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Somos y Estamos - Fall 2003

Newsletter of the Department of Spanish of Western Michigan University

The English Translation fall 2003

We are your Department of Spanish. On July 1st of the year 2003 the former Spanish Section of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures began its life as an independent department, the Department of Spanish. This independence was fitting and necessary, a recognition of the increased importance of Spanish in the world, in the United States and at Western Michigan University.

In October of 1981 there were 367 students of Spanish at Western with five full-time faculty. In October of 2003 we have 1533 Spanish students, over 525 of whom are majors or minors. There are 45 graduate students enrolled in the M.A. and Ph.D. programs. There are 15 full-time faculty. We were your Spanish Section. Today, with the same passion for the Spanish language and for everything Hispanic (which we hope to have instilled in you when you studied with us in Brown Hall), we are your Department of Spanish.

We are dedicated to education. Forty percent of our majors and minors come from the College of Arts and Sciences. Many of them have a second major and almost all have interests in other areas of the humanities. They are students who seek a solid educational base for their life and work. Although perhaps they do not yet know what work they will do after graduation, they do know that they like Spanish and that it can open doors for them. Another group of our advanced students, approximately 35% of all majors and minors, are studying to become Spanish teachers, a profession currently in much demand. Michigan needs more and better-prepared teachers, both elementary and secondary, and we are pleased to have the responsibility and the privilege of educating them. Fifteen percent of our majors and minors are students who are also specializing in business administration or in other business fields. For them, Spanish is a practical language, but also the source of a wealth of friendships and cultural experiences which go beyond business as usual. In addition to serving our major and minors, each semester we have the opportunity to attempt to enhance the education of some 1000 other students of Spanish.

As all of us who have learned a second language know, language is education. By learning Spanish, even at the beginning level, students come to understand that other cultures really do exist, not merely as translated cultures, but as distinct cultures with their own values and traditions. Knowledge of a culture is the first step toward gaining respect for that culture. Recognizing our individual limitations, but with all the enthusiasm and energy we can muster, we happily accept the challenge of communicating what we know about the Hispanic world. We are dedicated to education.

The TAs and DAs: Students and Teachers

There can be no doubt that TAs and DAs lead a special life: busy, varied and entertaining. Where do they find the energy to teach, study and make their presence known with such enthusiasm? That mystery is solved each day by the 28 graduate teaching assistants (TAs) and doctoral associates (DAs) in the department. Having come from distances far and near, these teacher/students are very closely united in their cozy "offices" in Sprau. It is true that they do not all teach every day and perhaps they don't study every day either, but they certainly do make their presence known. And what a blessing this is: constant dialogue and trialogue in the halls, music floating out the doors and windows, jokes and good natured barbs, laughter, jarabe tapatío, flamenco, rock, salsa and tango-- it's all here, not a dull moment. These lively Hispanists fill their young pupils and not-so-young profs with the joy of everyday living. They probably do this unconsciously, without realizing how tired they should be from leading their dual existence as students and teachers. The graduate assistants for this year (institution of undergraduate degree in parenthesis) are:

Ismael Aguado (U. de Burgos), Scott Bango (San Francisco State U.), Erin Beran (U. of Nebraska-Kearney), Alicia Cabrera (U. Autónoma de Quer´taro), Andrea Castelluccio (U. de Buenos Aires), Brenda Chávez (U. Autónoma de Querétaro), Lindsey Cherry (Western Michigan U.), Taryn Corrigan (Western Michigan U.), John Cosby (Western Michigan U.), Carmen Febles (Western Michigan U.), Luis Flores (U. de Extremadura), Karen Gullickson, (Western Michigan U.), Sara Heil (Western Michigan U.), Mariana Hernández (U. Autónoma de Querétaro), Kathy Kaakani (Western Michigan U.), Christina McDaniel (Western Michigan U.), María Rama (U. Complutense), Iñaki Rivas (U. de Navarra), Abel Robles (Western Michigan U., Thurgood Marshall Scholar), Virginia Ruifernández (U. de Burgos), Silvia Ruiz Tresgallo (U. de Cantabria), Javier Saorín-Falcón (U. de Murcia), Jason Schrier (Western Michgan U.), Diomedes Solano Rábago (U. Autónoma de Querétaro), Nivardo Trejo (U. Autónoma de Querétaro), Mikela Zhezha (Western Michigan U.).

