UCSB Latin American and Iberian Studies Program

Interview with LAIS Alumna, Nicole Pacino

Nicole Pacino, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, holds a B.A. from DePauw University. She graduated from the LAIS M.A. Program in 2007 and went on to puruse a PhD in History, also at UCSB, where she graduated in 2013. She is currently an Associate Professor of History at University of Alabama in Huntsville.

What is the main contribution of your research?

My research traces the expansion of public health programs in the Bolivian countryside after the 1952 National Revolution. I use the expansion of public health programs during this era to investigate changing ideas about race, gender, and national identity in relation to state-driven economic and political change and to demonstrate that rural public health programs forged a new way for women and indigenous communities to negotiate with the state. I argue that public health programs facilitated the growth of post-revolutionary state authority, especially in remote rural regions representing two-thirds of the total population. I focus on these rural regions, where state authority was far from hegemonic, to demonstrate that these peripheral areas showcase how people on the supposed margins of political power shape national policies. My research shows that enhancing national welfare was central to the government’s plan for social change, but also that rural communities shaped this process in accordance with their own agendas. By detailing rural communities’ impact on the revolutionary process, my project situates indigenous Bolivians at the center of the post-revolutionary nation-building project.

Is there any connection beteen your LAIS MA thesis and your current research?

Actually, the only thing that links my MA thesis with my current research is my interest in revolutions and social movements and my focus on the Andean region. My MA thesis explored the topics of globalization, resistance, and transnational solidarity movements through local community opposition to the construction of an open-pit copper mine in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. I did interviews with Ecuadorians active in the anti-mining and pro-environment movements, and argued that by resisting international development projects and partnering with transnational solidarity networks they were engaging with globalization on their own terms. When I started the PhD program in History, I became enamored with a new subject (public health) and a new country (Bolivia) and switched to studying Bolivia and its revolutionary period. So, you never know what direction your interests will take!

I hope to go back to Ecuador to do research some day. I have an idea for a future project on the history of quinoa production and consumption and am considering making it a transnational project spanning Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.

What led you to pursue an MA with LAIS? 

I had been an interdisciplinary major as an undergraduate (conflict studies and women’s studies), and wanted to continue interdisciplinary studies with a Latin American focus as a graduate student. I wasn’t sure what direction to pursue for my PhD, and I thought the terminal MA program with LAIS would help me figure that it. It did, but it didn’t take the direction I thought it would! I assumed I would go on to do a PhD in Sociology, which had been the basis of much of my undergraduate studies, but after taking History courses for the LAIS degree (which I took more of than Sociology classes) I decided to apply to PhD programs in History instead.

What was the most valuable aspect of your experience with LAIS?

There were a lot of things that were valuable about the experience. First and foremost was the interdisciplinary nature of the program, which forced me to take classes that I might not have otherwise. Second was the opportunity to take classes and work with so many different professors. Many of the people I took classes with as an MA student mentored me through my PhD as well. Finally, the thesis writing was an invaluable experience, especially since I went on to complete a PhD, because it taught me how to undertake a sizable research project and be diligent with my writing.

What advice do you have for current graduate students in LAIS?

Enjoy everything about the program, get to know the faculty, and take advantage of the opportunities and resources that are provided. Also, take a variety of classes, including classes that you don’t think you will be interested in, because you never know where they will lead you!

Related Link: 

Read more about Dr. Pacino here