Latin American and Latino Studies B.A.

Information and Policies


A degree in Latin American and Latino studies (LALS) trains students to be critical and analytical thinkers, to be active, engaged global citizens, and to be skilled strategic activists in making the world a more just place for all. An LALS bachelor of arts (B.A.) prepares students to learn from and work with people from a variety of cultures and perspectives, to understand the complexity of our current political, social, and cultural moment, and to use skills from many disciplines and fields.

Academic Advising for the Program

LALS Undergraduate Adviser and Program Coordinator
32 Merrill Academic Building
(831) 459-2119

Getting Started in the Major

Students interested in the LALS B.A. are encouraged to enroll in LALS 1, Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies, at their earliest opportunity.

Program Learning Outcomes

All students completing a degree in Latin American and Latino Studies will have proficiency or competency in the following five areas: critical thinking, research methods, communication, language, and lifelong learning skills.

  1. Critical Thinking. Ability to analyze from a transnational/transborder/translocal perspective—to see the interconnections between Latin American and Latino issues, people, ideas, problems, and solutions. This includes key skills, such as understanding sources, comparing arguments, analysis, and historical perspective.
  2. Research Methods. Working knowledge of social scientific and/or humanistic approaches to LALS relevant topics. This includes acquiring qualitative and quantitative skills, gathering or obtaining research data, finding/using primary sources, and other research methods.
  3. Communication. Key communication skills, including written, oral presentation, and digital, including an understanding of media sources and ability to apply media literacy to cross-cultural analysis.
  4. Language. Fluency in Spanish and/or Portuguese, in addition to English.
  5. Lifelong Learning Skills. Acquisition of practical hands-on skills in community engagement, cross-cultural fluency, familiarity with Latin America, and familiarity with Latino experience acquired through experiential learning while working with community and civic organizations.

Major Qualification Policy and Declaration Process

Major Qualification

To declare an LALS major, students must successfully complete any one LALS course with a grade of C or better. For an overview of the program, students are encouraged to enroll in LALS 1, Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies, as their first course.

Appeal Process

Students who are notified they are not eligible to declare major appeal this decision by submitting a letter of appeal to the department chair within 15 days. Within 15 days of receipt of the appeal letter, the department will notify the student and their college of the appeal decision.

How to Declare a Major

Students may declare online, via the form on our department website, or in person, in the LALS Advising Office in Merrill Academic Building.

Transfer Information and Policy

Transfer Admission Screening Policy

Students planning to apply in this major are not required to complete specific major preparation courses for consideration of admission to UC Santa Cruz.

LALS welcomes transfer students. Students interested in transferring to UCSC as an LALS major are encouraged to enroll in courses related to the discipline prior to transfer.

Getting Started at UCSC as a Transfer Student

Transfer students should enroll in LALS 1, Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies, at the earliest opportunity. LALS 1 is offered in fall and winter quarters and during Summer Session. To make timely progress in the major, transfer students should enroll in LALS 1 and the first course in our core series, LALS 100, Concepts and Theories in Latin American and Latino Studies, in their first quarter.

Course Substitution Policy

Students may substitute two courses taken outside of LALS when satisfying the requirements for the major. Students studying abroad may substitute a maximum of three courses from outside LALS. No substitutions are permitted for our core curriculum: LALS 1, LALS 100, LALS 100A, and LALS 100B. See the undergraduate adviser for more information. 

Study Abroad

Students may study abroad through UC Santa Cruz faculty-led programs, the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), other UC study abroad programs, or through non-UC programs. UCEAP offers opportunities for students to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City and Oaxaca, México; Villarrica and Santiago, Chile; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Madrid, Córdoba, Granada, and Barcelona in Spain. In addition to language and culture and university immersion programs, UCEAP also offers a field research program in México, which is an experiential program geared toward juniors and seniors who want to explore the “real” México outside the classroom and at the same time receive undergraduate research training. The program has research sites in states such as Chiapas, Yucatán, Oaxaca, and Michoacán (final site choice depends on the research topic). There is also a leadership in social justice and public policy, México City and Sacramento program. In this amazing program students study abroad in the capital of México and then add a related internship in Sacramento.

Application deadlines are generally about one year in advance of the program, so students should visit global engagement early to plan for study abroad and to begin the application process. The department will consider by petition the approval of courses taken abroad, whether through UCEAP or through non-UC programs, that cover topics appropriate to the LALS curriculum for upper-division credit toward the major. All credit for UCEAP classes is fully incorporated into students’ UCSC transcripts; students receive transfer credit for independent study abroad programs. Financial aid may apply to all study abroad programs, which take into account airfare and living costs in addition to tuition and fees. Before departure, students should present an academic plan for courses abroad to the department adviser for review. Credit for up to three UCEAP courses can be applied toward the major when courses are approved by the department. (A maximum of three courses of field study and UCEAP combined can be applied toward the major requirements.)


The LALS faculty considers awarding honors in the major based on overall student academic performance in courses that count toward the major. To receive the strongest consideration for honors in the major the following grade point average (GPA) criteria must be met: highest honors, 4.0; honors, 3.7. Students with a 3.5–3.7 GPA in the major will also be considered, and a decision is made based on their grades in core courses and improvement over time. 

In addition to honors in the major, LALS may award honors for a thesis, or creative or community action project, or student-taught seminar, by the recommendation of the faculty adviser.  

Students may qualify for both honors in the major and honors for a thesis, project, or student-taught seminar.   Expanded papers and senior seminars do not qualify for a separate honors designation, but students who choose these options may still qualify for honors in the major.

