News: Hispanic Studies

Conversation with Alicia Díaz & Patricia Herrera on Embodied Decolonial Creation

Read Dr. Carlos Rivera Santana’s interview with Alicia Díaz and Patricia Herrera, artists and activists and organizers of the performance/dance film “Entre Puerto Rico y Richmond”, which was presented at the College of William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum in November 2021. The article is co-authored by Dr. Rivera Santana, Whitney Ledesma and Malvika Shrimali (of Hispanic Studies). It is published in Intervenxions, an online publication of The Latinx Project (


Meet Sowmya Ramanathan, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies

Global Voices recently caught up with Dr. Sowmya Ramanathan after her first full semester of teaching at William & Mary. Dr. Ramanathan is and Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies.

How have your first few weeks been at William & Mary?

Wonderful! William & Mary has such a gorgeous campus that I spent most of my first days taking in the beauty of its red-brick buildings, gigantic trees, and all the greenery. Beyond that, I received such a warm welcome from all my colleagues at the Modern Languages and Literatures Department and once classes started, immediately began the process of teaching-learning with some truly brilliant students. All of that made arriving at this new institution both a bit intimidating and also really exciting! 

What are you teaching this year?

During the Fall and Spring of this year, I am teaching HISP103, which is an accelerated course that covers the beginning two semesters of Spanish in one semester. I also taught MLL’s HISP207 during the Fall of 2020, which is a course that studies marginality, the politics of inclusion and exclusion, and cultural production from Latin America and Spain. 

What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?

I am interested in gender politics and cultural production in the Global South. More specifically, my work looks at the cultural and aesthetic production of womxn in Latin America, and I am particularly interested in how feminine and feminized others theorize and practice creativity, agency, and resistance within the difficult and often impossible conditions imposed by colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. I am currently working on the manuscript for my book on the fascinating work of Chilean writer, Diamela Eltit, and am conducting research for another project on the politics and poetics of care—as a form of labor and resistance typically performed by feminine subjects—in Latin America. 

What will you be teaching next semester?

I am so excited for Spring 2022 as I’ll be teaching two courses on topics that are near and dear to my heart. First, HISP250 will focus on literary and cultural artefacts of Latin American womxn, studying gender theory to explore and interrogate canonical (colonial and patriarchal) depictions of the cultural sphere in Latin America. I’ll also be teaching a COLL150 course that takes on a more sociological perspective and reviews different strains and manifestations of feminism from the United States to Latin America. 

What would be your dream class to teach and why?

I’m so lucky to be teaching two classes during the Spring 2022 semester that truly are my dream classes, but for fun and with the adequate time for research and preparation, I would love to teach a class on reggaeton and popular movements in Latin America. While the genre has often been considered sexist and materialistic, I find it fascinating that reggaeton has played such a seminal role in recent social movements like the protests in Puerto Rico demanding that ex-governor Ricardo Roselló resign or the feminist mobilizations across Latin America with slogans such as “sin perreo no hay revolución”. Teaching a class on the genre, with ample tools for understanding both its musical and social complexities, could permit illuminating discussions on how certain musical cultures have travelled from the Caribbean to the rest of the world, on the power of the body in public protest, and on the contradictions and complexities embedded within movements for sociopolitical change. 

News News: Hispanic Studies

Interview with Rebeca Pineda Burgos, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies

Dr. Rebeca Pineda Burgos was hired as an Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies in the Fall of 2021. We recently had some time to catch up with Dr. Pineda Burgos to find out about her work and her experiences in Williamsburg.

What are you teaching this year?

In the fall, I taught Combined Beginning Spanish and Topics in Advanced Spanish Composition and Grammar. In the Spring, I’ll be teaching Advanced Spanish Composition and Grammar y Culturas de in(ex)clusión en el mundo hispánico.

Tell us more about your research and what are you working on right now.

My research focuses on how contemporary cultural objects such as novels, film and visual art can be used to understand sociopolitical reality. My dissertation focused on how these objects reflected, interpreted and contested chavismo and Venezuelan sociopolitics. One of the most interesting things about this work is how cultural productions can not only reflect or contest realities, but produce new narratives and ways of being that are not pushed as part of dominant politico-ideological discourses in a place.

Right now I’m preparing conference presentations and proposals. As I move forward in my work, I find myself drawn to contemporary philosophy and ethics, and how phenomenological experience creates contested readings of ideologized traditions of believing and knowing.

What would be your dream class to teach and why?

A dream course would be one based on my research where I can develop an exploration of philosophical narratives through contemporary cultural artefacts. The class would be a practice and exploration of how to use cultural productions to “read” these narratives through the artefacts, including film and plastic arts.

Finally: How have your first few months at William & Mary been?

Great! It’s a big change from New York City, and especially New York under COVID. What stood out first was the community of colleagues in the Hispanic Studies Program and in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department. They have been so welcoming and “warm” is the word that comes most to mind. Also the students. They are super engaged, intelligent and interested. For many of my students this semester, this was their first experience taking a face to face university class (due to COVID), and they were nervous. In some ways, we were in a similar situation, since I was new at W&M this semester too. (these were my first classes at W&M too). There were other new colleagues in the program with me this semester, and having other colleagues who are new here too has helped us to become fast friends.

Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies News: Hispanic Studies spring2021more Uncategorized

Hispanic Studies Students Continue Work with International Universities and Co-publish their Work

Research team members Elena Calderone, Haley Conde and Isabel Delaney conducted professional interviews with stakeholders linked to Latin American art and the University. This is part of an ongoing project to transform the walls of campuses nationwide. In March 2021 Haley Conde and Regina Root co-presented preliminary findings to the Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies at a conference on “Life, Struggle and Expression in Uncertain Times” at the College of New Jersey. They have also co-authored an article titled “Roser Bru, Human Rights and the University”. Other students have engaged other facets of this initiative over time so stay tuned!

Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies Graduates 2020-2021 News: Hispanic Studies spring2021more

MLL Outstanding Achievement Award in Hispanic Studies awarded to Beau Nardo and Max Minogue

This year’s MLL Outstanding Achievement Award in Hispanic Studies is awarded to Max Minogue and Beau Nardo. This award acknowledges an outstanding graduating Hispanic Studies major with a strong record of achievements in the program.

Max has been a Teaching Assistant in the Hispanic Studies program and also studies Portuguese and Italian. After completing our Human Rights-oriented study abroad program in La Plata Argentina, Max has been recruited over several semesters to work with Profs. Tandeciarz and Konefal in the most selective and coveted W&M internship with the National Security Archive, during which time Max helped analyze declassified material related precisely to the military dictatorships in Argentina.

Max MinogueMax says, “I’m so grateful to receive this award after having already gotten so much from Modern Languages and specifically the Hispanic Studies department. No tengo palabras ni en inglés ni en español para expresar mi gratitud.” Max plans to teach English abroad for several years after graduating.

Beau NardoAfter graduating, Beau begins a graduate program in the fall at La Universidad Carlos III de Madrid working towards a Máster en Geopolítica y Estudios Estratégicos (Master in Geopolitics and Strategic Studies). There, he hopes to find employment in the field of diplomacy and international relations.

Beau has commented, “I am truly humbled that such an esteemed group of professors would choose me for this honor… I am still trying to find the words that will express my full gratitude to the HISP Department.

Hispanic Studies is grateful for the contributions of students like Max and Beau. We thank you for everything you have put into your studies and our program!

Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies Graduates 2020-2021 News: Hispanic Studies spring2021more

Caroline Brown and Cristina Sherer receive the Howard M. Fraser Award for Research contributions

The Howard M. Fraser Award has been awarded to Caroline Brown and Cristina Sherer. The award is in memory of Prof. Howard Fraser, a distinguished specialist in Latin American Literature and culture and is given to a graduating Hispanic Studies major who has made significant achievements in research and service.

Caroline BrownCaroline says, “I was truly honored to be selected for this award and I’m very grateful for it.” The photo of Caroline is from her semester abroad in La Plata. It was taken on a weekend hiking trip to El Calafate, to which she traveled with her dear friend and fellow Hispanic Studies major Hailey Ramsey (Class of 2019).  Caroline plans on getting her master’s in ESL at UVA. After certified to teach K-6 general education K-12 ESL, she will pursue opportunities teaching in elementary school in either a general education or ESL.


Cristina Sherer

A diligent and passionate student, Cristina completed an Honors Thesis that examined the recognition and use of inclusive language among Spanish speakers. Her research culminated in recommendations about implementing inclusive language for our own Hispanic Studies program. Cristina will begin a graduate program in ESL & Bilingual Education at the W&M School of Education in June. She would like to be certified both ESL and Spanish at stay in the Virginia area to teach after her one-year program of study. Cristina gives her “profuse thanks to the department for [her] many opportunities to do the work.”

Hispanic Studies is so proud of Cristina and Caroline’s work. Congratulations!

Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies Graduates 2020-2021 News: Hispanic Studies spring2021more

MacKenzie Krol and Julia Tripodi are awarded Merritt-Cox Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Studies

The Merritt Cox Award has been awarded to Julia Tripodi and Mackenzie Krol.

This award commemorates Prof. Merritt Cox, a distinguished specialist in 18th century Spain. It is awarded to a graduating Hispanic Studies major who has achieved an outstanding level of academic excellence in Hispanic Studies, and will pursue a graduate degree in the field. Julia is interested in teaching ESL and Spanish in the future.

GV - 2021 Spring - Tripodi_JuliaProfessor Cate-Aries recounts, “I remember with pride Julia’s field research project conducted while studying with our summer program in Cádiz, Spain. Because of her interest in educational issues related to equity for all students, teachers’ rights, and social activism, she chose to research current street protests in Spain related to citizens’ response to unpopular government measures to eliminate teaching positions in public education, increase work hours and the student-teacher ratio. She chose as her case study the group Marea Verde (The Green Tide), a nation-wide coalition comprised by educators, parents, and community members who champion quality public education against increasing cuts that compromise local and regional educational objectives. She not only was able to observe a massive demonstration in Cádiz in May 2019. She was able to ground her study of teachers’ complaints and activism within a larger context of the robust social movements more broadly in 21stcentury Spain. Her own future as a classroom teacher, after pursuing a Master’s degree at UVA in the fall, is incredibly promising.”

Mackenzie Krol

Mackenzie will be attending Wake Forest University in the fall for an MA. She says, “I feel extremely honored to receive this award. I am excited to pursue my masters in Translation and Interpreting Studies, and am grateful to have support from the WM Hispanic Studies Department!

Prof. Cate-Aries recalls, “I remember her final class project with particular admiration. She had access to a rare mimeographed archival document entitled “Cursillo de Capacitación Social”, a November 1966 training and educational manual for indigenous activists in the rural, indigenous community of Malacatancito, Guatemala. Mackenzie thoroughly researched the place of these widespread “cursillos/mini-courses” in the origins of the Latin American liberation theology movement, citing the 1966 document’s genesis in the climate of Vatican II (1962-1965) and the ongoing Latin American Catholic Church debates that spawned the Latin American Episcopal Council’s (CELAM) manifestos. Mackenzie’s translation provides historians and cultural studies practitioners a valuable primary text that succinctly overviews the most pressing socio-economic concerns—like homelessness, lack of health care, illiteracy rates, the necessity for more equitable agrarian land reform—that face marginalized communities and the faith groups who are committed to serving them. It was a top-notch piece of translation research.”

Congratulations, Mackenzie and Julia, for all your hard work!

News News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2021

Sharon Philpott receives the W&M Alumni Medallion

Sharon Philpott, class of 1985 and Accounting major, receives the 2021 W&M Alumni Medallion.

GV - Spring 2021 - 2018 HISP 150 Freshman Seminar - in fron tof Puerta de AlcalaIn 2010, Sharon generously helped establish the Philpott-Perez Faculty-Student Research Endowment, which has since that time permitted the undertaking of several initiatives by Hispanic Studies faculty in support of undergraduate research. With her support, students have been able to tra2018 HISP 150 Freshman Seminar - 12 of 14 studentsvel abroad and conduct research abroad in Guatemala (with Prof. Tandeciarz), to the Basque country (with Prof. Buck) and to Madrid, Spain as part of a freshman seminar during Spring 2018 (with Prof. Cate-Aries), among other places.


Mary Trotto, one of the graduating students who travelled during spring 2018 offered some reflections on the experiences that the Philpott-Perez Endowment helped make a reality:

GV - 2021 Spring - Philpott article
Mary Trotto – 2018 Freshman Seminar trip to Spain

“I still think of the Imagina Madrid seminar’s trip to Spain as the greatest opportunity I had at William and Mary! This trip was the first opportunity I ever had to leave the U.S., and its accessibility in helping students to experience a trip to another country was a formative part of my becoming a Hispanic Studies major and pursuing a research project on Francoism in Cádiz the following summer. This trip was truly remarkable in how it let us students experience firsthand what we had been reading about all semester, and it really opened my eyes to the benefits of international experiences and studying another country’s history and culture.”

The class’s story map of the trip is located here.

Additional ways that Sharon’s contribution has supported student research and international experiences can be found here:

The full story of Sharon Philpott’s award reception is here:

More about Sharon can be viewed here:

Alumni Updates Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies News News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2021

W&M Students continue work on declassification of U.S. and Argentinian government documents; New publication by U.S. government

GV - 2021 Spring - NSA article - newspaper
The largest government-to-government declassification project in US history began under U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2016 and was continued by President Donald J. Trump. But W&M students and faculty had been engaged in related archival work on campus, in Washington, D.C., and in Argentina for over a decade under Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Latin American Studies Silvia Tandeciarz, Associate Professor of History and Latin American Studies Betsy Konefal, and National Security Archive analyst Carlos Osorio.

GV - 2021 Spring - NSA article - ArgentinaProtests
Throughout that time, students interning with the National Security Archive in D.C. or participating in W&M’s La Plata study-abroad program have sifted through both U.S. and Argentinian documents to learn more about what happened in Argentina during the dictatorship and what role the U.S. may have played. The Argentinian government has already used some of that work in its prosecution of accused perpetrators of human rights abuses.  This latest publication offers insight into what the US government knew about the coming coup–the story of a coup foretold.  The publication was covered in all the main news outlets in Argentina and was paired with a Briefing Book published on the NSArchive website the day prior to the 45th anniversary of the coup.

JGV - 2021 Spring - NSA article - orge_Rafael_Videla_Oath
GV - 2021 Spring - NSA articleYou can find more information on our Study Abroad program in La Plata here, and a heartfelt testimony from a participating student here.

Other stories about the W&M internship with the National Security Archive can be found here.

News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2021 Uncategorized

Mackenzie Krol (’21) Publishes on her Experience with W&M Study Away with Professors Konefal and Tandeciarz

In the Spring/Summer 2021 Issue of the Newsletter of the Muscarelle Museum of Art, Mackenzie Krol (’21) reflects on her experiences on a William & Mary Study Away to Guatemala during the fall 2018 semester, and her exposure to Daniel Hernández- Salazar’s moving art and how it all came together during the class “Beyond Recollection” taught by Betsy Konefal (History) and Silvia Tandeciarz (Hispanic Studies). Read the full Newsletter here.