During this first year of its doctoral program in Spanish, the department is fortunate to have two very-talented DAs. Hedy Habra has several college degrees, including two in Spanish from Western. Besides English and Spanish, she speaks French, Arabic and Italian. She has published a number of scholarly articles, as well as poems, short stories and other writings. As in previous years, this year Hedy will teach an intermediate level Spanish course, which she enjoys greatly. Nuria Ibáñez received her undergraduate degree from the Universidad de Burgos and then completed the M.A. in Spanish at Western. She studied for a year in the doctoral program at the University of Kentucky before returning to Western to continue the Ph.D. This year Nuria will serve as assistant to the editor of the journal Caribe.

We trust that these students/teachers at Western will continue to energize our classes and classrooms. Each one of them has his/her tales, experiences, travels and success stories. Together they form a wonderful group of teachers and researchers who strive to expand their horizons. In a few years the majority of them will be Spanish teachers somewhere else, in secondary schools, community colleges, or universities in the United States and in the rest of the world. Fortunately for Western, this year they are here.

Querétaro Close-up

In winter semester of 1995 the Department of Spanish began an important phase in its existence with the establishment of its first study abroad program in the colonial city of Querétaro, Mexico. Thanks to the efforts and vision of department chair John Benson and Professor Jorge Febles, principal organizers of this program, some 135 participants have enjoyed an unforgettable experience. Professor Irma López has been the director of the program since 1998. Nonetheless, it should be noted that her work is complemented by the collective efforts of the entire Spanish faculty, and especially by the efforts of the two departmental secretaries, Elena Gaudio and Tammy Betz, who support this project with great enthusiasm.

The goal of helping students improve their Spanish is premised on contact with Mexican culture through several different means. The first step is provided by the opportunity that our students have to take classes completely in Spanish with the regular students of the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, commonly referred to as the UAQ. The wide variety of courses offered by this university has allowed Spanish majors to combine study of that language (in the Department of Languages and Literatures) with studies in other departments such as Business, Political Science, Fine Arts and Communication. In addition to linguistic and educational benefits, this direct immersion also facilitates contact with other students, which in turn often leads to close friendships. Matt Bourbina, who spent one semester in Besançon (France) in 2000 and another in the Querétaro program in 2003, offers this comment: "Without a doubt, my studies in other countries provide my best memories and belong to the best time in my life. This has become evident recently because I have more contact with my Mexican friends than with many of my American friends."

Another important component of our program in Querétaro is supplied by the Mexican families with whom our students live for five and one-half months. One student per household is the arrangement we have with the UAQ so that the student and family can get to know each other as well as possible. This daily living experience provides a view of culture experienced by very few foreign visitors. The Mexican "papá," "mamá" and "hermanos" become a second family with ties that last over time, leaving memories full of affection and gratefulness. Michelle Weist says this about her Mexican mother: "I am thankful for all that my mother Ana Julia did for me because she did more than she had to."

No less important in the overall experience which the program attempts to provide to WMU students is the city of Querétaro itself, declared a world historical and architectural treasure by the United Nations in 1996.

Santiago de Querétaro is the quintessential Mexican colonial city, located in the heart of the country, three hours north of the capital. It was founded by the Chichimecas in 1446, and first inhabited by the Spanish in 1531. A number of historical events make it stand out in Mexican history. As one guidebook puts it, "Querétaro is better seen than described." Equally true is the book's assertion that in Querétaro one should walk looking up, not down, since the sky encompasses "a glorious historical monument, an album of baroque art, a plethora of domes which stretch into an immaculate blue space" (Eduardo Loarca Castilla). Querétaro joins the old with the new, offering our students an abundance of extracurricular possibilities. Cafés, bookstores, plazas with fountains, social groups, art workshops--these are only a few of the leisure-time activities found in the city. Danielle Hidalgo, another participant from the 2003 group, says this about the city's offerings: "Of course you can't study ALL the time, nor do I suppose that you want to stay cooped up at home either. In Querétaro you can do what you please and the same things that you do here (in Michigan). For example, I participated in both the Spanish Department programs (Burgos and Querétaro) and in both places I found a school where I could continue taking ballet classes. It was a good way to meet other people, and to feel good because I was exercising and bringing something familiar with me to these foreign countries of Spain and Mexico."

As the students say time and time again, study abroad is a great experience. This opportunity is made possible by the personal efforts of the students and their families, and also by the financial assistance which some of them receive from scholarships offered each year: the Ruth Y. Kirby Scholarships, the President's Scholarships and President's Grants for Study Abroad, the Sue C. Mardis Scholarship for Women. The generosity of these donors expresses their belief that study abroad is part of a complete university education.

