I am graduating this year from the New York Studio School in downtown Manhattan with a Masters in Fine Arts in Painting. As a double major in Fine Arts and German Studies at William and Mary, class of 2016, I continue to use what I learned both in class and abroad to enrich my painting ideas. German and Austrian artists such as Caspar David Friedrich, Käthe Kollwitz, and Oskar Kokoschka are major artistic influences to me. My current paintings, which will be exhibited in my MFA Thesis Exhibition in New York at a to be announced date, focus on intimate spaces surrounding food. I chose food items to paint that have both a crusty shell and a meaty interior, such as fish, clams, mussels and bread loaves. They reflect the duality of the exterior and interior lives of humans. I am interested in exploring the hidden and exposed realities of individuals, through the food that we eat. I am excited to continue my career as a painter and take advantage of future opportunities for artists both in the New York area and abroad.
Category: News: Alumni
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.
William & Mary Class of 2020
UVA School of Medicine Class of 2024
Being 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
It 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
Often, 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
As 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.
William & Mary Class of 2017
Harvard Medical School Class of 2021
In 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. That 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!
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!”
Lamar Shambley (’10) founded Teens of Color Abroad which helps students of color in high school study abroad. See the full story here.
Hey William and Mary Modern Languages and Literatures Department! It’s Jordan and Megan, the former dynamic TA duo telling you all the exciting and surprising things we have found living in Austria’s capital. We were both very lucky and excited to have our applications to the Austrian-American Educational Commission Fulbright program accepted. Having acclimated ourselves after arriving in mid-September, the experience of living and working in a foreign country is one we will never forget.The work itself is one of the main draws of the program. We are constantly kept on our toes with new themes every week to discuss with students. It is always a lot of fun to hear their perspective on a variety of issues and of course to share with them what we love and find problematic about American culture. For instance, Jordan taught a lesson on how to analyze a film deploying The Shining as an example. Because of the holiday season, many TAs have given lessons on the Thanksgiving story, Black Friday, and celebrating Christmas.Amidst lots of lesson planning and meeting new people through the Fulbright Austria program and our schools, we have visited many a museum, casual palace, and the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) where Schumann, Brahms, and Strauss are all buried, and Mozart is honored. We have also investigated the jazz bar, street food, and café scenes, and Jordan is definitely an expert between the two of us on Kaffeehauskultur, Döner Kebap, and Käsekrainer (cheese-filled wurst). Megan often enjoys cooking at home with local produce from the Brunnenmarkt, the biggest open-air market in the city, right near her flat, where you can find some of Vienna’s most affordable groceries. Not only have we seen a fair bit of Vienna (although there is always more to see), but we’ve done some and plan on doing more traveling. Jordan will make his way to Berlin to visit old friends from our summer abroad at Potsdam Universität two summers ago, and both of us plan to go to Athens in January with a group of new friends. Overall, wir schlagen dieses Programm vor (we recommend this program), because it is an excellent way to spend a year abroad learning valuable teaching skills and improving your German fluency, all the while helping the next generation of Austrian students learn the global language of English.
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.
Living in Vienna was a fantastic experience. The Austrian-American Educational Commission Fulbright program gave me the unique opportunity to work abroad and teach English at two Bundesgymnasiums (high schools) and five grades (4th form through 8th form). My students were very eager to learn about American culture and practice for their English oral section of the Matura (graduating exam). There was not a single boring day during my tenure in Vienna. I truly looked forward to coming to work, commuting on the U-Bahn (metro) from Simmering station to Josephstädter Straße, and lesson planning. Perhaps my favorite lessons to teach were on pronunciation, where I included tongue twisters and accents, and lessons on the American school system, and American politics. Work aside, I had a couple of hobbies that I brought from the US: fencing and playing violin. Thanks to my Austrian fencing club, Fecht-Union-Mödling, I was able to compete in Munich, Brno (in the Czech Republic), Vienna, and Villach. When I was not fencing or traveling, I fiddled out on the streets and made a good amount of Trinkgeld (pocket money). Applying to Fulbright was certainly one of the best decisions I made in college. I learned so much from different cultures, made life friends and great memories! If given the chance, I would recommend applying to Fulbright in Austria! I would advise you to take advantage of the Donauinsel biking paths, ice skate in front of the Rathaus during the Christmas season, see the Hundertwasserhaus, and travel as much as possible to other Austrian cities and bordering countries of Austria since it is only a Flixbus or train ride away! Fulbright opened many doors for me – I got accepted into all three graduate programs I applied to and received several job interviews. I decided to go with a contracting government position, where I will use my translation and analytical skills.
