October 6, 2009

AMHERST, Mass. — Ilan Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and Five College 40th Anniversary Professor, is now in charge of a subcommittee of Massachusetts’ Latino-American Advisory Commission. The subcommittee’s mandate is to produce a thorough report on the state of education of Latinos in the Commonwealth.


“Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States. In Massachusetts, there are large concentrations in metropolitan areas,” Stavans said. “But, to a large degree, the educational process of Latinos is still misunderstood by educators and school administrators, in part because the minority is astonishingly heterogeneous.” Among the “enormous hurdles” facing the Latino population, the professor lists language barriers, tensions between home and schools environments and high dropout rates.

The subcommittee will conduct five meetings in cities across Massachusetts—including Boston, Holyoke, Lowell and Lawrence—at which educators, parents, students and community members can describe their concerns and the challenges faced by the Latino population. From these meetings, Stavans and his colleagues will assemble a report, which they will deliver to Gov. Deval Patrick. “It is my hope,” Stavans said, “that a thorough study of [Latinos’] status in the state’s education system, from kindergarten to advanced graduate programs, will result in a series of recommendations Governor Patrick will pay close attention to and seek ways to implement.”

The Latino-American Advisory Commission was created in 1998 by an executive order from then-Gov. Paul Cellucci, to advise the governor’s office on “[m]atters of paramount interest and concern to the Massachusetts Latino-American Community.” Gov. Patrick nominated and appointed Stavans a co-chair of the Commission in July 2008.

In addition to teaching courses at Amherst College on Latino and Yiddish language, literature and culture, Stavans has written numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Disappearance, Resurrecting Hebrew, On Borrowed Words and The Hispanic Condition. He is the editor of such other collections as The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, Cesar Chavez: An Organizer’s Tale and Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing. He just completed editing The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, to be released in 2010. His many awards and honors include an Emmy nomination, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Pablo Neruda Medal, the Latino Literature Prize, the Antonia Pantoja Award and Chile’s Presidential Medal. Stavans holds degrees from Mexico’s Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.

Contact: Peter Rooney, Director of Public Affairs, Amherst College, 413-542-8452; prooney@amherst.edu