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News News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2021

Professor Root & student mount installations at Muscarelle

Screen Shot 2021-02-19 at 1.49.05 PM  Professor of Hispanic Studies Regina Root, her students, and Director of Collections & Exhibitions Melissa Parris mounted three separate installations of paintings at the Muscarelle Museum of Art between 2017 and 2018. The first was an unofficial installation in the Herman Graphic Art Room at the Muscarelle, which allowed Root’s students to study them. After a semester of study, the paintings were installed in the Sadler center and then moved to the second floor of the Earl Gregg Swem Library where they are currently on view.  Read more about it at

Faculty Profiles Fall 2020 News: Hispanic Studies sidebar

Meet new professor of Hispanic Studies: Dr. Carlos Rivera Santana

Prof. Carlos Rivera Santana - Fall 2020This fall, we had the chance to catch up with a new professor in the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures: Dr. Carlos Santana Rivera. Dr. Rivera is a U.S.-Puerto Rico native who has been
working for the last several years at the prestigious Center for Puerto Rican Studies in New York. We asked him about his first semester here at William & Mary, his research, his classes and his hopes for future work on campus and in his field.


How has it been for you W&M this semester? 

I have been really happy to be at W&M because W&M and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures values innovative ideas in teaching and research. For instance, last semester I was teaching two courses on Indigenous worldview perspectives, with a focus on Indigenous philosophy and culture. And the fact that this course even exists and receives institutional support is wonderful because, to start with, it is not common for such a course to be taught outside of Anthropology. Second, because in some circles it is a radical idea that there exists such a thing as ‘indigenous philosophy’. But to put backing behind exposing these ideas to students in the classroom, and of course in my research, is amazing.


What were the courses you were you teaching last semester?

I was teaching two versions of the same topic. The first was a COLL 150, “Indigenous World Cultures”. That version of the class was writing-heavy. It was an examination of international indigenous worldview perspectives focusing on Latin America and the Caribbean. Well, to be fair, it’s an approach to indigenous perspectives, because what those perspectives and philosophies are, cannot be taught per se, if anything passed on. The other class I taught was HISP 390, “Global Indigenous Cultures”. It was focused on Indigenous philosophy (heavier in content) and its expressions in cultural production. We looked at how indigeneity has been represented in LA and Caribbean cultural production for hundreds of years through the examination of art, a novel, oral history, essays, music and so on.


What were some stand-out moments of your classes?

One positive thing about teaching the classes was that, in teaching a portion of the course online this semester (mix modality), I was able to invite three guest speakers (and this fulfilled those 5 extra hours we had to add to our syllabi. Two were from the Caribbean (from Puerto Rico) and one from Australia. The first person was a prominent writer (Eduardo Lalo, and the novel students had to read was Historia Yuké). The novel was about the significance of El Yunque Rainforest to Indigenous people in Puerto Rico (Borikén) throughout history. So, the students read Lalo’s book and then had a conversation with him. It was like a book club that led to meeting the author. And it was a great event because it started not with Eduardo Lalo speaking, but with students asking questions(you can see a video of this “Conversatorio with Eduardo Lalo”). The second speaker was the Indigenous activist Pluma Bárbara. This was also a great experience and students were really grateful for the grassroot political work that she does and both of our guest were really impressed with our Hispanic studies students and how engaged in the work our students were. These conversations were in Spanish. The third speaker was an Indigenous Australian author and he spoke about cultural appropriation and the craft of writing. After that third one, students had to produce something creative (poetry, an op-ed, or a narrative story) so they could have concrete questions about writing and navigating cultural appropriation. I have ideas about how to adjust aspects of the course in the future, but overall, I’d say students appreciated it especially the diverse array of guest speakers. In the future, I’ve considered having a poetry slam be the culmination of such a course, something I’ve done in the past and it works beautifully as a celebratory ending to the semester.


What is the focus of your research?

The area I work in is called Decolonial Aesthetics (DA) and Indigenous studies. DA isn’t a new thing. The phrase was coined some time ago by LA theorists. I’m building on their framework by analyzing works and speaking to the artists that I think are doing the work to recast indigeneity and blackness and the varying complexities of identity, history, nationalism, race and racism today, but beginning from the emotions provoked in by aesthetics.

In my PhD thesis and more extensively on my book Archaology of Colonisation: From Aesthetics to Biopolitics, I looked at the way that colonization, and its main tools (the discourses of race and racism), took root in the Caribbean and then in Latin America. I begin with the premise that racism and concepts of race are initially created not through written discourse or history, but through aesthetics, i.e. imagery including art. From a simple perspective, 80 or 90 percent of Europe during the time of colonization could not read. But you have to be able to conceptualize someone before you can justify or rationalize behaviors toward them. So, imagery had a principal role in doing this and in disseminating, perceptions, affectations, knowledge, and discourses at large about people. So, yes, I looked at the way that colonization utilized imagery in the first 100 years (1492-1599) to depict Indigenous and Black peoples.

I focus on aesthetics because we have done good work in cultural studies so far in examining the construction of race and in challenging colonial narratives in history, anthropology and so on. We have not done enough work on this using visual imagery. In other words, we conceptualize racism very rationally, but I think the heart of this work on (de)colonization is affective, and that the affective is efficiently generated aesthetically, through imagery. In other words, I think that concepts of race began in the way that Black and Indigenous peoples have been depicted visually and affectively: not in terms of beauty, but in terms of ugliness and monstrosity. In order to justify the atrocities of colonization, they had to be founded on a dehumanization of its victims, casting the ‘other’ from a frame of “the monstrous” and speak to the viewer’s emotions.

My current work also focuses on the aesthetic. But instead of using it to understand how race and racism were constructed, I am examining how the aesthetic is used to contest race and racism and how it is used to construct counternarratives to the ongoing problem of colonization. I think there is more work to be done in the realm of the affective in order to counteract that aspect of race and racism, that part that has to do with the mobilization of emotions, about conceptualizations of beauty and ugliness, and art has a lot to say about that.


What classes will you teach next semester?

I am teaching Introduction to Hispanic Studies (HISP 240) with Professor Terukina. I’m also teaching Arte y Descolonización en Latino America (HISP 250) which looks at the way that art in all of its manifestations (performance art, muralism, street art, contemporary art) has had a role in expressing anti-colonial messages. In the class, we aren’t romanticizing the art. We are also looking at it critically too to see how art produced during colonial times depicted Indigenous peoples and peoples of color at large, and to see how imagery contributed to crafting and constructing racism and the concept of race. I’m really excited about the fact that we are having at least one invited speaker. She is an artist and an expert in mural and street art in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.


What would be a dream course you would like to teach?

