A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
Dec 6, 2007 Volume 38 / Number 3


Connecting Chico to the World

Lantis Professorship Supports Campus Internationalization Efforts

Graham Thurgood

Chico State can seem like a world of its own. We’re surrounded by orchards and ranches and the 3,600 acres of Bidwell Park—a tight-knit college community with a connection to the international stage that seems somewhat distant. It is sometimes too easy to forget that we have an obligation to help our students “understand their increasingly interconnected and complicated world,” said Lantis Professor Steve Lewis, History.

Lewis is part of a larger movement to internationalize the campus. (See below.) He plans to use the time and resources he’s received with the Lantis Endowment Professorship for 2007–08 to address several pieces of that larger effort: reinvigorate the International Studies Program, revive the International Forum, and develop an endowed scholarship. In addition, he will continue working on a book about official Indian policy in Mexico since 1950.

Lewis is the new coordinator of the Latin American Studies Program, which graduates 20 to 25 majors and about the same number of minors each year. “It is one of the few interdisciplinary programs still on its feet after the latest round of budget cuts, faculty departures, and retirements.” said Lewis. To boost the program’s profile and attract good students, Lewis is establishing an endowed scholarship for the outstanding student in Latin American Studies. He will donate $5,000 from the Lantis award and then pursue matching funds from alum donors for the scholarship.

The International Forum, a 1-unit class through International Studies, was one of the more tangible causalities of lean times. Lewis is coordinating the forum this semester, building on the work of Tony Waters, Sociology, who “got the forum back on the campus map last spring,” he said. The forum gives students a broad introduction to a wide range of current international concerns by bringing in 14 professors passionate about what is going on in the world.

Another way to enlarge the CSU, Chico world is to bring the world to Chico. Lewis is fostering an environment of international scholarship through a lecture series that brings a distinguished Latin America expert to campus each semester. Jan Rus, an anthropologist specializing in Chiapas, Mexico, and Linda Curcio-Nagy, an expert in the festivals of colonial Latin America at the University of Nevada, Reno, will be among the first of these speakers.

The Lantis award is also allowing Lewis to focus on his own scholarship. He is working on the tentatively titled Utopia Undermined: The Rise and Fall of Federal Indian Policy in Mexico, 1940–1994, a book about indigenismo, a controversial social policy managed by Mexico’s National Indigenist Institute. The Lantis Professorship is enabling Lewis to make his research available in Mexico by funding the translation of his first book, The Ambivalent Revolution: Forging State and Nation in Chiapas, 1919–1945, into Spanish.

“I bring my research into the classroom all the time,” said Lewis. “The Lantis Professorship provides a wonderful opportunity—it keeps professors engaged with their research so that they can inspire students to do their best work.”

Steve Lewis’s work is a part of a larger, University-wide push for internationalization, lead by Dean Susan Place of the School of Graduate, International, and Interdisciplinary Studies. Task groups are currently working on a written plan for campus internationalization which will include the following:

• integrating international students into campus life
• curriculum development
• service-learning and internships
• communication and networking
• faculty and staff development
• fund-raising for international programs and scholarships

Anna Harris, Public Affairs and Publications