The Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) was founded in 1983. It represented a response to the rapid growth of the Latino population in the early 1980s and what a Ford Foundation working paper stressed as the need of policymakers and of Latinos themselves for "greater knowledge and understanding of their economic, social and political situation and of the roots of their disadvantage, and the development of an infrastructure that will increase their participation in the mainstream society.

IUPLR Founding Members

  • Frank Bonilla

  • Albert Camarillo

  • Rodolfo O. de la Garza

  • Juan Gómez-Quiñones

At the time Latinos were nearly invisible in higher education and on the national scene. The 1980 Census, the first decennial census to ask all Americans whether they were of Hispanic descent, counted 14.6 million Latinos, comprising 6.4% of the population. Reliable information on the socioeconomic status of Latinos was just beginning to become available. In 1981 Latinos represented just 1.6% of full-time higher education faculty. In 1982 Latinos made up 4.5% of undergraduates and 2.2% of graduate students in the United States, and more than half of Latino college students were enrolled in two-year institutions. In 1983 Latinos received just 2.2% of doctoral degrees. Little funding was available for Latino-focused research, and policymakers often operated under the mistaken assumption that policies and programs developed for other minorities would also effectively serve Latinos.

In 1982, the directors of four Latino research centers met to discuss the status of university-based Latino research. They agreed on the need to reduce isolation and encourage cooperation and collaboration—rather than competition—among Latino scholars and research centers. The Inter-University Program for Latino Research was formally established in September 1983 to increase the amount of Latino-focused research and the pool of Latino researchers. The four founding members:

  • Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin

  • Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at Hunter College, City University of New York

  • Chicano Studies Research Center, University of California at Los Angeles

  • Stanford Center for Chicano Research, Stanford University

The founders agreed that the organization would operate as an umbrella group linking Latino research centers, with the center directors providing oversight as IUPLR co-directors. They decided that its headquarters would rotate among member centers, with Stanford University serving as the first host site. Soon after, the Ford Foundation commissioned the development of issue-specific Latino research initiatives by several national Latino organizations. Among them was IUPLR.

Strengthening Our Knowledge

In February 1984, under the auspices of IUPLR, thirty-five scholars met at Stanford University to assess the state of knowledge about the Latino population of the United States. They found very few comparative studies among Latino groups or between Latinos and other groups of Americans, and a minimal understanding of Latinos within the public policy arena. While some national Latino organizations were engaged in effective policy analysis and advocacy, they often lacked sound research on which to base their advocacy activities.

IUPLR immediately began to increase and strengthen that knowledge base by serving as the catalyst in the establishment of innovative "working groups" of senior researchers, young scholars, and graduate students. For the first time experienced professors and young researchers from member centers and other institutions nationwide came together specifically to identify major gaps in Latino-focused research and to plan systematic, collaborative research to fill these gaps. The groups organized themselves around specific policy-relevant topic areas and began developing research agendas, raising funds, and collaboratively investigating these topics at the regional, national, and international levels. In most cases one of the member centers served as the lead site.

Creating Latin@ Scholars

The "working groups" that formed dedicated themselves to creating opportunities for Latino scholars to develop and implement collaborative research projects and take advantage of the unique expertise and perspectives of the different centers. Through a Ford Foundation grant, IUPLR provided seed funding for the working groups and served as a catalyst for other research through a competitive grants program for public policy research and contemporary Hispanic issues. The first three working groups addressed the following topics: Latinos in a Changing US Economy, Latino Life Chances, and Latino Political Attitudes and Behaviors.

While pursuing its research agenda, IUPLR also helped Latinos move through the higher education pipeline from the undergraduate to the postdoctoral level. The consortium developed seminars on qualitative and quantitative methods, research grants, and postdoctoral fellowships. It designed a leadership program targeting undergraduates that encouraged university retention and community activism.

Together these efforts also served to increase the credibility and capacity of university-based Latino centers as training grounds for Latino researchers and as serious and respected research institutions. IUPLR began to provide competitive grants to research centers—members and non-members—for developing capacity in new areas.

Sustainable Latin@ Research Partnerships

In 1988 IUPLR directorship rotated from Stanford to Hunter College, the associate director position became full-time, and a full-time program assistant was added. In 1990 four new centers joined IUPLR:

  • Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University

  • Southwest Hispanic Research Institute at the University of New Mexico

  • Mexican American Studies & Research Center at the University of Arizona

  • Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University

In 1992 IUPLR initiated associate memberships for university-based research and teaching centers interested in Latino issues but not solely devoted to them, as well as affiliate memberships for Latino community-based and national policy, advocacy, or research organizations.

In 1994 the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development & Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston became the ninth Latino studies center to join IUPLR, followed the next year by the Chicano Studies Research Program at the University of Texas at El Paso and the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University. Other centers joined IUPLR over subsequent years, including:

  • Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies at Wayne State University

  • Latino/a Research & Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Denver

  • Dominican Studies Institute at the City University of New York

  • Chicana/o Studies Program at the University of California, Davis

  • National Latino Research Center at California State University San Marcos

  • Mexican American & U.S. Latino Research Center at Texas A&M

In 1998 the newly established Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives became an associate center of IUPLR. It provided an office for IUPLR in Washington, DC, and developed opportunities for Latino academics to research the archives and collections of the Smithsonian Institution.

Around this time, the Stanford Center for Chicano Research was folded into the newly established Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity.

In 1999 the move of IUPLR to the University of Notre Dame also established that university's Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) as a member of IUPLR. In November 2002 ILS established an office at the University of California Washington Center in Washington, DC, and the position of associate director of IUPLR, DC liaison.