I would do a course that has a study-abroad component that looked at formations of identity, race and colonization in art in Latin America and the Caribbean, focused in Puerto Rico. We would go to Puerto Rico and visit museums, artist workshops, galleries, festivals and other off-the-beaten track places (I know the island really well). It would be like a literal and figurative road trip, living an experience of history and culture through the art. We would be traveling around the island, but also the artists would take us through the conceptual trajectory of their individual pieces and their collective productions as well.

fall2020 News: Hispanic Studies

Conversatorio with Eduardo Lalo and students of Indigenous Cultures

This fall, Hispanic Studies’ newest faculty member, Dr. Carlos Rivera, Conversatorio with Lalo - Rivera class - Fall 2020organized a conversation with the author and indigenist activist Eduardo Lalo for his students of HISP390. Students first read his novel Historia de Yuke (El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico) and then had the opportunity to ask the author about his book. A video of the conversation can be viewed here: 

fall2020 News: Hispanic Studies

Zombies, Ghosts and Videos

Zombies y Fantasmas - Gaytan Cuesta - Fall 2020 In Dr. Gaytan Cuesta’s Fall 2020 class “Zombies, Ghosts and the End of the World in Latin American Film and New Audiovisual Media” students created video-essays. These are stored at the Media Center and can also be seen on the YouTube channel “Butaca Abierta” at:

fall2020 News: Hispanic Studies

Students Tell Ghost Stories in Spanish

Imágenes de la actividad de cuentos de fantasma - Fall 2020 - aIn the class of Elementary Spanish (HISP 103), Doctora Gaytán Cuesta organized a Gost Tour in Spanish with her students! The students had costumes and gave a complete tour of Colonial Williasburg’s most haunted places, including the Wren Building, Tucker, the Sunken Gardens, Kimbal Theater, The WytheHouse, the Public Gaol and the Market House. They learned about the legends of Lucinda, the pirate Blackbeard and t
he ghosts of Bruton Parish.
Following socio-distancing measures, those who couldn’t attend in person did a Flipgrid assignment. See the videos here:


Alumni Updates Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies Graduates 2017-2018

Alex Wingate (W&M ’18) wins the Royal Historical Society’s Rees Davies Prize

Alex WingateAlexandra Wingate (Class of 2018), Hispanic Studies and Linguistics double major, is beginning her second semester of an MLS degree at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) and recently finish an MA at the Institute of English Studies, University of London. Alex is considering continuing her education with a PhD in Information Science.

In December, Alex’s MA thesis, entitled“Prosigue la librería”: Understanding late seventeenth-century Navarrese Book Culture through Lorenzo Coroneu’s Bookstore’, won the Royal Historical Society’s Rees Davies Prize, a high honor and award for the best Master’s dissertation in a UK university. (She has a website for the data for this thesis: Further, she will have the opportunity to publish in the Royal Historical Society’s journal based on her dissertation research. In Alex’s words: “The experience of writing a senior honors thesis under the supervision of Prof. Jorge Terukina on private libraries in early modern Navarre was the perfect preparation for my Master’s dissertation both in terms of writing and research. I learned from my mistakes and my successes, and I even incorporated data and conclusions from my honors thesis to support my conclusions about Lorenzo Coroneu’s clientele and business practices.” The judges comments on her award-winning work can be found at: . And the awards ceremony can be viewed here (Alex appears at about 7:45):

Alex is now thinking about two additional research projects that she would like to publish on. The first is analyzes the decoration of the British Library Manuscript Add. MS 20787, the earliest surviving manuscript of Alfonso X’s Primera Partida of the Siete Partidas. The second is compares the 1575 and 1594 Spanish editions of Juan Huarte de San Juan’s Examen de Ingenios to the two sets of English translations printed in the 16th and 17th centuries and how those two translations use different textual and bibliographic strategies to translate Huarte’s text for an English audience. The idea for this second project came out of three courses offered in the Hispanic Studies Program: Nature & Empire with Prof. Terukina in which students read the Examen de Ingenios (Nature & Empire), another with Prof. Terukina in which students compared different editions and translations of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas’ Brevísima Relación de la Destrucción de las Indias (1552), and a translation course with Prof. Jonathan Arries.

In addition to these achievements since graduation, Alex has started a new student group at IU called Society for Rare Books & Manuscripts at Indiana University (SRBM@IU) with some of the other student librarians. She said, “We felt that there was a gap in the current student librarian groups and so wanted to found a group dedicated to rare books and manuscripts librarianship and book history. Because of the ongoing pandemic, we are going to be organizing virtual events like a book history reading group and presentations by members and outside speakers.” (Follow these events here:

Finally, Alex is working as a Research Assistant and Text Encoding Analyst for the Chymistry of Isaac Newton Project at IU. “As part of this project, I look for Newton’s citations to outside sources in his alchemical manuscripts. My job is to track these citations to the exact edition Newton was using and then encode this information in our TEI XML transcriptions of Newton’s alchemical manuscripts. But this isn’t always easy since Newton’s citations don’t always have page numbers, and sometimes two editions have the exact same material on the same pages making it impossible to narrow it down to one edition!” Her favorite contribution to the project so far has been re-writing the team’s encoding guidelines for Newton’s citations to deal with the ambiguity present in many of his citations. She says, “It was a question of striking a balance between how certain we can be about the source of a given citation and also providing readers with as much information about Newton’s sources as possible.” (Here’s a link to that project:

Alumni Updates Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies Graduates 2014-2015 Graduates 2016-2017 Graduates 2019-2020 News: Alumni News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020

Spotlight on W&M Alumni Careers and the Hispanic Studies Major: MEDICINE

In this inaugural piece in our new Hispanic Studies series for Global Voices—“Spotlight on Alumni Careers and the Hispanic Studies Major”, we profile five of our alumni from graduating classes spanning an almost two decade period. All alumni are either practicing medical doctors, medical school students, or W&M graduates accepted into med school. All share reflections about the relevance and significance of their education and training as Hispanic Studies major, in terms of preparation for medical school and the practice of medicine more generally.


Philip Grotz
William & Mary Class of 2020
UVA School of Medicine Class of 2024

Philip Grotz, class of 2020Being a pre-med, I was often asked why I was so masochistic to take up a major in Hispanic Studies on top of my primary major in Neuroscience. In truth, my time in Hispanic Studies was anything but painful. Rather, I feel like all of my best college experiences came as a result of my involvement in the Hispanic Studies program, from studying jazz-flamenco music while abroad in Cádiz, Spain, to working as a medical interpreter on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. To me, pursuing this degree was never a distraction from my pre-med studies, but rather a unique way to pursue my interests that I believe made me a much stronger medical school applicant than I would have been otherwise. The type of student that med schools look for is exactly what my Hispanic Studies education helped me to become: a student who is unique and will contribute to community diversity, who understands the issues impacting inequality of care, and who has compassion for all people. When I worked as a Spanish-speaking medical interpreter, it was important to understand the systemic problems preventing non-English speakers from receiving healthcare in order to be an advocate for those patients when the system treats them unfairly.

In general, I feel like I gained a significant amount of confidence as this course of study made me come to terms with new situations. These include taking solo trips to jazz performances while studying abroad, thinking on my feet to communicate with individuals who spoke unfamiliar dialects while I was interpreting, and most recently, travelling to Cuba just out of my own personal interest. I cannot imagine what my education would have been like without this degree. Everything I learned from my Neuroscience major I will eventually be taught again, but the way that Hispanic Studies has introduced me to other perspectives, improved my interpersonal skills, and strengthened my moral convictions will never be replaced. Granted, my double-major might have made me a little busier than I would have been otherwise, but I’m sure it only served to better prepare me for the *actually* busy times, which are yet to come.


Maren Leibowitz, MD
William &Mary Class of 2015
University of Virginia School of Medicine Class of 2019
Emergency Medicine Resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, IL

Maren Leibowicz, Class of 2015It has never been more apparent how crucial my major in Hispanic Studies has been to my development as a doctor than during the 2020 COVID-9 pandemic. As an emergency medicine resident physician training in downtown Chicago, I interact with Spanish-speaking patients and their families every day. In non-pandemic times, navigating fears and complex medical situations in English is hard; navigating those same thoughts and feelings in Spanish is even harder. Add in the uncertainty of a pandemic when family members are not allowed to accompany their loved ones into the hospital, the task seems almost impossible. My Hispanic Studies classes and experiences at William & Mary gave me the confidence to speak Spanish knowing that I am understood by my patients and equipped me with the knowledge and tools to practice culturally humble and sensitive medicine. I am also a firm believer that having a broad set of interests leads to a more balanced physician. With my Hispanic Studies background, I sought out opportunities in medical school to get involved with my local Latino community and currently am working on building culturally relevant education platforms for training physicians. Who I am becoming as a doctor is in large part due to my choice to pursue a Hispanic Studies major at W&M. It has provided me much needed skills and perspectives that I am thankful to have every day I step into the hospital.