Michelle Hermes ’18 has spent the past year as a U.S. Teaching Assistant in Austria (“Fulbright Austria”) in Wieselburg. She enjoyed her time so much that she decided to renew for a second year, and will be posted in the historical town of Klosterneuburg, right north of Vienna. This summer, she’ll be teaching English to children in Salzburg, and in the fall, she will be starting an MA Program in Politikwissenschaften at the Uni Wien.
(BA Hispanic Studies): After graduating, I ended up getting my MSW from the University of Maryland, and did research with a professor throughout my time there regarding trauma and substance use among the Latino immigrant community in Baltimore. My second year, I interned with a community health clinic in the DC suburbs which served mostly Latino immigrants. The clinic provided primary care medical services in addition to dentistry, maternity care, psychiatry, and case management (help with applying for insurance, housing and food benefits, school and job training programs, etc.) I served as a therapist in the clinic, working with any patients who screened positive on tests for depression, anxiety, trauma/PTSD, and/or substance use. About 75% of the therapy I was doing was in Spanish. At first I was really afraid that my language skills wouldn’t be strong enough and patients would be insulted or confused, but they were all so grateful to have someone who spoke their language and was willing to listen to their stories. I really loved it there, and stayed for about 2 years after graduation. Recently, my husband and I (oh, yeah! I also got married last year!) moved to Charlottesville for me to pursue a different avenue in my career. I am proud to say I have been fully recovered from my eating disorder for several years, and am now working as an eating disorder therapist with a treatment center in Charlottesville to be able to support others going through similar struggles. The work feels so incredibly meaningful, and we’re really enjoying Charlottesville so far! My dog (Luna) loves it too, so much more space here for her to run and much quieter than the city.
After a few years of varied, enriching, and meaningful experiences–domestically and abroad–, some of our recent HISP graduates have decided to pursue further studies in their aims of becoming stronger civic-minded individuals, activists for education, critical thinkers who question social asymmetries, and forgers of global relations.
During her time at W&M, Maisoon Fillo (Hispanic Studies & Psychology ’15) studied abroad with our Human Rights program in La Plata, Argentina, and participated as an undergraduate TA in our HISP language classes. As she prepares to attend Tulane University and work toward an MA in Latin American Studies, she describes her experience since graduating as follows:
“Soon after graduating from William and Mary, I spent the summer in Vermont perfecting my Spanish at Middlebury Language Schools. This program not only provided an environment of total language immersion, but exposed the linguistic depth of the Spanish language. Shortly following Middlebury, I spent a semester abroad teaching English in Lima, Peru. This position gave me first-hand insight into educational issues in Latin America, from resource and quality shortcomings, to school systems’ relationships with students and the significance of student’s social background. I was able to work through some of these critical issues following my time abroad as an intern in the Inter-American Dialogue’s Education Program. This branch of IAD aims to improve skill development by forging educational change across Latin America.
“Starting this fall I will begin my MA program in Latin American Studies at Tulane University. I expect to further develop skills that I can use in work that contributes to reforms that acknowledge past injustices and promote governments’ sincere regard for human rights. I believe that Tulane’s program will position me to not only advance skillfully as a student, researcher, and activist, but will guide me as a professional in contributing to social transformation projects in pursuit of human dignity and social justice.
