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Overseas and Off-Campus Programs

Border Studies: US Borderlands, Mexico, & Guatemala

Semester: Fall or Spring
Offered: Annually
Estimated Dates: Fall: mid-August to late November, Spring: late January to early May
Program Focus: Immigration Issues with Language Component
Prerequisites: Spanish 201 with a “B” average or better in language study                                                   
Housing: Host Families
Campus Contact: Elliott Young
Associate Professor of History, 503-768-7454

Program Design

In cooperation with Earlham College, Lewis & Clark offers the Arizona Border Studies program. Tucson-based Border Studies Program (BSP) staff coordinate all aspects of the program throughout the semester and work closely with the students. BSP staff members and local experts teach additional program courses for each semester.

The goal of this program is to assist students in acquiring a more complex and sophisticated analysis of issues related to migration. We strive to develop new leaders in the field of migration and human rights, thereby encouraging thoughtful and engaged global citizens who are well informed and grounded in their own individual experiences. Participants on this program have the unique opportunity of linking communities and geographic spaces together through direct living, working, and travel experiences that will accompany academic study. The semester allows students to enhance their understanding and analysis of migration, the global economy, transnational communities, international boundaries, and other key issues.

Location: Tucson and Ambos Nogales are excellent base locations for this program. In Tucson, there are a number of scholars and academic programs that focus on migration and border issues at the University of Arizona and Pima Community College, while the city itself also boasts a strong social movement responding to migrant deaths, borderlands militarization, human rights, and civil liberties. The Border Patrol’s Tucson sector is the top crossing point for undocumented immigration, while Nogales, Sonora is the Mexican border town receiving the highest number of repatriated migrants. While migrants passing through this sector come from all over Mexico and Central America, the highest percentages have been from Chiapas, Oaxaca, and other central and southern Mexican states that we plan to visit during the 2-3 week travel seminar. The travel seminar will give students firsthand experience with the realities that sending communities face as well as how people are responding to such challenges. It will also give students the chance to learn from Mexican scholars and activists working at the opposite end of the migration route from those along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Onsite Staff:

The three full-time residential coordinators of the Border Studies Program are Mari Galup, Geoff Boyce, and Cristen Poynter.

Mari​ ​Galup,​ ​Community​ ​Coordinator​ ​and​ ​BSP​ ​Instructor: Originally from Chaclacayo, Peru, Mari Galup has resided in Tucson since 2006. She joined the Border Studies Program in the spring of 2017 after a number of years teaching at the University of Arizona where she received her PhD from the Gender and Women’s Studies Department in 2016. Her academic work reflects her interests in transnational feminisms, Third world and women of color theories and praxis, decolonization, indigenous knowledge, social movements in the Americas, migrant justice, and food justice and food sovereignty. Since making Tucson her home, Mari has been involved in a number of grassroots organizations such as the Protection Network Action Fund (Pronet) and the Language Justice Collective that work on a number of issues present in the borderlands. Mari’s self care revolves around her dog Luna, her birth and extended queer family, and the desert landscape that she loves. She also enjoys, plants, reading, yoga and travel, which she is privileged to do every so often.

Geoffrey​ ​Boyce​, Academic​ ​Coordinator​ ​and​ ​BSP​ ​Instructor: Geoff Boyce is the Academic Coordinator for the Border Studies Program. Geoff joined the Border Studies Program in 2016, after earning his PhD from the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona. Geoff is trained as a political geographer, and his research interests attend to the everyday geographies of immigration policing in borderlands communities in Arizona and Michigan. His writing has been featured in a number of academic journals and in online fora like Z Magazine, CounterPunch and NACLA Report on the Americas. Although born and raised in the Detroit area, Geoff has lived in Arizona since 2001. Since that time Geoff has been involved in a number of social movement and community struggles in the southern Arizona borderlands. Between 2005 and 2013 Geoff worked as a volunteer spokesperson for the southern Arizona humanitarian organization No More Deaths. He is also interested in music and gardening, when he has time for such things.

Cristen​ ​Poynter,​ ​Coordinator​ ​of​ ​Language​ ​Curriculum​ ​and​ ​BSP​ ​Instructor: Cristen Poynter is beginning her third year as Spanish instructor at the Border Studies Program. She is excited to make Spanish a more integral part of the BSP curriculum and to co-teach alongside Tucson community members. Cristen was born in the greater Phoenix area, moved to rural Michigan at ten years old, and then made her way back to the desert in Tucson, which she now calls home. Learning Spanish became her tool for politicization in a small Midwestern town and gave her the privilege to earn a living teaching after she graduated with her masters in Applied Spanish Linguistics at Michigan State University in 2008. She has been teaching Spanish in a variety of contexts since 2005 to many people from Midwestern universities to folks doing solidarity work here in the borderlands. Cristen owes much of her current political education to the grassroots organization La Coalición de Derechos Humanos where she began volunteering in the summer of 2012. Cristen is currently interested in exploring ways to bring a more language-justice focus to the program.