Our congratulations and best wishes to those who have participated in the Querétaro program, and especially to those who returned in June of this year:

Matt Bourbina, Scott Brown, Lisa Bungert, Andrea Cooper, Taryn Corrigan, Vanda DeGoes-Snyder, Alicia Gonzales, Jennifer Hall, Scott Herlein, Danielle Hidalgo, Kelly "Kathia" May, Casey Pierce, Ann "Anita" Walls, Michelle Weist y Jennifer Willis.

Eyes on Burgos

In terms of opportunities available to students, one of the most significant achievements of this department in recent years has been the creation of two study abroad programs, one in Querétaro, Mexico, which began in 1995, and the other in Burgos, Spain, which began a bit later, in 1999.

Professor Carolyn Harris was the first director of the Burgos program. Robert Felkel assumed that responsibility in 2001, when he took a group of thirteen students to study in the land of Fernán González and the Cid. This year there are nineteen WMU Spanish students in Burgos, an impressive number indeed.

Burgos, the city and the province, is the very heart of Castilian culture and tradition. Besides being the birthplace of Spain's national hero, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (el Cid), Burgos is very close to the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla, considered the birthplace of the Spanish language over a thousand years ago.

The city of Burgos has a population of 165,000, and is the capital of the province of the same name, one of the nine provinces of the Autonomous Community of Castile and León (Comunidad Autónoma de Castilla y León). Its extraordinary artistic and historical legacy makes it one of the most interesting places in all of Spain and an ideal site for a study abroad program.

WMU students in Burgos have the great honor and privilege of studying in one of the most impressive historical buildings in the city, the Hospital of the King, on the San Amaro campus of the Universidad de Burgos. The Hospital of the King (Hospital del Rey) was founded in 1195 by Alfonso VIII to care for the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It was one of the most important hospitals on that route to the shrine of Saint James.

We have arranged two types of living experiences for our students. They live with families from the time of arrival in early August until September 30. From October 1 until December 15, when they return home, students stay in a residence hall with a Spanish roommate.

All the students who have gone to Burgos have spoken very favorably of the program, about the warmth of the people and the city itself. Western faculty and their classes also benefit from this program. When the Burgos students return to the WMU classrooms they clearly demonstrate a level of Spanish language skills that they almost certainly would not have achieved had they remained in Kalamazoo.

The Legacy of Herb B. Jones, Professor of Century XX

This year Western Michigan University celebrates its first century of existence. Over that span many distinguished faculty have written on the blackboards in Walwood, Sangren, Dunbar and Brown, but none of them is more important to us than Herb B. Jones. As former students, some of you were fortunate to know him. For those who did not, this will be an opportunity to learn.

Professor Jones taught Spanish at Western from 1948 until 1979. During most of that period he was head of the Spanish Section, a man totally dedicated to his students, colleagues and university. Nonetheless, Herb never came to consider himself a Michigan resident, preferring to keep his Wyoming boots and blue jeans. He used to say that he liked to vote in Wyoming because in that sparsely populated state his vote had more weight than in Michigan, where there were millions of voters. He loved animals, especially dogs and horses, and was also an enthusiastic gardener. In short, Herb Jones loved life in all its forms and in all places, even in Kalamazoo, although his two great passions were always Mexico and Spain, probably in that order.

When our friend Herb died in 1992, we had a chance to reflect on his life, on what he left in this world and particularly on what he left in what is today the Department of Spanish. His legacy, the definition of a good professor, is a treasure. According to Herb, the good Spanish professor:

With good reason, Herb B. Jones was the first Spanish faculty member to receive the prestigious WMU Alumni Award for Teaching Excellence (1972). His example as a teacher and his qualities as a friend remain present in the memories of colleagues in the new century. We will do our best to follow his legacy of the good professor. Gracias, Herb.

Somos y Estamos
Publication of Departent of Spanish
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008-5338
tel 269 387-3023 ~ fax 269 387-3103

Editor: John Benson
Contributors: John Benson
Robert Felkel, Irma López
Layout & Design: Elena Gaudio
Website: www.wmich.edu/spanish
Email: spanish@wmich.edu

Faculty for Century XXI

Who are the faculty and what do they do? As former students, many of you will be able to answer these two questions, at least partially, since the only professor to retire from the department in past few decades is Robert Griffin. Professor Griffin is as active as ever, appearing in local theater productions, offering guitar classes, speaking in the public schools and community libraries. He continues to be an ardent Yankee supporter and loyal fan of Derek Jeter.

