Graduate Certificate in Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS)

This certificate is awarded by the University of Pennsylvania’s Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) Program to graduate students in Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) who wish to gain exposure in Latin America and Latinx Studies in conjunction with their social work education. Students develop rich cross-cultural fluency in Latin American language(s) and culture and acquire specific knowledge about the history, social conditions, political challenges, and/or environmental issues affecting the region.

Graduate students in the School of Social Policy & Practice who have focused at least part of their academic training on Latin America and Latinxs are encouraged to document their specialization by earning a certificate in LALS in conjunction with their degree. The Certificate documents that the student has developed rich cross-cultural fluency in Latin American traditions and culture and acquired specific knowledge about the history, social conditions, political challenges, or environmental issues affecting the region. Such recognition is expected to be valuable in academics, business, non-governmental organizations and other institutions dealing with Latin America and Latinos in the U.S.

Certificate Requirements

Coursework/Field Placement

SP2 students may fulfill the certificate requirements by successfully completing five course in the general area of Latin America and Latino Studies.

MSW students also have the option of completing the LALS certificate through a combination of courses and field placement/internship:

  1. Up to three of the five courses can be fulfilled through 225 hours at a qualifying field placement (for MSW students, in either their foundation or advanced year).
  2. The remaining two courses will be those rostered by LALS, or may be courses taken elsewhere on campus (including SP2) that have at least 30% of the graded content, but preferably more, dealing with Latin America or Latinos. Students may request approval for a course to be reviewed by LALS and their SP2 Academic Advisor on a case by case basis. For a pre-approved list of courses, please visit the LALS website and/or reach out to the LALS Associate Director.

Language Proficiency

Students must also demonstrate proficiency in Spanish, French, Portuguese, or a less commonly taught language such as Yucatec Maya, Quechua, or Haitian Creole. Students may demonstrate proficiency in the following ways:

  • Native speaker
  • Prior earned language certification
  • Prior language proficiency exam scores
  • Successful completion of fieldwork that requires fluency
  • If needed, students can take one of Penn’s language proficiency exams ($100 (subject to change) charged to student)


Students are not guaranteed a field placement that qualifies for the certificate. Students who are working towards the certificate should inform the Office of Field Education of their interest, and the best effort will be made to match a student with a qualifying opportunity. Sample field placement sites include Congreso, Juntos, La Peurta Abierta, Norristown School, PICC, NSC, and HIAS.

When students have completed the requirements, they should fill out the completion form and return it to the LALS Department.


Students who have questions about the certificate in Latin American and Latino Studies may contact:

Cathy Bartch, PhD
Associate Director of Latin American and Latino Studies


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