Field-Study and Internship Opportunities

All majors are encouraged to undertake either a field study in Latin America, the Caribbean, a Latino/a community in the U.S., or formal academic study abroad through the Education Abroad Program (EAP). These paths are the best ways to improve language skills, to explore the nature and direction of specific academic and career interests in relation to Latin American and Latino studies, and to deepen cross-cultural understanding and relationships.

Field studies are independent, community-based study projects for academic credit, done under faculty sponsorship and arranged on an individual basis. Local opportunities for internships and field study in Latino/a communities on California’s Central Coast are numerous. Credit for up to three upper-division courses may be applied toward the major from field study; however, course credit from field study and study abroad combined may not exceed three upper-division courses. Students should check the Latin American and Latino Studies Department website for further information regarding the field-study process and course credit. A listing of local field-study programs and petition forms are available at the Latin American and Latino Studies Department office, 32 Merrill.

Requirements and Planners

Course Requirements

The LALS B.A. major requires 11 courses: two lower-division, three upper-division core, and six upper-division electives. 

Lower-Division Requirements

Two Lower-Division Courses

All students are required to take LALS 1, Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies, and one additional lower-division Latin American and Latino studies course. These courses are normally taken during the student’s first year.

Language Preparation

In preparation for taking upper-division coursework taught in Spanish or Portuguese, students are expected to become proficient in either or both languages. To demonstrate proficiency in Spanish, students should complete courses through SPAN 6 or SPHS 6. To demonstrate proficiency in Portuguese, students should complete courses through PORT 65B.

Students who are fluent in Spanish or Portuguese may be exempt from this recommended preparatory coursework after demonstration of their proficiency. 

For language placement, visit the Languages and Applied Linguistics language placement links for Spanish and/or Portuguese

Upper-Division Requirements

Three Upper-Division LALS Core Courses

All majors must complete these three core courses:

LALS100Concepts and Theories in Latin American and Latina/o Studies


LALS100ASocial Science Analytics


LALS100BCultural Theory in the Americas


Six Additional LALS Electives

Of the six required electives, two of these upper-division courses must be courses conducted in Spanish or Portuguese. Students can fulfill this language requirement through taking courses offered by the LALS Department, by other units at UC Santa Cruz, or an appropriate course taken while participating in a study abroad program. 

One LALS elective may be satisfied by completing a senior seminar (LALS 194 series).  

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement for the Latin American and Latino Studies B.A. is met by completing:

LALS100ASocial Science Analytics


LALS100BCultural Theory in the Americas


Comprehensive Requirement

Each student must complete a senior comprehensive requirement to graduate. The preparation and completion of this requirement is structured into the senior year, and the requirement is fulfilled by one of the following four options:

  1. Passing a Latin American and Latino studies senior seminar (LALS 194 series). In these courses, students must write at least 30 pages cumulatively during the quarter. The final paper must be based on independent scholarly research, demonstrate advanced skills in critical analysis, and have undergone revisions. Senior standing and completion of LALS 100A and LALS 100B are required before taking a LALS 194 course for fulfillment of the senior exit requirement.

  2. An expanded research paper, a minimum of 20 pages in length. This paper often builds on related course work and requires approval from the relevant faculty adviser before the end of the winter quarter of the senior year. Students must be enrolled in an independent study tutorial to complete this paper.

  3. A senior thesis, generally between 40–60 pages, based on two or more quarters of sustained independent research under the supervision of the faculty adviser while enrolled in an independent study (done by petition to LALS, and with the approval of the faculty adviser). If the thesis option is selected by a combined major, it should be planned in consultation with an adviser from each department, completed under the supervision of a faculty member from either department, and read and approved by both advisers; one adviser is sufficient if this faculty member is affiliated with both departments. This option is recommended for those students seeking to enter graduate school.

  4. A senior project, which can be either a creative project or a community-action project. Creative projects include website design, video, performance, slide show, photo exhibit, or other media work. A short written analysis of the student’s experience in conducting the project is required. Community-action projects often involve sustained research and/or activity conducted in a community organization or public interest group, usually stemming from an internship. The required, short, written analysis has to be 10 pages minimum.


Recommended academic plan for students starting as freshmen who place in to SPAN 1 on the language placement exam. Portuguese language track in parentheses for students who choose this option.

   Fall  Winter  Spring
1st (frosh) LALS 1* SPAN 2 (PORT 2)   LALS lower-division elective 
2nd (soph) LALS 100* LALS 100A LALS 100B
SPAN 4** (PORT 65A) SPAN 5** (PORT 65B) SPAN 6**

3rd (jr)

LALS upper-division elective  LALS upper-division elective LALS upper-division elective
LALS language elective  LALS language elective  LALS 194
4th (sr) Study abroad, research, or additional major or minor     

*both courses satisfy the ER general education requirement.
**Native speakers can substitute Spanish for Heritage Speaker series, SPHS 4, SPHS 5, and SPHS 6.

Recommended academic plan for students starting as juniors and who place into Spanish 4 on the language placement exam. 

   Fall  Winter  Spring

1st (jr)  

LALS 1* LALS 100A            LALS 100B
LALS 100* LALS upper-division elective  LALS upper-division elective 
SPAN 4** (PORT 65A)
SPAN 5** (PORT 65B)
SPAN 6**
2nd (sr) LALS upper-division elective  LALS language elective LALS 194
LALS language elective    

*both courses satisfy the ER general education requirement.
**Native speakers can substitute Spanish for Heritage Speaker series, SPHS 4, SPHS 5, and SPHS 6.