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Letter From the Chair

Submitted by Casey Colvin on May 18, 2021 - 1:35pm

With the end of the Spring quarter, we mark an entire year of online instruction and learning, a difficult period to be sure, but also one in which we have learned new ways of communicating with our students and our community.  I first want to thank all of my colleagues—faculty and staff—whose unwavering dedication to our shared educational mission has been critical to the success of our programs in the face of major challenges, both personal and professional. Like many of you, I look forward to a return to in-person instruction, to a renewal of the that direct exchange of ideas with peers and students that is essential to the humanistic enterprise.

To the graduating seniors and the MA and PhD students who will be completing their degrees this year, I want to extend my congratulations and appreciation for your essential role in the life of the department during this difficult period.  As I was reminded once again this year, nowhere do I learn more than in the classroom—even the virtual classroom—where new ideas constantly come into being, are challenged, and reconfigured in ways that I could never even imagine were it not for the thoughtful contributions of my students.  It is that passion for exploring ideas, both new and old, that inspires me and gives me great hope for the future of our discipline.

With the creation of three new Teaching Professor titles, this has been an especially important year for our instructional faculty who will now enjoy recognition that is more fully representative of their central role in fulfilling the department’s educational mission.  This important change in titles also coincides with the promotion this year of two of our colleagues to the rank of Associate Teaching Professor:  Eduardo Viana da Silva and Samuel Jaffee. Having revived our languishing Portuguese Program, Professor Viana da Silva led the initiative to create a new minor in Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Studies and has been instrumental in expanding our vision of the field to include the Portuguese-speaking regions of Africa.  A dedicated advocate for innovative teaching, Professor Jaffee has worked tirelessly on a wide range of projects related to pedagogy, his expertise serving as an invaluable resources to colleagues both inside the department and beyond.   To both Professors Jaffee and Viana da Silva, I offer my warmest congratulations.

In a further sign of both renewal and growth, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies is also pleased to announce that three new Assistant Professors will be joining us next year.  Starting this Fall, a leading expert in language pedagogy for heritage speakers, Professor Angélica Amezcua (PhD, Arizona State), will be taking over the directorship of the department’s Spanish Heritage Language program from the program’s founder, Professor María Gillman.  Professor Elizabeth Hochberg (PhD, Princeton), formerly a lecturer in the department, will continue as a valued member of the faculty in her new position as Assistant Professor.  With her specialization in contemporary Chile and Mexico, Professor Hochberg will play an important role in the department’s ongoing efforts to meet the growing demand for classes focused on Latin America.  Rounding out our impressive group of new hires is Professor Juan Pablo Rodríguez Argente del Castillo (PhD, Yale).  An expert in medieval and Renaissance Spanish literature, Professor Rodríguez Argente del Castillo will help to cement the department’s growing reputation as a center of excellence in pre-19th-century Spanish and Colonial Latin American literary and cultural studies.

The positive developments of the last few months leave me especially optimistic for the coming year when there is great hope that we will finally return, as we have long desired, to those communal spaces that are so fundamental to our work as scholars, teachers, and students.

Donald Gilbert-Santamaría
Associate Professor and Chair

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