Celebrating Undergraduate Research: The Creation of Portales 1.1

In the fall of 2014, students and faculty assembled in the Casa Hispánica to discuss the development of a journal intended exclusively for undergraduate research. From these initial meetings emerged an editorial board of eight undergraduates, all proud veterans of the LAIC curriculum and each with a distinct academic specialty. Thanks to the vision of our department  and the expertise and encouragement of our managing editor, Eunice Rodríguez Ferguson, we were able to conceptualize and produce a publication that has no precedent in our department. Our objective became to compile outstanding student work that would exemplify interdisciplinary discourse at the undergraduate level while encouraging novel approaches to research and scholarship. We named our journal Portales in commemoration of this marriage of values: to celebrate the humanities as a means of entrance into cultural understanding and to acknowledge the ability of new technologies to enrich and revolutionize our methodology, both within and beyond the classroom.

During the preparation of Portales 1.1, the editorial board gained immense respect for the truly dynamic student research that has emerged from our department. Our first issue includes research on cognitive linguistics, a collaborative work of fiction written by nine undergraduate students, an expository piece on Cuban folklore, as well two impressive cultural analyses supported by extensive independent research abroad. That the majority of these submissions were composed outside of established classroom curricula attests both to the resourcefulness of LAIC students and to the incredible support they have received from LAIC faculty. Ken Kitayama’s senior thesis (“Tinta sobre papel, pigmento sobre la piel: arte y castigo de la pintura corporal en los procesos inquisitoriales novohispanos y más allá”) resulted from a large-scale research project that he developed under the direction of Alessandra Russo and researched in Mexico with the aid of multiple university grants. Lacey Beck designed a digital edition of Reyes Llopis García’s Gramática cognitiva e instrucción de procesamiento para la enseñanza de la selección modal under the instruction of Susanna Allés Torrent, forging a connection between two interests that she has honed in LAIC: linguistics and the digital humanities. It is exciting to observe this evidence that our peers have identified unique areas of interest and, perhaps most impressively, that they have sought the guidance and collaboration of faculty who have achieved preeminence in those fields.

In the coming months, the editorial board of Portales plans to field submissions written by students at our peer institutions. We believe that the expansion of this initiative to include additional universities will allow us to fulfill our commitment to interdisciplinary dialogue while also increasing the visibility of our publication. It is our earnest hope that, as our journal reaches new eyes, Portales will be received as an archive of our love for and dedication to our department and, first and foremost, as a love letter to our study of languages and the humanities, to which we attribute our joy within the classroom, our sensitivity to multiple perspectives, and the bravery we have been taught in the face of intellectual challenges. Portales 1.1 is the first in a series of steps made by students to enrich our academic environment as fully as we are able and, in the process, to cultivate a more perfect multilingualism.

Last Updated 4 years ago


Hannah C. Kauders, « Celebrating Undergraduate Research: The Creation of Portales 1.1 », Hispanic Institute Bulletin, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on April 6, 2015. Full URL for this article
Hispanic Institute Bulletin
ISSN 2377-8873
The Hispanic Institute was founded in 1920 with the mission of bridging academia and society at large. Almost a century later, the Bulletin of the Hispanic Institute for Latin American and Iberian Cultures continues to carry out that mission through new technologies and media. The Bulletin is a window into the Department’s everyday work and how our community, from undergraduate students to faculty and alumni, responds to the challenges posed by a field in constant flux.

With contributions from all members of the department (and graduates), the Bulletin shows how LAIC—in the classroom, through research, and in public interventions—engages with changing theoretical paradigms, the increasing presence of digital tools, and the reconfiguration of the humanities and their place in society.
  • Editorial Board
  • Faculty, lecturers, and students at LAIC.