The Border Studies Program challenges students to think critically about contemporary political, social and economic realities and to be more thoughtful and intentional about their participation in creating a just and sustainable world. Students on the program will earn 18 academic credits through an educational model that integrates classroom learning with regular travel throughout the border region, coupled with conversations with community leaders, activists and border residents involved in the topics we study. Extensive travel seminars in Guatemala and/or the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas, and excursions along both sides of the US-Mexico border, enhance students’ academic and personal experience by providing them with a more holistic understanding of the borderlands and the relationship the region has to broader global issues.

Each student is also placed in a “field study” internship with a local Tucson organization, and the BSP staff makes every effort to partner you with an organization whose work overlaps with your own interests. Field studies, homestays and formal courses all afford robust opportunities for Spanish-language learning. Spanish language acquisition is an integral part of the Border Studies Program. Not only is it a critical resource of everyday life in this multi-lingual border region, but it is also an important tool for deepening our knowledge of the program content. Learning Spanish through the themes of neoliberalism, migration and social struggle allows us to broaden who we can learn from and create meaningful relationships with, widening our perspectives even further. The unique combination of coursework, field studies and travel seminars create an outstanding opportunity to engage in an analysis of migration, the global economy, environmental degradation, development, sustainability, transnational communities, international boundaries and justice in a land marked by numerous inequalities.

Requirements Fulfilled: This program fulfills the 8-credit International Studies requirement and the overseas study requirement for the Latin American Studies minor.

Credits: 18 credits (5 courses)


Movement​ ​and​ ​Movements:​ ​A​ ​Political​ ​Economy​ ​of​ ​Migration​ ​Seminar​ ​(4​ ​credits)

The contemporary U.S. / Mexico borderlands are a site of intense conflict, beauty, translation, migration, exchange, labor, reproduction and violence. This course is designed to provide students with conceptual and theoretical tools in order to understand the layers of historical and geographic complexity that shape this region and the people who inhabit it. Students will be exposed to a range of intellectual frameworks including political economy, postcolonialism, critical race theory, queer theories and transnational feminisms. Students will apply these intellectual frameworks to critically unpack and situate their experiences and observations over the course of the Border Studies semester, and to interrogate their own identities, positionalities, and responsibilities in the borderlands and beyond. The class is structured as a regular weekly

seminar. Reading assignments will be designed to complement and provide background and context for the people, places and topics approached throughout the BSP semester. Students will be expected to complete weekly reading assignments and to come to class prepared to ask critical questions and help facilitate group discussion.

Field​ ​Study​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Borderlands​ ​(4​ ​credits)

Field Study placements are central to the student’s experience on the program. Each student will complete 12 hours of work each week at an organization in Tucson, Arizona that is relevant to the realities of the borderlands. Students will be under the direct supervision of the site supervisor in collaboration with program staff. In all cases the work carried out at the field study placement must be of utility to the site, as well as beneficial to the student’s overall learning process. At the culmination of the field study experience each student will be required to complete a 10-15-page auto-ethnography, discussing pertinent experiences at the organization as viewed self-consciously through their personal lens as it relates to the organization and the broader program experience. Throughout the placement, students will be expected to keep field notes and participate in regular large- and small-group discussions.

Critical​ ​Issues​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Borderlands​ ​(3​ ​credits)

We come to understand ourselves and our place through shared food, conversations, silence, and spaces. Knowledge is not only acquired from texts and classroom presentations, but through lived experiences, everyday exchanges between people and the spaces they move through. Critical Issues is built around travel and reflection. By travel we refer in part to different trips to the desert, to the “border,” to the courthouse, to the detention center, to a migrant shelter, in Tucson, in Nogales, in Arizona, in Texas, and in Mexico, that we will take during the semester where we will meet and learn from a myriad of people. We say in part, because by travel we also refer to movement in and of our bodies within and across spaces that are not necessarily measured by mile markers. We do not have to go far to see and feel how lands and bodies are palimpsests where histories are layered, delineated and erased, how beauty, violence and resistance permeates the borderlands and the people that inhabit them. We do not have to go far to understand ourselves and our positionality.

Mexican​ ​Americans​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Southwest​ ​ ​(4​ ​credits)

This course that follows the trajectory of the US-Mexico borderlands and its inhabitants from pre-invasion to the modern day. It is designed to help students gain a better understanding of people’s lived realities in what is known today as the US-Mexico border as well as what it means to work for social justice. BSP students will take this course alongside Pima Community College students in Tucson. In addition to obtaining a Chicanx historiography of the US-Mexico border, BSP participants will interact with students from Tucson their own age (in addition to some non-traditional students), many of whom encounter the realities of border militarization, law enforcement and racialized lived experiences in their daily lives. This classroom setting presents a space of deep learning, unlearning and a multilayered understanding of what living, resisting and surviving in the borderlands entails. Border Studies instructor Alisha Vasquez will teach this Pima course that provides BSP students the unique opportunity to interact with border learning communities apart from their field studies and home stays. BSP students will be given supplemental readings to the community college weekly reading requirements and meet three times during the semester with Alisha in the BSP classroom to discuss their time, learning and positionalities inside the Pima classroom. BSP students will be required to host at least one Pima student at their field study, and in turn the Pima student will take the BSP student to one location in Tucson that has significance to them as part of a cultural/educational exchange. Through self-examination, experimentation with tools of critical analysis, and an interrogation of individual experiences and their relationship with structural oppression, students will confront systems of inequality and work towards defining solidarity, sustainability, principles for seekers of social justice, and current openings for change.

