Welcome to the first edition of our departmental newsletter! We take this opportunity to let you know about some exciting developments in the Department of Hispanic Studies. Enrollments are at capacity in lower division, which is undergoing a deep transformation based on the latest research-based pedagogy. In addition, we continue to have strong enrollments in upper division and our graduate students continue to distinguish themselves on several fronts.
Our lower division program has implemented a program based on Integrated Performance Assessment, Learning By Design, and the ACTFL World-Readiness Standards for Language Learning. These changes have led to an even more effective task-based pedagogy that emphasizes communication over form, achieves better results in interpersonal communication skills, and gives students opportunities to develop ‘multiliteracies’, that is, the ability to communicate across different platforms, including digital media. In upper division, we have recently added courses in topics as diverse as Spanish for the Health Sciences and Translation, with great success.
This past year, we offered two study abroad programs, an intermediate level program in Toledo, and an advanced culture and literature program in Santiago de Chile. They were so successful that we are repeating them this coming summer, with even more students registered. The department has also developed several new high impact initiatives, including an Undergraduate Research Fellowship that allows advanced majors to collaborate with a faculty member in original research while receiving a stipend. Interest in this pilot initiative has exceeded our expectations: by the end of the academic year, a total of seven majors will have worked with five different faculty. Another initiative that we are piloting for the first time is Proyecto Enseña, a multipronged effort to increase the quality of our undergraduates’ classroom experience. Teams of faculty and graduate students will develop exciting new classroom activities. For example, students in a class on Hispanic art will learn about modern Cuban art, visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for a related exhibit, and finally, write Wikipedia entries on selected painters to share their new knowledge with the global community.
The department has been busy renewing its course offerings for the benefit of our increasingly diverse undergraduate students. In the past couple of years we have added no less than eight different courses, most targeting students who are double majors or minors and anticipate needing Spanish in their professions. Thus, for example, we now offer a sequence of three courses of Spanish for health care professionals, two at the intermediate level (SPAN 208 and 218), and a third one at the advanced level (SPAN 318). These courses have been a great hit with those intending to apply for medical or nursing school, public health, and related professions. In addition, we now offer a two-course translation sequence (SPAN 407 and 417), which allows students to hone their skills in a variety of individual and collective projects.
We continue to offer a variety of exciting courses in literature and culture, on topics such as advanced creative writing skills (SPAN 403), photographic visual arts in the Hispanic world (SPAN 407), and Hispanic religions (HISP 471). Our faculty are continuously renewing the content of existing courses as well. For example, this year alone we have offered courses on revolutionary women in Hispanic film, music, and literature, on the cinema of Chilean director Raúl Ruiz, on the role of soccer in the history, literature, and popular culture of Latin America, and on bilingualism in the Spanish-speaking world.
In brief, our undergraduate course offerings are continually expanding and transforming to adapt to the needs and interests of a growing population of intellectually curious Aggies. Visit our webpage often to see what we are up to!
This newsletter is also a good time to welcome new colleagues who have joined us this year and to wish them every success. In particular, we wish to welcome Dr. Gabriela Zapata, Associate Professor and Director of the Lower Division Language Program, who is responsible for the innovations in lower division, and who is featured in an interview in this newsletter. Last year we also hired Dr. Patricia Granja-Falconi as a Lecturer to help us teach in the lower division program. Finally, we welcomed to College Station a cohort of new graduate students (Zaida Aguilar, Leanee Díaz Sardiñas, Alessandra Ribota, Damián Robles García, and David Yagüe González).
As Aggies become increasingly more diverse and aware of the importance of Spanish for our state of Texas, the future of our department is full of exciting possibilities. If you would like to add your voice to coming editions of this newsletter, please contact us to share your story!