Letter From the Chair

Submitted by Casey Colvin on

This has been an extraordinary year for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies.  We have welcomed three new colleagues and said goodbye to another after many decades of service to the department.  We have witnessed the re-start of our study abroad programming after a two-year Covid-related suspension.  We have celebrated as several members of our faculty have been recognized for their contributions in the areas of research, teaching, and service to the larger community.

I want to begin by congratulating Professor Sam Jaffee, recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award, the University’s highest honor for instruction.  It is truly gratifying to see his many years of dedication to the department’s educational mission recognized in this way.  Beyond his contributions in the classroom, I would also like to personally thank Professor Jaffee for his leadership in overseeing our efforts this year to redesign important elements of our major course of study.

In keeping with the traditions of the University of Washington as one of our nation’s great research universities, our department has distinguished itself in recent years through the scholarly contributions of its faculty in a wide range of disciplines ranging from applied linguistics to cultural and literary studies as they relate to the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world.  While it would be impossible to provide a full accounting of all our faculty’s scholarly accomplishments over the past year, I would like to offer special recognition to Professor Francisco Robles whose first book, Polemics, Literature, and Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century Mexico: A New World for the Republic of Letters (Liverpool UP, 2021), was recently awarded the prestigious Louis A. Gottschalk Prize by the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS).  This award speaks not only to the brilliance of Professor Robles’s contributions in the field of Latin American colonial studies, it marks an important milestone in our shared efforts to raise the department’s intellectual and scholarly profile. 

To round out what has been an exceptional year in faculty accomplishments, I would also like to take this opportunity to cite the important work of Professor María Gillman, the founder of the department’s Spanish Heritage Language program, who retired in March after several decades of service to the department.  As a fitting coda to an illustrious career, the Washington Association for Language Teaching has recently announced that Professor Gillman is the winner of this year’s Continued Distinguished Service Award.  With her deep and abiding commitment to supporting her students as they strive to achieve their full potential, she will be missed by all of us that have been fortunate enough to work closely with her over these many years.

In last year’s letter, I had the distinct honor of announcing the imminent arrival to the department of three new assistant professors.  I am pleased to report this year that all three have now joined our faculty and would like to renew my welcome to this extraordinary group of scholars and teachers:  Angélica Amezcua, who has taken over the formidable job of directing our Spanish language program for heritage speakers; Liz Hochberg, whose expertise in contemporary Latin American literature and culture has allowed us to expand our course offerings in an area of great student interest; and Juan Pablo Rodríguez Argente, a scholar of medieval and Renaissance Spain whose work complements that of several of our faculty with the promise of further enhancing the department’s reputation in both of these fields.  The addition of these new colleagues heralds a bright future for the department!

There is other good news as well:  At the end of March, we witnessed our first group of students set off for a quarter of living and studying in Spain at the UW León Center, marking the return of study abroad to the department for the first time in over two years.  Led by Professors Tony Geist and Sabrina Spannagel Bradley, the Spring León program will be followed by two additional programs in the summer and fall in Cádiz, Spain to be directed by Professor Jorge González Casanova and Professor Antonio Rueda, respectively.  Enrollments have been strong in all of our programs and we anticipate running study abroad programs throughout the year in the future.

As we look toward the end of the year, I would like to conclude by offering a few words of congratulation to the graduating class of 2022.  The global pandemic of the last two years has created disruptions to your education that are without precedent in living memory.  To succeed in such an environment takes extraordinary dedication, commitment, and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances, all of which you have demonstrated through your graduation this year.  Whatever path you choose in life, it is my sincere belief that those same qualities will serve you well as you embark upon the challenges of what comes next.  To all of our graduates, I wish you the best of luck and bright future!