Latino American Experience

June 24, 2015

News Release

CCSU awarded $10,000 grant to highlight

Latino American contributions to U.S.

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association have awarded Central Connecticut State University Assistant Professor of Sociology Heather R. Rodriguez, a $10,000 grant to help lead a national initiative to explore the Latino experience in the U.S. With more than 50 million living in the U.S., Latinos have become the country’s largest minority group.

CCSU is one of 203 institutions selected for the “Latino Americans: 500 Years of Historyprogram. Public screenings of the six-part TV documentary “Latino Americans” serve as the project’s cornerstone. It was produced for public television through funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities and is the first to recount the stories of Latinos who helped shape North America.

“We are very pleased to have been selected for this important endeavor that serves to increase and broaden our understanding of Latinos’ historical and cultural influences in the evolution of the U.S.,” said Carl Lovitt, CCSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

The University was among 55 sites designated for a $10,000 grant, according to Lovitt, while the majority of the awards were $3,000.
“Professor Rodriguez put together an impressive proposal and convinced the selection committee that CCSU would be an outstanding choice for this effort. The grant will provide financial support for five scholars who will lead discussions on the unique experiences of Latino Americans and support classroom projects aimed at deeply involving CCSU students in expanding and sharing the knowledge of Latino American history.” 

Rodriguez, the new chair of the Latino and Puerto Rican Studies program, enlisted the help of colleague Leah Glaser, associate professor of History, to build upon each part of the documentary’s theme and create a comprehensive presentation designed for the public and CCSU community. Their program is called “Exploring the Latino Experience through Art, Film, and History,” and it will begin in September.

At each screening, a scholar from New York, Yale, and other notable universities will lead discussions and answer audience questions. According to Rodriguez, “Many northeastern scholars focus on Latinos in the southwest; however, many of our local scholars are situated in areas where Latinos are Puerto Rican or Caribbean. So there is a perfect blend of Latino topics, backgrounds, ancestry, and scholarship that will be represented at the screenings and at each Latino program.”

A second component of the program will involve students enrolled in history and sociology classes who will document the Latino experience through conducting interviews and creating oral history exhibits, art displays, and altars commemorating the lives and stories of Latinos. For example, students in a sociology course on Latina identity and empowerment will focus specifically on documenting the role Latinas have played in creating positive social change in society.  Rodriguez hopes the students’ participation will lead them to “understand the complexity of socialization and the role that culture and history play in creating Latino identity.”

To learn more about the documentary, go to and look for upcoming news about the CCSU events.