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Ask the Cougar

A Study of All Things Tropical

Hollis France, political science professor

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It's a tough sell to convince a college student to spend hardly any time away from campus.

But when they're given choices to study abroad in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba and Peru, well ... they sometimes make an exception, at least for a semester.

Such are the temptations offered by the College's Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, where students might spend as much time studying the history of the sugar trade as they do the salsa.

Students in this program are encouraged to become proficient in Spanish or Portuguese while exploring the culture, politics, history and people of the western hemisphere.

In professor Hollis France's classes, students are encouraged to connect global economic policies to everyday life in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.

"We look at the policies presently shaping the global economy," says France. "It's kind of breaking it down – what is globalization?"

France asks students to examine regional cases in which economic policies affect trade, finance and development, from NAFTA's impact on American manufacturing to the effect of currency devaluations on the economies of Caribbean island nations.

She lets students know that the subjects they study are always close to home, organizing trips to visit businessmen affected by such policies every day, including South Carolina shrimpers, a migrant labor broker for South Carolina farms, the local president of a longshoremen's union and a human resources director at a resort who hires seasonal guest workers from the Caribbean.

"We could sit in the classroom and read books and journal articles all day," says France, a native of Guyana, "but you really don't get the subtleties."