The other faculty, who for better or worse have been your professors, are very much alive. We have had the good fortune of receiving new energy and ideas from a magnificent group of young colleagues, unknown as yet to many of you. In order for you to get to know them a bit, without forgetting the not-so-young faculty, we provide the following summary of their latest activities. Most of this stuff is true, but we reserve the right to exaggerate and to lie, a little or a lot. Obviously, this is not required reading. No homework, no tests.

John Benson has taught at Western since 1974, although he actually looks younger than many of his students (small lie). His interests continue to be many, but he maintains his preference for Mexico, Colombia and Spain. Last year he very much enjoyed travels to these three countries and claims to have learned a lot from this tourism (probably another lie). He considers that one of his most interesting accomplishments for the year was arranging for the WMU visit of Colombian author David Sánchez Juliao. The people who most benefited from that event were the students in Professor Benson's class on Colombia and Mexico, which he was very pleased to be teaching.

Gary Bigelow has taught at Western since 1978. He is one of the most valued players of the Mambo Kings, the most optimistic and consistent member of that team during the most difficult seasons it has endured (that would be all of them). Only an accident in downtown Madrid (Gary was riding a bicycle and says it was not his fault) knocked him into the hospital and out of a few games. Professor Bigelow continues to do research on contemporary Spanish theater. During recent years he has done a number of translations of Spanish plays into English. He has just returned from a conference in Pittsburgh where he presented a paper titled "El arte del engaño y el engaño del arte en El color de agosto, de Paloma Pedrero" ("The Art of Deception and Deception by Art in El color de agosto, by Paloma Pedrero"). At the time this newsletter is being published, Professor Bigelow is at another conference (in San Juan, P.R.) where he will read a somewhat frivolous paper on the topic of humor in two movies by a Spanish director. (For reasons of decor we omit the title of said paper.)

Michael Braun has taught part-time at Western since 2001. He is a full-time teacher at Portage Northern High School, where they have an admirable Spanish program. Miguel has two degrees from Western. He is an ex-Mambo King (an injury on a too-daring play converted him into ex, at least for now). He travels often to Mexico and Spain. He is an admirer of the poetry of Bécquer. Professor Braun teaches the Spanish methods course for students who are preparing to become secondary school teachers. In other words, Miguel is a teacher of teachers, which is very important, but not easy.

Jorge Febles has taught at Western since 1980. He is an unrivaled, dyed-in-the-wool Mambo King, having guided the team through innumerable contests, both glorious and pathetic. This year as General Manager he was the most surprised Mambo of all when they won their division and received the trophy (the size of the Pyramid of the Sun - no lie). Professor Febles accomplishes so much in one year that it tires one to even think about it. He is editor of Caribe, a biannual refereed literary journal of the first magnitude that redounds to the credit of the university. In addition to making possible the research of other scholars of Caribbean literature, Professor Febles published a number of his own articles in other journals and collections and read papers at conferences in Puerto Rico, New Orleans and New York. In spite of all that, and there is much more, Jorge considers his most important task to be that of "Duke of Dirt" and recording secretary of the Home Run Club at Portage Northern High School. The Duke, in case you have not yet guessed, is the guy in charge of grounds at the baseball diamond. Professor Febles has never worried about getting his hands dirty.

Robert Felkel has taught at Western since 1971. In spite of his many years at Western (where he arrived fresh out of graduate school), Professor Felkel has fewer years and more energy than his friend Alonso Quijano (Don Quixote). Bob remains more practical than D.Q., but only a bit less idealistic and adventuresome. A fine example of this is the advanced class he delivered with the title of "Sex and Lies in the Literature of the Middle Ages." Professor Felkel's classes on Don Quixote, as many former and current students well know, are true masterpieces, totally worthy of Golden Age status. Another successful endeavor directed by Professor Felkel is the study program in Burgos. At this time there are nineteen WMU students in that old Castilian city. They were accompanied in their journey by Professor Felkel, who had prepared them well for this rich experience.

