borderstudiesprogram.org

The Border Studies Program is planning an in-person program for fall 2021!

Fall 2021 program dates:
August 23 – December 11

The Border Studies Program explores salient topics of our days such as transnational migration, neoliberal globalization, the militarization of policing, and struggles for environmental justice, ethnic studies and indigenous rights. The southern Arizona borderlands are defined by intense contestation around a host of issues that are coming to define the 21st century. Students in the Border Studies Program are immersed in this learning environment through a structured and dynamic semester-long program that offers hands-on experience in contemporary justice struggles and an expansive curriculum that valorizes grassroots knowledge and challenges students to understand and articulate the context and implications of their own positionalities. The program consists of homestays, internships in grassroots and/or non-profit organizations and excursions as well as a rigorous academic curriculum.

Based in Tucson, the Border Studies Program is situated in a complex and critical geographic bioregion, offering unique opportunities to social, cultural, ecological and political issues in a local, regional, and international context. Located in a dynamic multinational border region, Tucson’s history of cultural, environmental and social struggle has shaped the interventions of myriad individuals, organizations and communities working to protect the unique ecosystem, cultural identities and lives of peoples who inhabit the arid lands of Sonora, Arizona and beyond.

Potential excursions take Border Studies students to a number of sites that include trips to the Sonoran-Arizona borderlands along both sides of the border as well as the interior of Mexico.  Past excursions have included Nogales, Sonora, Mexico; the O’odham Nation in Sonora; the Río Sonora Valley; El Paso and Ciudad Juárez; Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico; New Mexico’s Gila Wilderness; as well as sites in Arizona like Florence and Arivaca. The unique combination of coursework, field studies, and travel seminars create an outstanding opportunity for students to deepen their understanding of their own positionalities in relationship to space, a multitude of communities and their particular struggles for social justice. Excursions also allow for students to explore several academic themes such as migration, the global economy, environmental degradation, development, sustainability, transnational communities, international boundaries, and justice in a land marked by numerous inequalities. Please direct questions about international travel to Roger Adkins at [email protected]

You can also read a chapter about the Border Studies Program that was published in a new book called Putting the Local in Global Education: Models for Transformative Learning through Domestic Off-Campus Programs.

About the program

The Border Studies Program is open to students from all academic backgrounds and majors in good standing at any college or university. All participants must be full-time undergraduate students. Learn more about Language Learning for Spanish language requirements.

Students may earn 18 semester credits (or equivalent) for successful completion of the program. All students must be full time participants.

Borderlands Field-Study Practicum (6 credits)

The Border Studies Program (BSP) engages in a pedagogical practice known as praxis, or the place where contemplation and action come together, and the field-study practicum is perfect example of this type of learning. The practicum structure of this course means that in addition to intellectual learning students will also gain practical skills and experiences. For many students, their field-study site is one of the most enriching, thought-provoking, challenging, and informative aspects of their time on the Border Studies Program.  The primary component of this course will be the eight hours that students spend every week at their field study site. The field-study practicum also meets two hours a week during which students explore themes of personal identity and social justice, engage in dialogue with community leaders from field-study sites, and troubleshoot issues that arise.  The culmination of the field-study practicum is a required 10-15-page auto-ethnography, discussing pertinent experiences at the organization as viewed a self-reflective analysis of their role and positionality at the site.

Español in the Borderlands (4 credits)

Learning a new language—or giving priority to a language other than English —is a political act. In schools, an emphasis on non-English languages as “foreign” maintains the status quo. This course will be different from other language classes you may have taken, as it will be taught through a content-based approach and will give priority to the voices of those most affected by unjust systems. We will be very intentional to teach Spanish as a language of the actual people that speak it and will explore themes that directly relate to their experiences as opposed to teaching Spanish as a language of the “other” as is commonly done in “foreign” language classes across the US. Through the Spanish language, we will explore certain themes of the program such as border enforcement, neoliberalism, ethnic studies, feminism, free trade, food justice and more. This course would not exist without the input and centering of a multitude of teachers throughout Tucson. Lastly, this course gives us the opportunity to explore together how our language(s) inform(s) how we view our own identities, our interactions with other people, and our political views.

Learn more about Language Learning.

Movement and Movements: A Political Economy of Migration Seminar (4 credits)

Dr. Geoffrey Alan Boyce teaches this class to provide robust insight into the global political and economic trends that drive and condition patterns of transnational migration in North America and beyond.  This biweekly seminar places current trends in historical and geographic context and considers a variety of alternatives and solutions proposed by distinct sectors of society in Mexico and the United States.  Topics considered include settler colonialism, critical race theory, immigration law, neoliberalism, mass incarceration, social movements and border abolition.  Reading assignments are designed to complement and provide background and context for the people, places and topics approached throughout the BSP semester.

Routes y Raíces: Towards Collective Power (4 credits)

To better understand the place and moment that we presently inhabit, it is important to examine the past both in its myriad of voices and in its silences.This class engages with the histories that have shaped the economic, political and cultural landscape of the borderlands and beyond. It is not a comprehensive history, but one chosen to highlight spaces and moments that can serve to develop critical analytical tools and challenge hegemonic and reductive narratives. This class uplifts the writings of indigenous peoples, POC particularly women of color, activists and organic intellectuals, and the Global South. We will examine a number of interrelated topics and struggles including food sovereignty, food justice, environmental racism, immigration, the prison-industrial complex and detention, border militarization, art and representation. Knowledge is produced in a number of spaces, within and outside academia, and is shaped by different individual and collective experiences so our class materials will reflect that.

Participants in the Border Studies Program have the opportunity to work at a number of different organizations during their time in Tucson. The Field Study is envisioned as a way for BSP participants to take part in the life of our Tucson community, and to contribute to the work of justice that is being done here in our border city. It is also a way for participants to learn and grow as students, work for social and environmental change, as well as develop a more complex and nuanced understanding of the work that is possible for them post-undergrad. We are fortunate to have excellent community partners who are committed to providing participants with guidance, mentorship, and meaningful experiences at the field study site.

Tucson-based Border Studies Program Staff coordinate all aspects of the program throughout the semester and work closely with the students.  BSP staff members and local experts teach additional program courses for each semester.

The Border Studies Program takes place every fall and spring semester. Each semester program runs for 15-weeks and includes a break.

The spring semester runs from mid to late January to early May.

The fall semester runs from mid to late August to early or late December.

Program fees cover academic costs, room and board, and required program excursions as well as transfer of credits and grades. Students at member colleges of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) remain eligible for their college’s financial aid program and should consult the Financial Aid Office on their campuses.

Students are responsible for the cost of transportation to and from the program site, books and materials, independent travel, and personal expenses.

For more information, contact us at [email protected]

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