Like in Maisoon’s case, intercultural understanding and global citizenship motivated Sam Boone (Hispanic Studies and International Relations ’15) to seek rich experiences abroad. Before becoming an undergraduate TA for the Hispanic Studies program, Sam spent a summer in Cádiz and a semester in La Plata. While at W&M, Sam enjoyed successful spells as Resident Advisor at the Russian House and the Hispanic House. His commitment to building global bridges has shaped his steps after graduation, as he published an article on the role of the US in the tense Taiwan-China relations, and is about to complete his second year teaching English in China. Sam will head to Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies in the fall.
“In many ways I have had an interesting career trajectory. At William & Mary, I double majored in Hispanic Relations and International Relations with the idea that I could get involved with policy decisions in Latin America. My experience with the La Plata program in Argentina had a profound impact of my worldview, as I found that living in a foreign country and stepping outside my comfort zone enabled me to grow personally and academically. My time in Argentina made realize that I wanted to step even further and learn a new language. After my graduation I moved the China, and quickly started studying Chinese and fanatically researching the history and culture of my new home.
“I am surprised and happy to say I will continue my education next year at Johns Hopkins SAIS program with a fellowship for Chinese studies. It almost seems unbelievable since two years ago I didn’t even know how to say 你好 (hello) in Chinese and now I will be doing graduate level courses. It truly demonstrates the unpredictability in life, and how passions can evolve and transform. This opportunity would have been impossible without the skills and knowledge I gained from Hispanic Studies at William & Mary. My classes in the Hispanic Studies department gave me the tools I needed to adapt and analyze Chinese culture. I hope that I can combine my two foreign language studies in graduate school and further investigate China’s growing role in Latin America.
While Maisoon headed to Perú and Sam to China, a semester in Chile was in the horizon for Kristin Giordano (Hispanic Studies & Linguistics ’14) soon after graduating in 2014. Having been an undergraduate TA for the Hispanic Studies program, and after spells in La Plata, Argentina, and in Nicaragua with MANOS, Kristin’s semester teaching English in Chile proved to be a great experience. Upon returning to the US, and being the civic-minded, community-engaged young adult that she is, Kristin carved a path for herself in public health, and even co-authored an article on EMS responses to behavioral health crises. As she prepares to start a Masters in Public Health at Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) under a fellowship, Kristin describes her trajectory as follows:
“Before I graduated in May 2014, I had vague thoughts of traveling the world, or at least having some (any) plans to explain when people inevitably asked what was next for me. When Prof. Terukina mentioned the English Opens Doors Program in Chile to me, I jumped on the opportunity. I loved the six months teaching English in Chile and the family I lived with, yet, when the semester ended, I knew that I wasn’t ready for a full-time job in education. Again directionless (and with loans to start paying off), I moved home.
“I found a job in respite care and then a seasonal job at a summer camp (that I loved). Through a friend, I started volunteering with the Fire Department’s emerging Community & Public Health Division in Colorado Springs, which became a full-time job. Now, I’ve spent two years there, working in a program that connects people who frequently call 9-1-1 with medical, social, and mental health services. Though my volunteer position started as data entry, I ended up writing and winning grants, analyzing program data and designing reports, and even helping to implement a new software program.
“My job’s flexibility meant that I got to do a little bit of a lot of things, but the organization’s focus on partnerships with other agencies meant that I met people across the health sector. Through conversations, conferences and my daily job responsibilities, I learned that I really enjoyed work with upstream health interventions and research-based interventions. I wanted to develop the evaluation skills and knowledge base necessary to help similar programs. After two and a half years of discovering the joys and the frustrations of the working world, I wanted to go back to school.
“My friends, classmates and professors from William & Mary were fundamental parts of my frantic attempts to figure out where I was headed. Between Skype calls with classmates who were in programs I was interested in, and advice and recommendation letters from professors, I crammed my GRE, school research and application submission in to a two month period.