Ethan Pearlstein, MD
William and Mary Class of 2015
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Rutgers University, Class of 2019, with Distinction in Global Health
Resident Physician, Internal Medicine, Brown University in Providence, RI

Ethan Pearlstein, MD, class of 2015Often, college students interested in pursuing a career in medicine are advised and feel compelled to pursue an academic major in the sciences in preparation for medical school. While completion of all necessary pre-medical requirements is essential, in our increasingly diverse society, a Hispanic Studies degree educates students in cultural competencies and Spanish fluency. Such training prepares extremely strong medical school applicants. In a sea of applications from chemistry and biology majors, I feel that my Hispanic Studies background and senior honors thesis on the political abuse of psychiatry in Spain set me apart. On medical school and residency interviews, my Hispanic Studies research and fluency in Spanish were the focus of conversation. The fact that I did not major in the sciences was never even discussed. The pre-medical requirements at William and Mary provided me with a strong foundation to succeed in medical school without the need for a science major.

On the hospital floors in medical school and residency, I was actively sought out by my supervising physicians to interpret for Spanish speaking patients, or to help them better understand the cultural practices of our diverse patient population. While in medical school, I was able to take part in a local free clinic for the underserved and volunteered as both a Spanish interpreter and student doctor for our patients. Often, medical students and fellow residents express to me their regret that they did not seriously consider a major in foreign language. Simply put, my decision to pursue a major in Hispanic Studies is among my best career decisions to date. It certainly gave me an edge when applying for medical school and residency, offering a skillset to these programs that many other students and residents do not have. It allows me to communicate on a daily basis with an entire patient population in their native tongue, helping to alleviate their concerns related to language barriers and picking up cues that are often lost in translation. I am indebted to the Hispanic Studies program at William and Mary, and urge all pre-medical students to strongly consider a major in Hispanic Studies, if interested.


Jennifer Primegga, MD
William &Mary Class of 2002
Eastern Virginia Medical School Class of 2006
Infectious Disease Physician, Virginia Hospital Center

Jennifer Primegga, MD, class of 2002As an infectious disease physician at a suburban hospital near Washington DC, I apply the skills I learned from my Hispanic Studies degree on a daily basis. I recently met a 58-year-old Spanish speaking male named MGL. He presented with months of progressive back pain. He was scared and his daughters were worried. He did not like to see doctors and had received no formal medical care in years. MRI of the lumbar spine revealed osteomyelitis, discitis and an epidural abscess. An echocardiogram of the heart showed endocarditis and a brain MRI showed multiple brain abscess. Usually with such severe infection, patients present with fevers, yet he did not. I was able to speak with him directly in Spanish (rather than through an interpreter phone) and gain his trust. He revealed that he had self-medicated with various antibiotics purchased without a prescription at a local “Tienda Latina.” His antibiotic use masked a classic presentation of his symptoms, which led to a delay in diagnosis. After multiple surgeries and weeks of antibiotics, he improved. I have continued to care for him over the last few months and have workeded with his daughters to coordinate all aspects of his care, from intravenous antibiotics, to follow-up imaging, to compliance with medical therapy. Direct communication and “cultural competency” were important in caring for this patient.

Today, I diagnose and manage many infectious diseases commonly encountered in the Latino communities in the United States. Understanding cultural practices is key to understanding risk factors for disease. Latin America has high rates of tuberculosis. Consumption of food contaminated with pork tape worm leads to neurocysticercosis, the most common cause of seizures in Latino immigrants. Many Latinos are accustomed to self-treating because most pharmaceuticals are available without a prescription in their home countries. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to exceedingly high rates of multidrug resistant bacterial infection in this population. Most recently though, the majority of the patients I see have novel coronavirus, which has disproportionally affected the Hispanic population. My hospital typically sees a population that is 20% Hispanic, but now 60% of our patients are Hispanic. Though we have telephone translation services, it is difficult for patients to hear translators over the loud sounds of oxygen needed to keep them alive. I am able to speak with these patients in person, manage their disease and assuage their concerns. I am grateful for my training, which has prepared me for this pandemic.

I knew from an early age that I wanted to become a doctor. To devote my life to the practice of medicine was to devote myself to a career of public service. Projections of the population I would encounter reflected a changing demographic. By 2050, 30% of the United States population is predicted to be Hispanic. To best serve the public, I needed to arm myself with the best tools; therefore, I chose to double major in Biology and Hispanic Studies. This decision has prepared me well for the medicine that I practice today.

Morgan Sehdev
William & Mary Class of 2017
Harvard Medical School Class of 2021
MD Candidate

Morgan Sehdev , class of 2017In early 2000 the medical school accreditation board of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) introduced two new standards for teaching cultural competency in medical education–the first time this requirement had entered the realm of medical teaching. In 2015, the AAMC modified the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to include questions on sociology and psychology in addition to the standard biology, chemistry and physics. Undergraduate pre-med requirements were also changed to reflect this new portion of the MCAT. While medical education has only recognized the need to include the social sciences and humanities over the past twenty years, medicine, since its inception, has and always will be a unique blend of the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Over the past three years at medical school, I have been extremely grateful for the education I received as a Hispanic Studies major. In medicine, I found that knowing the science and the physiology is only half of the task we are asked to do. The other half includes communicating with patients, perceiving the way in which the patient’s social situation or place within society may be impacting their diagnosis, and recognizing cultural and structural factors that may be at play during any interaction. As a Hispanic Studies major proficiency within the social sciences and humanities was expected at the time of graduation, as there existed endless opportunities to hone verbal and written communication skills, critical thinking strategies, theory driven cultural or social analyses, and language acquisition abilities. Before you question this last one’s importance, think about “medicalese”, a whole new language that each medical student must learn upon entering the field! Medicine is both a science and an art. During the fast-paced nature of medical training, there’s very little time to appreciate that art if you haven’t already developed the skills to do so. The skills to appreciate the art of medicine can certainly be acquired through a cultural studies major prior to medical school.

To close, I’d love to point out an experience I would have never had without pursuing the Hispanic Studies major. I had the opportunity to learn about medical interpretation and later use it on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as an interpreter and outreach worker for migrant farmworkers. First, working as a part of the medical team was more valuable than any physician “shadowing” experience prior to medical school. Nightly visits to the camps gave me a more nuanced appreciation for the diagnoses I would later see in the clinic, both then and now, as I still think back to that experience. The farmworkers, through an ancillary project I was conducting, also taught me that, in their opinion, what makes us human is our ability to respect others as human beings. Knowing that I myself may have answered with a colder, potentially more scientific response that perhaps focused on cognition, I was struck by the simplicity and eloquence of the farmworkers’ answers. In medicine, there will always be times that lack clarity; in such moments I have thought back to those responses I heard. Reminding myself that respecting others is what makes us human helps me find my own clarity in such circumstances. Many other majors cannot provide students with a lens to view their future medical practice in quite the same way that Hispanic Studies does. Mcquillan with Sehdev at her Whitecoat CeremonyThat lens is why I am always confident that I made the best possible decision for a major during my undergraduate studies. My Hispanic Studies major also gave me some of my best friends, the kind who drive all the way up to Boston to celebrate your White Coat Ceremony!