The​ ​BSP​ ​Spanish​ ​Language​ ​Course​ ​(3​ ​credits)

Learning a new language—or giving priority to a language other than English that you were surrounded by growing up—is a political act. In schools, we are taught ‘foreign’ languages instead of having access to bilingual education for highly political reasons. At BSP, in addition to learning Spanish as co-taught by Cristen, Josue and other community members, we will explore how dominant languages are used as imperialist and oppressive tools as well as how they are linked to colonialism and neocolonialism. This course will be different from other language classes you may have taken, as it will be taught through a content-based approach. We will be very intentional to not teach Spanish as the language of the ‘other’ as is commonly done in ‘foreign’ language classes across the US. Instead, through the Spanish language we will learn about certain topics of the program such as such as border enforcement, neoliberalism, ethnic studies, feminism, free trade, food justice, etc., from a multitude of teachers throughout Tucson. It is imperative that while we make language the subject of study that we do it through critical lenses, constantly exploring how our language informs how we view our own identities, our interactions with other people, and our political views. We will be meeting twice per week: Monday evening and Thursday morning. The Monday evening class will be open to community members involved in social justice struggles in Tucson and therefore will focus more on conversational Spanish and grammar. Thursday classes will be dedicated to guest speakers, vocabulary, and language comprehension. Most reading, writing, and grammar practice will take place outside of class as homework.

Excursions: Required program excursions are designed to complement the academic work students are engaged with in the borderlands. Excursions have included a trip to Altar, Sonora, several trips to Nogales, Sonora, and a trip to El Paso, Texas.

Student Life

Housing: Each student will live with a host family throughout their stay on the border. The homestay placements are typically with immigrant families who predominantly speak Spanish in the household. The homestay is an enriching experience where students and families alike learn and grow. Members of the host families have personal insight into the issues explored in the program and offer students new perspectives on life in the borderlands. Students will be provided two meals a day by your homestay during the weekdays (breakfast and dinner) and three meals on weekends (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Students are expected to provide their own lunches Monday-Friday by either bringing in food from home or using their $50 weekly meal stipend provided by the program to purchase food and snacks.

Field Study: Students will have the opportunity to work at a number of different organizations during their time in Tucson. The Field Study is envisioned as a way for BSP participants to take part in the life of the Tucson community, and to contribute to the work of justice that is being done in this border city. Past program participants have worked with organizations such as The Alliance for Global Justice, Bicas, Borderlands Theater, The Gloo Factory, and Mariposas sin Fronteras.


2018-2019 Fee Breakdown*

Total Fee (includes Tuition & Program Fee): $32,334

Tuition: $25,287

Program Fee: $7,047

Included in the program fee are room/housing, board/meals, and administrative fees. Not included are airfare, passport and visa expenses, primary insurance coverage, photographs, books, immunizations, and incidentals. 

*Fees are updated every February for the following academic year.

Stipend: Students will receive a stipend to cover the cost of meals and transportation costs not covered by the program fee.  

Estimated Airfare (Round trip PDX to TUS): $300 - $400

Estimated Health Insurance Fee: $1,275.50

All students participating in overseas programs are automatically enrolled in iNext, a supplemental travel insurance program. The fee for iNext is covered in the program cost. However, students are also required to have comprehensive health insurance during their time abroad. All students participating in overseas programs, both abroad and domestic, are automatically enrolled in the College’s student health insurance program. Similar to a regular semester on-campus, students participating in overseas programs may waive enrollment in the student health insurance program if they have other comprehensive health insurance (e.g., through a parent, guardian or employer) that 1) provides coverage for them in the geographic region in which they will be studying and 2) includes mental health benefits. Click here for more information regarding health insurance & overseas programs.  

Program Preparation

Application Process: This program has a dual application process. Student must first submit a Lewis & Clark Application. Once admitted by Lewis & Clark, the students will receive instructions for submitting their secondary application to Earlham College and will receive a separate notification letter of admittance. Please keep a digital copy of your essays and other application materials as you will need to submit these similar materials to Earlham College. Please note that this secondary application process can be as late as the semester preceding your scheduled participation.

For more information about the application process, click here.

Travel: Students usually fly into the Tucson airport (TUS), where they are met by BSP staff and transported to orientation.

Visa: Students with a U.S. passport will not be required to apply for a visa in order to participate in this program. More information will be provided upon admission to the program.  

Country-Specific Health Information: Click here to view specific health information for people traveling to Mexico.

State Department Country Information: Click here to visit the State Department’s Mexico page.

Arizona: Border Studies