UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Read our interview with LAIS Alumna Cheryl Jimenez Frei

Cheryl Jimenez Frei is a LAIS Alumna ’12 who has accepted as Assistant Professor of Public History and Modern Latin America at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.


How did you decide to pursue a MA in LAIS?


When I began considering graduate school, I knew I was a non-traditional student: I had finished my bachelor’s degree (in International Studies and Journalism) seven years before, and had since been working as a journalist, grant writer for nonprofits, and other odd jobs in between. I felt very much “out of the game” so to speak, and my academic interests had always been diverse. What I knew is that I wanted to study Latin America—as an undergrad I fell in love with all things Latin America—but I also knew I wanted to pursue that love within an interdisciplinary context. The LAIS program offered that flexibility, and made me feel very welcome as a non-traditional student. I was also excited about the number of faculty affiliated with the program from different fields, and their impressive individual research.


What was the most valuable thing about your experience in the program?


The most valuable aspect of my time spent in LAIS was the flexibility and mentorship LAIS provided. LAIS graduate students are encouraged to explore different fields while also developing special interests and locating mentors to work with. I gravitated towards history and art history, while developing strong relationships with mentors that helped me in many ways, and continued to do so throughout my PhD.


Can you describe your research, and how it evolved over time?


For my LAIS MA thesis, I examined depictions of women known as tapadas (who wore a veil pulled across the face, to reveal only one eye) in late nineteenth century Lima, Peru, by analyzing travel journals and a set of paintings by German ethnographic painter Johann Moritz Rugendas. When I continued on to my PhD in History, I remained very interested in art and cultural history, but pivoted back to Argentina, where I had first discovered my fascination with Latin America. For my doctoral dissertation, I examined several central monuments in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and how state officials utilized these works to construct and/or contest national identity and memory, but also how the various public actors worked to re-write these meanings as well.   


What are your plans in the immediate future?


I recently accepted a tenure-track position at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I will be teaching public history and Latin American history courses, beginning in Fall 2019.


What advice do you have for Graduate students in LAIS?


Embrace the interdisciplinary nature of the program and your ability to be independent in charting your own specific course! Research the diverse affiliated faculty and don’t be shy about approaching professors to find out more about their work, or to see if you can develop a mentor relationship in the program. Your mentors will be invaluable as you develop your research, and everyone wants to see students succeed in the program.