News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 Summer 2020

Summer ’20 Monroe Scholarship – Language learning through Bilingual Narratives

Irene Williams, a Monroe scholar, will complete her research on Spanish-language learning through carefully cultivated dual Spanish-English stories, like Alice in Wonderland. She is working with Dr. Rachel Varra (Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures and Linguistics Program).

Irene Williams
Irene Williams

News News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 Summer 2020

Summer ’20 Student research – Ixil speakers

Sydney Hamrick will conduct research this summer on an indigenous language of Guatamala: Ixil (pronounced: “ee-sheel”). She is working with Dr. Rachel Varra (Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures and Linguistics Program).

Sydney Hamrick
Sydney Hamrick

News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020

Student research – Inclusive language at W&M and in the community

Cristina Sherer will conduct research this summer on the use of inclusive language in the W&M community and among Spanish-speakers in Virginia. She is working with Dr. Rachel Varra (HISP and Linguistics) and Dr. Victoria Castillo (GSWS).

Alumni Updates Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies News: Alumni News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 Uncategorized

Alum Adventures – Peter Jones (class of 2019)

Peter Jones ('19)
Peter Jones (’19)
Peter Jones (William & Mary ’19, B.A. Sociology, Hispanic Studies) began a teacher training program with Urban Teachers in Washington D.C. this year. He writes, “Right now I’m working with a residency teacher-training program called Urban Teachers (UT) in Washington D.C. The goal of UT is to train highly effective and culturally competent teachers in hopes of empowering at-risk students and closing racial gaps in access to high-quality education. I currently work with kindergarten at H.D. Cooke Elementary, where students and their families grow up in a culturally diverse setting with people coming in from all around the world- some students’ families have spent most of their lives growing up in DC, while others are coming from around the world, from Ethiopia to Central America. This presents a unique opportunity to find ways in which to bring students together and challenge the way in which they thing about the world around them. One of my favorite examples of this through is our School Enrichment Model (SEM)- students are placed into small clusters based on shared interests, and they work together to explore these interests. In the fall of 2019, for example, I oversaw a SEM cluster of students grades K-2 who focused on recycling and seeing the different ways in which people in DC and around the world reuse and recycle materials. Next year, I will be moving into a English Language Learner teaching position at Cooke, and I am looking forward to continuing my journey from here!”

Spring 2020

Student Research – Max Minogue

Max Minogue ('21)
Max Minogue (’21)

Max Minogue (Class of 2021) returned from his semester study abroad program in La Plata, Argentina in late March due to COVID-19. Fortunately he has been able to continue with his coursework there remotely and is now beginning his summer Monroe research project related to the last Argentine dictatorship. He will spend the summer working with the Director of the Southern Cone project at the National Security Archive reviewing declassified documents released in April 2019. Hailed as a success in “declassification diplomacy,” the release of 47,000 pages of intelligence records from the dictatorship period constitued, in the words of President Macri, the “largest amount of information that the United States has ever transferred to another country.” Max hopes his research will contribute to ongoing human rights trials and the eventual publication of one or more briefing books.

Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020

Hispanic Studies Alum Ola Pozor

Ola Pozor ('19) in Spain
Ola Pozor (’19) in Spain

After graduating from W&M, Ola Pozor (Hispanic Studies & Government double major, Class of 2019) has taken residence in “maravillosa (lluviosa) Galicia”, where she works as an Auxiliar de Conversación (Conversational Partner) for children in grades 2 to 6. She helps in their English, art and physical education classes, where she shares American culture with the children, teaches English class and assists with their project work. She’s also picking up a smidge of Gallego from working and living with trilingual people (Gallego, Spanish, English). Ola reflects on her time at W&M and misses the people. She also has shared that her studies at W&M have helped her understand her world and the people in it from many different perspectives… as well as facilitate navigation in her new home easily (e.g. paying her bills, going to a café with students, reading the local paper, helping out Spanish-speaking tourists and discussing politics with her neighbors)! She said: “apart from taking Spain-specific classes in the Hispanic Studies department, W&M’s study abroad program in Cádiz and my residence in the Hispanic House were particularly enriching foundations for my full immersion into Spanish culture. I thank all my professors for their support and guidance into my successful transition into post-graduate life!”

Graduates 2019-2020 News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 More Uncategorized

Graduating Senior Awards – Outstanding Achievement Award in Hispanic Studies

This year’s MLL Outstanding Achievement Award in Hispanic Studies is awarded to Rebecca Paulisch and Johanna Weech. This award acknowledges an outstanding graduating Hispanic Studies major with a strong record of achievements in the program.

Rebecca served as a mentored undergraduate research assistant to HISP faculty, and managed to combine her literary and cultural interests in two languages, double-majoring in English and Hispanic Studies.

Johanna researched the work of human rights groups in Guatemala, interned at the National Security Archive researching the ‘disappeared’ in Argentina, and presented her work at the  conference of the New England Council of Latin American Studies (2019). Given her interest in human rights and legal advocacy, she plans to work as a legal assistant in Washington D.C.

Graduates 2019-2020 News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 More Uncategorized

Graduating Senior Awards – Howard M Fraser Award

Philip Grotz
Philip Grotz

The Howard M. Fraser Award has been awarded to Philip Grotz. The award is in memory of Prof. Howard Fraser, a distinguished specialist in Latin American Literature and culture and is given to a graduating Hispanic Studies major who has made significant achievements in research and service. While studying abroad in Cádiz, Spain, Philip researched the influence of American Jazz upon the musical tradition of flamenco-jazz. A civically-minded student who will pursue an MD at UVA, Philip combined his expertise in Spanish and his passion for medicine and public health serving as an interpreter at Old Towne Medical Clinic in Williamsburg, and in clinics working with migrant workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

Graduates 2019-2020 News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 More Uncategorized

Graduating Senior Awards – Merritt Cox

Sabina Valery ('20)
Sabina Valery (’20)
The Merritt Cox Award has been awarded to Sabina Valery and Caitlyn Whitesell.

This award commemorates Prof. Merritt Cox, a distinguished specialist in 18th century Spain. It is awarded to a graduating Hispanic Studies major who has achieved an outstanding level of academic excellence in Hispanic Studies, and will pursue a graduate degree in the field.

Sabina travelled to Madrid, Spain, as part of her freshman seminar in Hispanic Studies, and researched feminist movements fighting domestic violence against women in Madrid; she also served as an undergraduate Teaching Assistant in Hispanic Studies. Sabina will pursue an MA in Education, with a concentration in ESL and Bilingual Education, at W&M’s School of Education.

Caitlyn Whitesell ('20)
Caitlyn Whitesell (’20)
Caitlyn researched issues of bullying, diversity and inclusion while studying in Cádiz and Sevilla, Spain; she also interned at the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C., and served as an undergraduate Teaching Assistant in Hispanic Studies. Caitlyn will pursue a M.A.Ed. in ESL and Bilingual Education. Her honors thesis examined the relationship between language of narrative and a bilingual’s experience of emotion.

Graduates 2019-2020 News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020 Uncategorized

PBK initiates from Hispanic Studies

Abby Peterson ('20)
Abby Peterson (’20)
Joel Calfee, Abby Peterson and Caitlyn Whitesell were recently elected to become members of Phi Beta Kappa. The Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest honor society, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Joel is majoring in English and Hispanic Studies. Abby is in the 5-year BA/MA degree program in Education with a concentration in Mathematics. Caitlyn is doing the 5-year BA/MA degree program in Education with a concentration in English as a Second Language.

