Letter from the Chair | Spring 2014

Submitted by Holly J Winters on

I write these lines on board a narrow gauge train lumbering from Bilbao to León, following the route across the north coast of Spain that brought coal from the mines in León to the steel foundries of Bilbao during the industrial boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It’s like a trip through the past, as we rumble down deep valleys flanked on both sides by rugged mountains. Dappled light filters through spring foliage. Cattle, sheep and horses graze in meadows next to tiny Romanesque churches hewn out of the local granite.  I have yet to see a car on the occasional two-lane road that sweeps into view as we pass through the ancient villages.

Yet we’re also traveling to the future. As the school year draws to a close we will say farewell to 59 graduating Spanish majors and an even larger number of minors, as well as six students who have completed all the requirements for the MA in Hispanic Studies. We wish them the best as they make their way out into the wider world beyond the UW, knowing that they have not only learned Spanish but have honed critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to work collaboratively and to give and receive constructive criticism.

In the fall we welcomed the first cohort of our new PhD program.  As those students finish up their first year they look forward to participating in the Graduate Certificate in Public Scholarship, housed in the Simpson Center for the Humanities, beginning in September.  At the same time we will welcome in the second class of PhD students.

Faculty members in Spanish and Portuguese have a dual mission.  Teaching is our vocation, and in that sense, the measure of our success is the success of our students.  One such story is that of Joy Maa, featured in this newsletter, Dean’s Medalist for the Humanities this year. Another is Brent Carbajal’s journey from our PhD program to the position of Provost at Western Washington University.  His story is also told here.  We consider the many routes to graduation, represented by all our students, part of our narrative as well. 

Research and publication is a fundamental part of the tenure-track faculty’s commitment and passion, as we contribute to the body of knowledge in our fields, be that literature, cultural studies, linguistics or cinema studies.  Many of our lecturers and teaching associates are also writers, artists, musicians and performers.  All this feeds back into the classroom, enriching our students’ experiences.

We bid farewell to Eva González Abad, who has been at the helm of the Center for Spanish Studies for the last five years.  The CSS is a joint initiative of the Spanish Ministry of Education, the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the UW.  Eva has been the driving force behind an average of ten workshops for secondary school teachers per year.  She returns to a teaching position in Madrid, and we will miss her greatly.

David Sánchez Jiménez, a lecturer provided by the Spanish government, finishes his third year with us and will also be moving on.  Students will miss his knowledge and insight into the Spanish language and linguistics.  We wish them both the best of luck in their future endeavors.

Wishing you all a restful and productive summer.


Anthony L. Geist
Professor of Spanish and Department Chair
Spanish & Portuguese Studies