Letter from the Chair - Fall 2012

Anthony Geist
Anthony L. Geist

2012 has been a big year for Spanish and Portuguese Studies.  It began on January 5 with the official approval of our new PhD program.  As I write these lines we are recruiting our first class of doctoral students.  It was our intention from the outset to create a PhD for the 21st century, a degree that responds to the profound changes that the profession and higher education in general have experienced in the last several decades.  As such, our students will receive rigorous training in the traditional disciplines of Spanish and Latin American literary and cultural studies.  Additionally, they will enroll in the Graduate Certificate in Public Scholarship, an interdisciplinary program run through the Simpson Center for the Humanities.  We understand it as our responsibility to prepare our students to take their place on the faculty of equivalent Research-1 universities, while at the same time recognizing that many of them will opt to work in cultural organizations, non-profits, museums, or other educational institutions.

We await the incoming doctoral class in the fall of 2013 with the highest expectations.

It is with the greatest pleasure and pride that we welcome two new colleagues to the tenure-track in Spanish and Portuguese studies.  Raquel Albarrán, a native of Puerto Rico, comes to us as an Acting Associate Professor from the University of Pennsylvania where she is finishing her dissertation on Latin American Colonial literature and material culture.  In addition to her cutting-edge scholarship, Raquel is an accomplished poet and performance artist.  As such she will make a valuable contribution to the public humanities dimension of our new doctoral program.

Associate Professor Ana Gómez-Bravo, featured in the “Faculty Spotlight” in this issue, comes to us from Purdue University and strengthens our offerings in Medieval literature with her specialization in food and culture.  Her expertise in the history of Jews in Spain will contribute to our outreach to the Seattle Sephardic community, the second largest in the nation, and will further our initiative to establish a Sephardic Studies track in association with the León Center (see below).

We have just received authorization to open a national search for a lecturer specialized in Spanish linguistics and second language acquisition to strengthen our offerings in these high demand classes.  We will be interviewing candidates at the convention of the Modern Language Association to be held in Boston in January.

Our undergraduate programs continue to be strong and vibrant.  After experiencing a drop several years ago, enrollments have now stabilized as we graduate over 100 Spanish majors each year.  As teaching associate in Portuguese Christina Zubelli has moved to a full-time position in the department we have been able to offer more Portuguese classes each year, with the goal of building up through the 300-level.

Study abroad remains one of the strongest features of our department.  A classic Junior Year Abroad program, the NW Cádiz Program attracts between 80 and 100 students per year at the 300- and 400-level, while the Quito (Ecuador) program takes students at the second and third year each winter quarter.

Palacio Conde Luna
Palacio Conde Luna, home of the UW Study Center in León, Spain

In May 2010 King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía of Spain officially opened the Palacio Conde Luna, site of UW’s second campus in Europe, located in León, in
central northwest Spain.  The 16th century Renaissance tower, built for Hernán Cortés’ daughter, houses the UW León Center.  In 2011-12 alone over 100 UW students from six different departments –including Spanish and Portuguese, the School of Art, the School of Law, the English Department and the MATESOL (Master of Arts for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program—studied in this magnificent setting.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Luis Fernando Esteban, the Honorary Consul of Spain in Seattle for making this possible.  Fernando, with his boundless energy, inexhaustible good will, and unequalled contacts in the world of business, government and the arts both in Spain and the US, opened the door for us in León. 

As I write this from the Peruvian Amazon, I would like to thank Associate Professor Suzy Petersen for taking over as acting chair this fall while I am directing our newest study abroad program in Cusco, Peru (see article below).

I would like to offer special thanks to Irene Hopkins.  An accomplished writer, Irene has undertaken the task of reviving the department newsletter for the first time in several years.  I know you will look forward to receiving it quarterly as much as I do to keep up with our students, faculty and staff.  ¡Gracias, Irene!

Finally, it is with great sorrow that we say farewell to our friend and colleague of many years, León Bensadón.  His passing on Sunday, November 4 leaves us bereft.  We are honored to dedicate this newsletter to his memory.

Anthony L. Geist

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