When asked about receiving this award, Abby said: “I am extremely honored to have been inducted into such an established and prestigious institution. I am grateful for both the faculty and my peers in the Hispanic Studies department for pushing me to think critically and consider diverse perspectives in all my academic pursuits. These are foundational skills that I will bring with me both as a member of PBK and in my future as an educator.”

Caitlyn Whitesell ('20)
Caitlyn Whitesell (’20)
Caitlyn said: I feel honored to join Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, and I plan to use my membership as an opportunity to continue asking difficult questions, something that PBK is famous for doing.  Not only do I ask myself if I am a good representative of the groups I join, but also if these groups adequately represent me.  My entrance into this new group undoubtedly reflects the level of privilege that I benefit from in the realm of academia as much as it reflects my hard work within this realm.  I hope to further reflect on the role of privilege in my acceptance to this honorable group, and question the equity involved in the processes that got me to this point, from my experiences in public school to the PBK nomination process itself.  Through my Hispanic Studies education at William & Mary, I have learned to think critically about society, and I will dedicate my career to creating greater equity in education through student-centered teaching and thoughtful reflection.  This dedication is thanks to all the professors that supported me and believed I was capable, thank you.

Joel Calfee ('20)
Joel Calfee (’20)
Including six initiates in the Fall, Hispanic Studies PBK initiates this year total nine!  We are so proud of our students!

News: Hispanic Studies Spring 2020

Cross-disciplinary Panel on the Novel “American Dirt”

'American Dirt' Panel, February 12, 2020On Wednesday, February 12, Prof. Mariana Melo-Vega and Prof. John Riofrío attended a cross-disciplinary panel about the controversy surrounding the recent novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

The panel was organized by Prof. Katherine Barko-Alva (School of Education); other participants included Prof. Erin Webster (English) and Prof. Jonathan Branfman (Film & Media Studies/Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies). American Dirt deals with the journey of a mother and her son to the U.S. border, while escaping the cartels in Mexico. The controversy triggered by the novel, and analyzed at the panel, revolves around the author’s unacknowledged background of privilege as a white American. Discussion was lively, with several panelists defending the novel and speaking of the value of artistic freedom. All agreed on the need to diversify the pool of published authors, as well as the need for empathy in artistic endeavors.

News: Hispanic Studies

“One Border, Two Walls”: Visiting Assistant Professor Cantarello on his experience at the U.S.-Mexico boarder

Dr. Matteo Cantarello
Dr. Matteo Cantarello

Dr. Matteo Cantarello, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Hispanic Studies program, recently published an account of his experiences on the US-Mexico border trip in August 2019.

For the last decade, several HISP professors have participated in this study away initiative that takes W&M students to the US-Mexico border to witness and analyze issues pertaining to global migration and human rights.  This year, Prof. Cantarello hosted a special group of guests hailing from the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria (Argentina), our partner institution for the W&M study abroad program in La Plata, Argentina.

Landscape of the US-Mexico border
Landscape of the US-Mexico border

Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies fall2019more Featured News News: Alumni News: Hispanic Studies

W&M Graduate and student of Spanish pays it forward


Lamar Shambley (class of 2010) and founder of Teens of Color Abroad
Lamar Shambley (class of 2010) and founder of Teens of Color Abroad

Lamar Shambley (’10) founded Teens of Color Abroad which helps students of color in high school study abroad. See the full story here.

Fall 2019 News News: Hispanic Studies

Meet Six Hispanic Studies Majors Initiated into Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

2019 PBK initiates

During the American Revolution, five students at the College of William & Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa.  They believed that a new nation required new institutions – cultural as well as political – and they were committed to intellectual fellowship shaped by the values of personal freedom, scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience, and creative endeavor. Their legacy, more than 240 years later, inspires today’s students to pursue these same values through a 21st century education in the liberal arts and sciences.

–The Phi Beta Kappa Society,
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest, largest, and most prestigious university academic honor society in the United States, with more than 290 chapters nationwide, and whose members include 17 U.S. Presidents, 41 Supreme Court Justices, and more than 140 Nobel Laureates. The main selection criteria for student members are exceptional academic achievement, curricular breadth, and scholarly initiative in the liberal arts at William & Mary and strong support from faculty members.  More specifically, ideal qualifications include intellectual honesty and curiosity, careful scholarship, creativity, good character, and a commitment to the life of the mind. The selected students comprise no more than seven percent of each year’s graduating class.

The Society’s historic origins are located in the heart of William & Mary. PBK’s very first meeting, comprised of five W&M students, took place on December 5, 1776 in the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia. Two hundred forty-three years later, on December 5, 2019, W&M’s Alpha Chapter of PBK initiated fifty-one outstanding undergraduates as new members; a second round of selection and initiation of new members will be held in the spring.

Six of the 51 initiates are Hispanic Studies majors who offer these reflections about the opportunities and transformative experiences they found in our academic and cultural offerings:


Nicole Fitzgerald (Dobbs Ferry, NJ; Hispanic Studies (HISP)/Finance, ‘20): “I came to William and Mary knowing I wanted to pursue a Hispanic Studies major, and I feel so lucky to have had the support of such amazing faculty.  I had the opportunity to study abroad twice in Cádiz, Spain and in Barcelona.  The combination of my liberal arts background that I gained from Hispanic Studies, in combination with my business major is sure to serve me well in the future. After graduation I will be working in New York at a knowledge search firm called AlphaSights.”

Philip Grotz (Culpepper, Virginia; HISP)/Neuroscience, ’20): “Through the Hispanic Studies Department, I was able to study abroad in Cádiz, Spain, where I performed independent research on the fusion of jazz and flamenco music styles. Following completion of a course in Medical Spanish Interpretation, I obtained a position working as a medical interpreter on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I was able to use the cultural background and ethical guidelines I learned in the class to directly facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers, gaining clinical experience that I expect to be valuable to the career that I plan to pursue as a medical physician.”

Megan Leu (Sudbury, Massachusetts; HISP/History ’20): “A degree in Hispanic Studies has provided me with incredible opportunities that I know will continue to shape my professional pursuits in years to come.  I studied abroad in Argentina, where I lived with a host family and worked as an intern for a human rights organization that did memory work relating to the military dictatorship. Upon my return, I began working with the National Security Archive analyzing declassified CIA, Department of State, and FBI records for evidence of human rights abuses in Latin America, and I also started an internship for the Department of State looking at Spanish-language news sources for information on Mexican cartels to write brief summaries for the U.S. Ambassador. After graduation, I hope to integrate my degrees in History and Hispanic Studies and continue to do meaningful work that reaches people in Latin America.”

Kiera McKay (Fair Haven, NJ; HISP/Physics ’20): “Bilingualism has long been one of my personal values and goals and going into college I knew that I would never stop taking Spanish classes and working towards fluency. The Hispanic Studies program has helped me improve my Spanish, but it has also given me so many wonderful opportunities to learn, grow, and expand my horizons. I lived in the Casa Hispánica for two years, which led me to meet so many wonderful friends while finding language immersion on campus. I studied abroad in Cádiz, Spain the summer after my sophomore year and the experience was wonderful, both for my language proficiency and my sense of belonging in the world.”

Carrington Metts (Wilson, NC; HISP/Physics ’20): “In my time in the Hispanic Studies program, I’ve had the opportunity to spend several weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain. I also spent a semester abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. While on campus, I’ve spent three semesters living in the Casa Hispánica and have taken a wide range of courses, with a particular emphasis on linguistics. I have applied for a job improving Spanish literacy in the Dominican Republic with the Peace Corps.”