“In September, I’m off to Drexel University in Philadelphia to get my Masters of Public Health, with a concentration in Community Health and Prevention. I was offered a fellowship with their Urban Health Collaborative, which works to synthesize community data and make it available to organizations and individuals who live there, so that they can improve their health and well-being. Where I go from there, I have no idea – so don’t ask – but I’m excited!
The Hispanic Studies program wishes the very best to Maisoon, Sam, and Kristin as they embark in this new chapter in their lives! We are always eager to hear your latest news! You can send us your news and updates here, or just email your former professors!
By Prof. John Riofrio.
On December 8, 2016, William and Mary held it’s first-ever Latinx Alumni Reunion in the William and Mary Washington, D.C. Office. Entitled, Encuentro Latino, this exciting first-time event was conceptualized as an opportunity para encontrarse y encontrarnos – to encounter and reconnect with one another. Associate Professor of Hispanic and Latinx Studies John Riofrio, “Rio”, was thrilled at the invitation to offer the evening’s keynote address.
Jessica F. Chilin-Hernández (class of 2012, French and Francophone Studies), who co-organized the event with the Assistant Director of Regional Alumni Engagement Jack Edgar (class of 2015), beautifully articulated the importance of the event for her. “When I first arrived at William and Mary, I felt as if I was the first of my kind: Salvadoran, immigrant, native-Spanish speaker. The founding, however, of the Latin American Student Union in 2009 revealed the presence of Latinxs on campus in ways that I had simply not imagined. The formation of LASU created a space for Latinxs to come together and explore who we were both as individuals and as a community.” WM’s first Encuentro Latino is the first step (of many!) whose sole purpose is to highlight the long-standing presence and contribution of Latinxs on William and Mary’s campus while enabling the possibility for remaining a tightly-connected community well beyond the years spent at William and Mary.
Eager to move beyond simply networking professionally, Encuentro was conceptualized as an opportunity to form new friendships and to renew a bond in the Tribe spirit that defines William and Mary. It was also, importantly, a space to speak Spanish, Spanglish and English, too, because Latina/LatinX/Latino identities cannot, and should not, be confined to one language, one experience, one narrative, one set of words to tell its stories.
The event dovetailed beautifully with William and Mary’s ongoing For the Bold campaign in that one of the primary goals of the campaign is to strengthen alumni engagement with William and Mary. The Encuentro Latino was an effort to connect to an alumni population that had yet to be addressed in a way resonant with their academic interests, passions and particular cultural distinctions. Professor Rio’s talk on the virtues of civil engagement and the need for joy within struggle led to a fantastic group discussion that lasted well beyond the event’s stated end time.
Over the next year, Jess Chilin and Jack are planning more events that will recruit more alumni volunteers to the cause, connecting alumni with professors and academic programs at the College, and giving LatinX alumni the chance to engage and support students of color at William & Mary. The success story of LASU and the first Encuentro Latino represents all that can be accomplished when individual alumni passions, demand, and staff support intersect in meaningful ways.
by Emily Wilcox
The W&M 2012 graduating class boasted a stellar group of seniors in the Chinese Program. Three students received High Honors for senior honors thesis projects advised by Chinese Program faculty, and more than eighty-five percent studied abroad in China at least once as part of their undergraduate experience. Students double-majored in Chinese and a range of other fields, including Chemistry, Government, History, International Relations, Management, Marketing, and Mathematics.
Now, six months after their graduation, graduates in the 2012 Chinese Program class are thriving in jobs, internships, and scholarships related to their Chinese studies. The following is a sampling of some of the exciting work these students are doing today. Support and skills gained at William and Mary played an important role in achieving these successes; for most, foreign language proficiency specifically was a key criteria in the application and selection process for the jobs and scholarships in which they are now involved.
Congratulations to all of our talented 2012 graduates!
