Message from the Chair
In spite of the challenges brought to all of us by COVID-19, Modern Languages and
Culture’s faculty and students had a very productive year. Our students and faculty
presented their research at local and national conferences and we welcomed guests
who shared their personal journey as engaged members of a global community. During
Hispanic Heritage Month we received the visit of 14-year old Mayan American Aida Shea
Peréz, daughter of Brockport alumni and French major Randall Shea, (’84). In March,
right before the college went fully online for the rest of the semester, Mexican activist
Librada Paz joined us in celebration of International Women’s Day. Students in Gender
in Latin America did Bilingual poster presentations on the contributions of Latina
women to the arts, sciences, politics, and sports in the Liberal Arts Building. Another
highlight of the year was MLC’s involvement in the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Leadership
Institute (PR/HYLI). This innovative program that creates opportunities for Latino/Hispanic
students to interact with positive role models, such as Puerto Rican/Latino elected
officials and educators; seeks to develop leadership skills in Latino/Hispanic Youth;
and facilitates the development of in-depth knowledge of the state legislative process.
We hosted the Monroe delegation at our Brockport downtown campus and during the winter
months, a group of Latinx high school students met to prepare state bills that they
defended in the culminating general assembly that took place in Albany in March. Five
of our students were inducted into Phi Sigma Iota, MLC’s Honor Society and six students
graduated with degrees in French/Spanish. As some members of our community transition
to graduate school or professional employment, and others look forward to next year’s
academic, research and internship opportunities, we all remain members of the Brockport
MLC community. We encourage you to keep in touch with our MLC community via Twitter,
Facebook, or Instagram!
— Dr. Andrea Parada
Faculty Spotlight — Dr. Ewelina Barski
Dr. Ewelina Barski was promoted to Associate professor. She teaches courses in Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition, Spanish Heritage Language Learners, Multiculturalism in the US, and all levels of the Spanish language. She was lead organizer of MLC’s first experiential learning trip to Boston and also the faculty mentor of a group of our students who attended the NYS Association of Foreign Language Teachers Conference hosted by Nazareth College. Dr. Barski received a Scholarly Incentive Award to conduct a pilot study on the acquisition of object pronouns in Spanish at the beginner and intermediate levels and a Summer Undergraduate Research Grant to work with her student Aracely Hernandez on the acquisition of the subjunctive at the intermediate level. Unfortunately, this project had to be postponed due to health concerns related to COVID-19.
Where is the class of 2019 now?
Natalie Rodríguez received a great job offer as a High School Spanish Teacher at a Bilingual Charter School in Rochester, NY. She tells us “I was super excited because this is the student population, I prepared myself to work with: Hispanic heritage learners and native speakers.” After graduating in May 2019, she spent the summer with her family and friends in Puerto Rico, before returning back home to get prepared for the 2019-2020 school year. Natalie says “It has been an amazing first year! Most of my students come from families that speak Spanish (heritage speakers) or come from a Spanish speaking country (native speakers), like me! I have made such a great connection with the students and their families, and that’s the most rewarding part of my career. I am extremely thankful to the Modern Languages and Cultures Department faculty and the Education Department professors for supporting me and helping me find my fullest potential. During these challenging times of social distancing, my teaching methods have changed to meet the needs of all my students and their families, but my desire to teach about my language and culture is still intact. I hope all of you find what motivates you to continue being successful, despite all the challenges life throws us on our path. Always remember, stay true to yourself no matter the circumstances, it will always get better!”
Phoebe Defino is currently employed as a Kindergarten teacher at PS 249: The Caton School in Brooklyn, NY, serving a multilingual community of students and families. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, she had to teach remotely, offering video lessons in Spanish and English for her students. She is grateful to her professors and colleagues at the College, who set the foundation for her ability to teach and problem-solve in a multicultural, multilingual society.
Jeana Clocksin was part of the Brockport class of 2019 and feels “privileged to complete my studies in the Department of Modern Languages & Cultures! I can say with full conviction that the education and experiences I received during my time studying languages and cultures at Brockport have enabled me to thrive post-graduation. Shortly after graduation, I received a part-time job offer from the Office of Adult and Career Educational Services (OACES), the adult education branch of the Rochester City School District, to be an adult ESL teacher. A few months into my work I was promoted to a full-time position! It is particularly inspiring to me to help adults who many may view as “past the point” of education achieve their goals for a better life. I have also long desired to work for the Rochester City School District in some capacity, as I attended an RCSD school for several years growing up and know the difficulties faced by families and students in the district. On a daily basis, I get to interact with students from diverse cultures and walks of life. Some of the immigrant populations most represented in my classroom include Afghani refugees and Ukrainians. I also have students from Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, and Russia…among others! Suffice it to say that every day is a learning experience for me – and an opportunity to expand my worldview! I have also had the exciting opportunity to participate in professional development and paid work travel, such as attending the National Center for Families Learning Conference hosted in Louisville, Kentucky this past November. I had always hoped to one day have a job that would permit me to use creativity and foreign languages… and this job has certainly allowed me to do so! I would encourage current language students by assuring them that language and culture studies truly open the door to understanding and forging bonds with individuals from backgrounds very different from our own. How much more beautiful the world becomes when we begin to see it – hear it – speak it – in new ways! I am interested in pursuing graduate studies in the future; however, I am not yet entirely sure in which direction I should orient myself, be it further foreign language study, linguistics or education. For now, I am taking the time to learn from my job, spend more time on art and music projects, get involved with the worship ministry at my church, and enjoy family time! I’d like to give a big “thank you” to all the wonderful professors in the Department of Modern Languages & Cultures for the expertise and encouragement they tirelessly offer students!”
