The purpose of the Institute, as articulated in El Plan de Santa Bárbara, is to undertake, promote and disseminate research regarding the Chicano/Latino experience in California and the United States.  The Institute ’s research activities serve the intellectual interests of Chicana/o Studies students, researchers and faculty from all departments and units on the UCSB campus. Together with the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department, the Institute supports research that promotes the growing national and international stature of the field and assists in the recruitment and retention of Chicano/Latino faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates at UC Santa Barbara.

The Institute houses a publishing unit.  In this vein, the Institute produces Ventana Abierta, an internationally renowned Spanish-language journal devoted to literature written in the United States.

Along with the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, the Institute hosts the Luis Leal Endowed Chair, currently held by Professor Aida Hurtado.

The Institute also promotes cultural education for the campus and community by sponsoring events and programs that draw from Chicana/o, Mexican and Latin American music, dance, theater, film and art traditions.