Kate McGinnis (W&M Chinese Major ‘12)
Intern, National Committee on US-China Relations, New York
I am currently interning at the National Committee on United States-China Relations, a non-profit that focuses on bettering the US-China relationship through exchanges and dialogue. In 1971 the National Committee hosted the historic Ping Pong exchange, kicking off the era of ‘ping pong diplomacy’. Today, they continue to host the exchange of teachers, policy leaders, government leaders, and youth. It has been a wonderful opportunity for me to work with this organization. So far, I have worked with the development team on our annual Gala Dinner, held at the Plaza Hotel, which raised 1.4 million dollars for the National Committee. In the four weeks I worked on the fundraising campaign I personally raised $78 thousand. I helped compile a briefing book for Navy Officers in preparation for our three-day educational conference on contemporary China. I am so thankful to the W&M Chinese program for giving me a strong foundation in Chinese language and culture, which has allowed me to thrive at the National Committee. I often find myself recalling experiences from my W&M study abroad trip in Beijing when we meet Chinese delegations stopping in at our New York City office. Most importantly, I appreciate the fantastic faculty at W&M who encouraged my interest in all things Chinese.
Timothy McDade (W&M Chinese Major ‘12)
IT Program Manager, Microsoft, Washington State
I graduated from W&M in May 2012 with dual majors in Chinese Language & Literature and Applied Mathematics, and am now working at Microsoft in Redmond, WA. I’m in a leadership training rotational program within Microsoft’s internal IT department, which allows me to experience the breadth of what a global company has to offer. My Chinese major has precipitated all of this – I got my job because of my language skills and travel experience. I plan to continue studying the language and culture in the future, and hope to spend a considerable amount of time working in Beijing and Shanghai. My mentors from the W&M Chinese department provided guidance and support during my job search. My international background and language skills have served me well so far, and will continue to ensure that I have a competitive edge as I move forward in the business world.
Lydia Fairfax (W&M Chinese Major ‘12)
Marketing Specialist, Registrar Corp, Newport News
After graduating from William and Mary, I was hired as a marketing specialist at Registrar Corp in Newport News. Registrar Corp assists companies in the Drug, Medical Device, Food and Beverage, and Cosmetics industries with U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory compliance. The firm is headquartered in Hampton, Virginia, and has assisted over 22,000 companies in more than 150 countries, with 19 regional offices in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. This year, I was working at trade shows in Washington DC and Baltimore when I was unexpectedly approached by representatives from Chinese companies who did not speak English. Although I had to improvise on the spot, I was able to present our company’s services and explain their questions using the Chinese I learned at William and Mary! The background in Chinese language and culture that I gained in the W&M Chinese Program helps me to understand other cultures, which is extremely important in my job due to the international nature of our company and our work. I got my job because of my ability to speak multiple languages. With so many international clients and offices, language abilities are essential in our company.
Stephen Hurley (W&M Chinese Major ‘12)
Boren Scholar, Beijing University, China
I started studying Chinese as a freshman at William and Mary in the fall of 2008. I studied abroad at Peking University through the W&M program in my junior year, and I have since returned to Beijing on a Boren scholarship to continue my Chinese studies. Currently, I am taking a classics course with a philosophy professor from Beijing University — this week we are covering the The Analects — and otherwise I am studying Chinese all the time. Tomorrow I will attend a job fair to get some practice networking, and we have an activity on Friday with the Beijing Film Academy. On my way to class one day, I was browsing the posters outside the campus amphitheater when I was shocked to see an advertisement for The Red Detachment of Women, a revolutionary ballet from the 1960s that we had discussed in my Chinese popular culture class last year. Needless to say, I immediately bought a ticket, and am very excited to see the performance next week.
Story by Leslie McCullough
Luck, chance, or fate? Maybe some combination of the three. During a summer 2002 undergraduate research trip to South America, Sarah South Parks ’03 suggested an exploratory side trip to La Plata, Argentina. The rest is history.