Johanna Weech (Vienna, Va.; HISP/International Relations ’20): “I became involved in human rights, transitional justice, and memory studies research, after studying abroad for a semester through W&M’s La Plata, Argentina program. In November 2019, at the NECLAS conference (New England Council on Latin American Studies) in Mystic, Ct., I presented a research paper “Guatemala’s National Police Archive and the Politics of Documenting Terror” on a W&M faculty/student panel, along with Professors Betsy Konefal and Silvia Tandeciarz, about memory work in Argentina and Guatemala.”

fall2019more News News: Hispanic Studies

Welcome Dr. Julia de Leon Hernandez!

Dr. Julia de Leon Hernandez

Dr Julia de Leon Hernandez recently joined the faculty of Hispanic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. We are so pleased to have her!





How was your first semester at William & Mary?
Excellent. I have felt very welcomed and part of a community since day one. My colleagues are wonderful and. It has given me the feeling of having known each other for some time, rather than just a couple of weeks.


What are you teaching this year?
I mainly teach language and culture classes: HISP 103, HIS 203, HISP 305 and HISP 208.


What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?
My work is in the area of Gypsy Studies and at an intersection with Urban Studies and Racial Studies. I approach these principally through non-fiction and visual texts, as for example through documentary cinema and photography.

My current work focusses on the racialization of Spanish territory, since the beginnings of capitalism in Spain at the end of the 50’s and beginning of the 60’s, and as a consequence of the speculations about the value of national territory and as the outcome of discriminatory public housing policies.

My research focusses on journalism, photography, non-fiction short film from the period transition in Spain, at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s.

I’m currently working on publishing my doctoral work with a Spanish press.


What classes will you be teaching this Spring?
In the spring, I teach HISP 208 and HISP 208.


What would be your dream class to teach and why?
I am conceptualizing and excited to teach a class about the representation of the gypsy in Spanish literature and film from the end of the 15th century to today, but which focusses principally on their representation in films of the 20th and 21st century.


fall2019more News News: Hispanic Studies

Welcome to Dr. Andrea Gaytán Cuesta!

Dr. Andrea Gaytán Cuesta

Hispanic Studies welcomes Dr Andrea Gaytán Cuesta, who recently (re)joined the W&M community as a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. We interviewed Dr. Gaytán Cuesta about her first semester back with us!



What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?
In my research, I explore three versions of apocalyptic imaginaries (the end of the world) in Latin America: Eco-apocalypse, Socio-apocalypse and Techno-apocalypse. My research argues that representations of the end of the world in the Latin American city such as chronicle, short story, poetry, theatre, comics and film are not only unveiling and prophetic of a disastrous condition, but perform acts of resistance against neoliberal policies imposed from the 1980’s to the current days. Thus, an earthquake can unmask Mexican corruption, zombies can be depicted as heroes and warrior citizens (instead of monsters and invaders), and the destruction or glitch in a movie can break us from technological dependency.

Currently, I am both finishing my dissertation and an article for a publication on Mexican Zombies, particularly the figures of Aztec Cannibals and Narcozombies. I am passionate about my research, which is also fun!


How your first few weeks have been at William & Mary?
My first weeks were full of excitement and joy, knowing that I am coming back to a place that I love so much. I was longing for the great conversations and environment of William & Mary, and walking through Colonial Williamsburg and the campus brought back many memories of when I worked as a Language House Tutor at La Casa Hispánica. I have reconnected with old friends and met new faculty that are also excited for this new adventure. Although seven years have passed since I taught here for the second time, the good energies and intelligence—typical of of William & Mary students—remain the same, but with new context, technology and ways of socialization


What are you teaching this year?
I am teaching a course on Latin American Cinema called “Cuerpos que cruzan: Fronteras en el cine latinoamericano del siglo XXI” [Crossing Bodies: Borders in Latin American Cinema of the XXIst Century] where we approach different contemporary films through the lens of Border and Embodiment theory. Borders can be crossed not only geographically but also metaphorically, and while reading the body as a text and the film as the skin of this text, we approach the body as affected by the movies, when we sense fear, disgust, thrill, joy, sorrow. Through different genres, mostly body genres as melodrama and horror, but also documentaries, science fiction and indigenous cinema, we try to draw a map of what constitutes the map of contemporary Latin-American cinema and what are the voices of the current representatives of filmmakers in the region. We have analyzed different movies that talk about cyborgs, migration, zombies, ghosts and in general, the Latin-America youth. I am very proud of this course, where the students have actually submitted abstracts for the conference of the Northeastern Modern Languages Association, to take place in Boston, next year. This is a great opportunity for them to experience life as scholars and to show their work to an international community of specialists.

The second course I am teaching is Cross-Cultural Perspectives In(Ex)clusión: Buscando terreno común en las culturas hispánicas [In(Ex)clusion: Looking for common ground in Hispanic Cultures). This is a 207 course inspired by the fabulous work of Doris Sommer in “The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities”, that includes examples and the roles of cultural agents in Latin America in changing the world. We explore readings of literature, comics, and films related with issues as disabilities, social exclusion and discrimination, illness, race, ethnicity gender, and how artistic interventions improves the relationships in Latin America.


What classes will you be teaching next semester?
I will be teaching a course on Literary Criticism (HISP 208), that combines literature, cinema and music, and I will be teaching an Intermediate Language course of Spanish (HISP 203). I look forward to working more with the community and doing cultural activities that integrate the language-learning environment and interaction with immigrant population of Latin America in Williamsburg.


What would be your dream class to teach and why?
A class that would focus on my expertise, Apocalyptic Imagination in Latin America: Narratives of Destruction and the End of the World, would be a topic that I will love teaching in the future, probably next year. I am also interested in teaching a class focused on Zombies, on digital destruction and experimental cinema, videogames, ecocriticism and lately I have been thinking about a class in documentaries and music, particularly Rockumentaries in Latin America and Spain, as well as videoclip industry (reggaeton, cumbia and other type of music).

Fall 2019 Featured News News: Hispanic Studies

Donor Generosity Helps Get the Word Out about Hispanic Studies: Meet Hayes!

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, Hispanic Studies has a new media intern! Meet Hayes Pearce, who maintains our Instagram account, interacts with clubs and organizations on campus, and promotes events sponsored by Modern Languages and Literatures and other departments by keeping the HISP community up to date and sharing our news and accomplishments!

Check out our Instagram feed at:





Fall 2019 News News: Alumni News: Hispanic Studies

Rising Seniors with Highest GPAs Win J. Worth Banner Award

Kiera McKay (L), Carrington Metts (R)
Kiera McKay (L), Carrington Metts (R)
This year’s J Worth Banner Award has awarded to Carrington Metts and Kiera McKay. Professor Banner was a well-liked Spanish professor at W&M and a respected Chair of Modern Languages & Literatures for many years. In the past, this generous award has helped support the recipient’s pre-honors research, international travel, or participation in study abroad programs. This award goes to the rising senior Hispanic Studies major with the highest overall grade point average and each awardee will receive a generous monetary prize and will be honored at an upcoming HISP celebration in October. Here are some reactions from the recipients:

Ms. Metts: My classmates are some of the most talented, intelligent, and motivated people I have ever met. They constantly challenge me to examine my worldviews, increase my mastery of the language, and become involved in the multitude of activities and events that they organize around campus. As our graduation date approaches, I have no doubt that each and every one of them will be fully capable of using their Hispanic Studies degree to genuinely make a difference in the world. To be identified among this group of incredibly deserving students as one of the recipients of this year’s J. Worth Banner Scholarship is truly a tremendous honor.