Professor in Santiago, Chile Gives Sneak Peek into Courses Abroad

Mike Touchton, an assistant professor of international political economy in the Department of Political Science at Boise State University, is teaching in Santiago, Chile, this fall for USAC!

“Both of my courses are in English, but they offer a lot of opportunities for students to improve their Spanish as they study Latin American politics and economics,” he said.

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Studying comparative politics in Chile is particularly interesting in 2013, Touchton said. “This is a presidential election year with a lot of excitement and debate surrounding how best to capitalize on 20 years of strong economic growth.”

Touchton’s course introduces students to these debates and helps them follow the discussions throughout the campaign with requirements to listen to the local news, talk to their host families and meet with Chilean students to discuss politics, all in Spanish.

The study also is interesting because on Sept. 11 Chile marked the 40th anniversary of the military coup that brought about the brutal Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s and ’80s. Pinochet’s legacy is still hotly debated in Chile and Touchton’s class featured frequent discussions of the dictatorship and its influence on contemporary Chile just as the rest of the country debated the same issues.

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Touchton’s second course in Santiago centers on new strategies in economic and political development emerging from Latin America. For example, the class evaluates efforts to secure title to peoples’ property and integrate them into the formal economy and transfers of money to parents who feed their children fruits and vegetables or send their children to school or to regular medical check-ups.

“These programs are active in Chile and my students have visited many government, private sector and nonprofit organizations promoting these goals,” he said. “Moreover, student research projects give them the opportunity to work directly with individuals involved in these programs to see just how they work in practice.”

Teaching in Chile as a visiting professor also gives Touchton a chance to pursue his own research in the country. “I have spent the semester surveying investors about national economic policy and their likelihood of investing in Chile or moving their money abroad, depending on the results of the Nov. 17 presidential election,” he said. “I’ve also met with other scholars studying political and economic development in the region, presented my work at their universities and generally broadened my academic network. These opportunities are invaluable for my research and will inform my scholarship for years to come.”

This article can be found in its original version at Where in the World? Santiago, Chile

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