Sarah was finishing her junior year as a Hispanic Studies major and jumped at the chance to join her advisor, Professor Silvia Tandeciarz, and fellow student John Cipperly for a two-week research trip to Chile and Argentina, two nations emerging from brutal experiences with state terrorism. The students’ participation was made possible by a Borgenicht Foundation for Identity and Transformation Grant supporting faculty-directed student research projects.
In preparing for the trip, Professor Tandeciarz asked Sarah and John to read A Lexicon of Terror: Argentina and the Legacies of Torture by Marguerite Feitlowitz. Sarah recalls being particularly interested in a chapter about the alarming number of children, students, and faculty who “disappeared” from the university town of La Plata, Argentina, during its so-called “Dirty War” (1976-1983).
“It was a terrible and secretive time,” says Sarah. “Thousands of Argentineans were arrested, imprisoned, and declared missing. People involved with the university and education were seen as a threat by the dictatorship, and many disappeared.”
Together the group visited “memory sites” (e.g., museums, monuments, bookstores, schools, and memorials) to document and analyze the role of memory in the re-construction of Chilean and Argentinean national identities.
Sarah expressed interest in visiting the sites of memory in La Plata that she’d read about. Although only a half-hour drive from Buenos Aires, La Plata at that time represented uncharted territory.
There, while visiting a memory site at an elementary school, the group noticed a poster for the Comisión Provincial por la Memoria (Commission on Memory), a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the study and dissemination of human rights abuses committed during the Argentinean dictatorship. The commission was set up to do the very thing Tandeciarz’s team was researching. It was an incredible find.
Sarah’s research focused on the children of the disappeared in Argentina, some of whom were adopted by military families and are just coming to discover their biological identity. Working with the Commission offered access to many invaluable resources. Later, Sarah reported her research findings in an academic paper she presented at a Modern Languages and Literatures colloquium.
“When we engage in collaborative research with students, the rewards can be endless,” says Professor Tandeciarz. “It was Sarah’s leadership that got us to La Plata. If there had been no grant, there would have been no students on this trip, and we never would have made this wonderful connection.”
Since the initial connection, Tandeciarz has helped to develop a strong relationship between the Commission and the College. As a result, William and Mary students from many majors have participated in a semester study abroad program in La Plata, the only one of its kind available there to U.S. college students.
“This semester program is unique in that it offers students the opportunity to take university courses while collaborating on a variety of human rights initiatives through internships at the Comission, thus bringing William and Mary’s service learning tradition into global education,” says Professor Tandeciarz. The funding structure of the La Plata program also has made it possible for Argentinean students to come to the College for short research trips, usually conducted over spring break in collaboration with William and Mary undergraduate students.
“I never could have guessed what this trip would turn into,” says Sarah. “It is neat to think about how this program is benefiting the lives of so many other students. In my opinion, one of the College’s greatest assets is the ability to maintain an environment that allows for such strong collaborations between students and faculty.”
Since receiving her master’s degree in social work in 2006, Sarah South Parks has worked with international adoption programs and Hispanic immigrant children who had been separated and subsequently reunited with their families. She is currently working in Williamsburg with The Barker Foundation, a private adoption agency, to provide counseling to women or couples facing unplanned pregnancy.
Our warmest congratulations to Christine Bobal, Juliana Glassco, Katelyn Moscony, Michelle Thibault, and Kelsey Williamson, our graduating French majors (’08) who have been awarded teaching assistantship by the French Ministry of Education and the office of Cultural Services at the French Embassy. They will teach English and American culture to students in major French cities such as Lyon, Versailles, Rouen, and Rennes. Last year (2007) David Arndt, Maura DiRicco, Rachel Mathews, Mary Ogburn, Drew Schmidt, Kathryn Ticknor, and Amy Zerwick were chosen to teach in primary and secondary schools in Rouen, Lyon, Lille, Rouen and Nantes. These assistantships are quite an honor, especially for recent B.A. graduates, so we are extremely proud of all these nominees.