Study of the United States Institute

Students in the SUSI Leadership Institute on the UA Campus with flags from their home countries

Instituto de Liderazgo para Mujeres Indígenas y Afro-descendientes

Leadership Institute for Indigenous and Afro-descendent Women

About the Program

The UA Center for Latin American Studies hosts 40 university student women leaders from Latin America every year through the Study of the United States Institute (SUSI), funded by the U.S. State Department and in collaboration with the Institute for Training and Development in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The Women’s Institute, directed by Dr. Marcela Vásquez-León, brings a highly select group of Indigenous and Afro-descendent women between the ages of 18 and 24 and hosts two separate women’s leadership institutes. In January, we receive students from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay for our Winter Institute. In July, we receive students from Mexico, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala for our Summer Institute. After 4 weeks at the University of Arizona, the students go on a study tour for 1.5 weeks to Amherst, Boston, and New York City. The institute culminates in Washington D.C.

During their time in Tucson, students take classes from UA faculty and community experts on diverse feminisms and women’s movements in U.S., including Native American, Mexican American, and Black American women. They also learn about gender-based violence, immigration and border policy, environment and sustainability in arid environments, women and democracy, social entrepreneurship, etc. Students participate in leadership workshops, volunteer for community service projects, go camping in the Grand Canyon, and receive hands-on training in environmentally sustainable technologies as well as story-telling through digital media. The institute is conducted entirely in Spanish.

SUSI participants river rafting








Peer Mentors

UA students and recent graduates act as peer mentors and cultural liaisons for the visiting students. Spanish skills are required as well as the possibility of hosting three SUSI students in their family’s home one weekend.

If you are interested in becoming a peer mentor for the institute, contact project coordinators Katie O'Brien at or Jesus Acosta at


SUSI cultural event bolivian dance



"Espectacular. SUSI me cambio la forma de ver la vida. Le siento más comprometida con la sociedad." -Summer 2019 participant.


Recent SUSI Activities:


SUSI Summer 2023 Participants:

SUSI Bios Summer 2023

SUSI Partner Organizations:

SUSI Speakers:

Learn from SUSI Student Perspectives:

SUSI in the News 

KGUN9: Future Latin American leaders using Tucson as their training ground

UANews: Sharing Culture With Latin American Student Leaders

Contact Us

For more information contact Institute Director Dr. Vasquez-Leon at