The department was well represented at the 52nd Annual North East Modern Language Association Convention in Boston. Dr. Skye Paine presented "The Revolutionary Samples of IAM's L'Ecole du Micro d'Argent” and Dr. Andrea Parada discussed "Trauma, género y memoria en 'Nostalgia de la luz' de Patricio Guzmán" in the roundtable Gender, Memory, and Post-dictatorship in Latin American and Spanish Cinema, chaired by Dr. Ismael Souto Rumbo and Dr. Elizabeth Osborne from Worcester State University. Emily DeVito, PhD candidate and Spanish instructor, presented "Lascasian Legacies in Bolaño's 2666" and "Pointed Risks in ‘The Answer’ by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz". Dr. Rachel Linville was invited to present “From Max Aub to El Mazuco: The Spanish Exile and Its Legacy” at the conference Keeping Spain's Exile in the Americas and Maryland: Alive in our Hearts (1939-1989-2019) hosted by the University of Maryland at College Park, the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the Instituto de Cultura Mexicana. Dr. Ewelina Barski presented on Spanish variations and Latinx identity to the PR/HLYI participants and Dr. Parada presented on Chilean culture to Ms. Mérida’s Spanish students at the Brockport High School. Dr. Donna Wilkerson was actively involved in various committees at the College-level. This year she worked with the Department of Education and Human Development to submit a CAEP accreditation report for the French and Spanish programs; she was co-chair of the General Education Assessment Committee and the Institutional Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee; and chair of the Standard V Working Group for Educational Effectiveness for the upcoming Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation review. Dr. Ismael Souto also presented with Dr. Orr and Dr. LeSavoy from the Department of Woman and Gender Studies a panel entitled, "Doing the *: Performing the Radical in Antiracist Antisexist Work,” at the 2019 National Women’s Studies Association’s Annual Conference, November 14 – 17 2019 in San Francisco.
Faculty-Led Trip to Boston, MA
During fall’s mid-semester break, Dr. Barski, Dr. Souto Rumbo, and Dr. Paine took a small group of students to Boston, MA. With partial funding from the School of the Arts and Sciences and the Promoting Excellence in Diversity Grant, our students had a chance to appreciate the work of impressive Hispanic artists–such as Picasso, Murillo, de Silva y Velázquez and De Zurbarán–on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum students learned about the museum’s famous Spanish Cloister and were able to see the monumental El Jaleo (Andalusian dance), painted by John Singer Sargent in 1882. Students also took a walking tour of the colorful sculptures by contemporary Spanish artist Okuda that lined Seaport Boulevard and enjoyed a variety of Hispanic foods at local restaurants. The culminating event of the trip was meeting the organizers of Boston’s Sociedad Latina, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower Latino youth. The members of the Sociedad Latina shared with the students the history behind their organization, their mission and goals, and how they have positively impacted Latino youth and their families through their programs.
Aida Shea Pérez and her father Randall Shea (‘84 ) visited MLC during Hispanic Heritage Month. Aida attended Spanish and Women and Gender Studies classes and performed a monologue featuring real stories of Indigenous women in Guatemala, giving voice to women who have suffered greatly and others who have accomplished great things in their lives.
As a long-held tradition, the Foreign Languages Club commemorated the Mexican tradition Día de los Muertos with the display of a beautiful altar in the Liberal Arts Building. Students also made “calacas” and “calaveras” (skeletons and skulls) which appear everywhere in the country during this national holiday in remembrance of those who have died.
MLC students were actively engaged in honoring the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 21, a date selected to honor the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s ruler, Rafael Trujillo (1930-1961). Students displayed posters and message cards that underscored the contributions of the Mirabal sisters and also the multiple ways in which violence against women manifests in our society.
On October 10, in collaboration with Women and Gender Studies, the School of Arts & Sciences, Drake Memorial Library, and Residential Life/Learning Communities, MLC commemorated National Coming Out Day, with a screening of the film “Booksmart” (Wilde 2019). Faculty and students participated in a panel discussion after the screening.
In celebration of International Women’s Day Librada Paz, Mexican born migrant worker, RIT graduate, and tireless advocate for the passage of New York State’s Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, visited MLC on March 11. Ms. Paz shared her own challenging experience as a migrant worker in a male dominated field of agricultural work with Spanish students.
Megan Wright received the 2020 Departmental Scholar Award. Megan’s accomplishments outside of the classroom would be extraordinary for any student, but they are even more impressive for a student who pursued 3 different majors (Spanish, Women and Gender Studies, and Sociology) and a minor in Art. She presented her outstanding scholarly work at Scholar’s Day during the four years she spent with us and at the SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference held at Monroe Community College in the Spring of 2018. Megan also shared her research on Hector Silva’s, a Latino queer artist, representations of masculinity and identity at the Seneca Falls Dialogues in 2018 and at the National Women’s Studies Association in San Francisco, in November of 2019. She served as president of the Foreign Language Club and Vice President for the Brockport’s chapter of Phi Sigma Iota.
The Jorge Martí Award was presented to Emily Herman in recognition of her academic excellence and willingness to explore Spanish-speaking cultures beyond the classroom. This award was established in memory of Professor Jorge L. Martí, who taught in the department from 1964 to 1982.
Stephanie Wehrlin received the Jenna Borek Award in recognition of her academic excellence and enthusiasm for the Spanish Language and Culture. This award was established in 2015 in memory of Jenna Borek '2013 (1993-2015), a dual major in English and Spanish, to honor her academic excellence, adventurous spirit, and dedication to community service.