Seidy Flórez has taught part-time at Western since 1988. As Colombians usually do, she writes her last name with "z", an uncommon spelling in other countries. Her first name is not so common either, let it be noted in passing. Professor Flórez has two degrees from Western. She is an avid reader, especially of contemporary Spanish American fiction. Last year she presented a paper on the work of Colombian author Silvia Galvis at a conference in Santo Domingo. She travels frequently to Colombia and Mexico, and to other countries whenever she can manage it. Seidy has plenty of energy for both speaking and listening, which is a good thing for a person who teaches Spanish conversation.

Carolyn Harris has taught at Western since 1985. She specializes in the contemporary theater of Spain, a country in which she spends a good part of her leisure time. This year, for example, Carolina went to Madrid in May to attend plays, do research, prepare a bibliography for the literary journal Estreno, and drink coffee. (This is another one of the many lies and exaggerations that have been woven into these bizarre faculty tidbits. Professor Harris almost invariably drinks tea.) In recent years Carolina has also made numerous trips to Ecuador, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, providing translation services for missionary groups from her church. Last year turned out to be busy, but productive for Professor Harris. In addition to reading papers at conferences in Boston and Santo Domingo, she also found time to write two articles which will soon be published in Estreno y Gestos, and did other things that we will not mention here so that Professor Harris is not tempted to become conceited (people who know her also know that it will snow in Panamá before that happens).

Antonio Isea has taught at Western since 1996. At this moment Professor Isea is probably at the beach or the library in his native Venezuela, where he is spending his sabbatical leave. After completing his doctorate at the University of Colorado, Antonio came to Western, bringing with him his considerable knowledge and ideas on the subject of the historical novel in Latin America. In the past several years he has taught a wide variety of courses on the literature and culture of Spanish America. During his sabbatical, Professor Isea will research the portrayal of afro-Venezuelan characters in the twentieth-century Venezuelan novel, a topic on which he has already published numerous articles. We wish Antonio a good year, in both his professional endeavors and life in general.

Irma López has taught at Western since 1994. She is a specialist in the literature of Mexico, her country of origin which she visits regularly. Fortunately for Western students, Irma has been the director of our study abroad program in Querétaro in recent years. Due to her efforts, many graduates of the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro have decided to come to Kalamazoo to do graduate work in our department. As a teacher and researcher, Professor López has focused her work on the literary, social and cultural effects of the Mexican Revolution. She recently completed an article titled "Herencia Sefardita y mexicanidad en Novia que te vea" by Rosa Nissán ("Sephardic Contributions and Mexicanness in Novia que te vea"). Last year Professor López (who in a former life planned to study tourism) presented papers at conferences in the Dominican Republic, Canada and the United States.

Michael Millar has taught at Western since 2002. He teaches Spanish and American Studies. Among interests which give him great satisfaction are fishing, the University of Michigan football team (he did his Ph.D. in Ann Arbor) and the literature of Central America. In spite of his youth, Mike understands well that Central American literature is the best bet. He is another faculty member who could not resist joining the awesome Mambo Kings, a team on which he has played brilliantly in the outfield. In his first year at Western, Professor Millar presented a paper on the writings of José Martín Cañas at the Eleventh International Conference on Central American Literature in San José, Costa Rica, and another paper on the work of Mario Bencastro at a conference at the University of Iowa. He also was successful at obtaining funds to bring Mr. Bencastro to Western, where the Salvadoran author's lectures were well received. Mike is currently working on a book about cultural production in Guatemala during a period of governmental repression.

Patricia Montilla has taught at Western since the year 2000. She specializes in Spanish American poetry, particularly in that of southern South America, but is also interested in Hispanic literature in the United States and in Caribbean literature. She is originally from Puerto Rico, but has also lived in New Jersey, Michigan (B.A. at U. of M.) and Illinois (Ph.D. at U. of Chicago). Patricia is a sports enthusiast, a knowledgeable fan and participant in several sports, notably long distance running. She organized "Las Tortugas" ("The Turtles") team which ran a very fine "Homecoming Classic" in this centennial year. With the assistance of a grant from Western, Patricia traveled to Buenos Aires to research her forthcoming book on the poetry of Oliverio Girondo. Last year she also presented several papers and wrote a number of book reviews. This semester Professor Montilla is teaching courses on Hispanic culture in the United States and on fantasy in South American literature.

Holly Nibert has taught at Western since 1999. She is a specialist in Spanish linguistics (Ph.D. at U. of Illinois), with particular expertise in phonetics, phonology, dialectology and language acquisition. Besides teaching the teaching of teaching (she gives the course Methods of Teaching College Spanish), Holly loves to dance. She is an accomplished practitioner of all types of Caribbean steps and rhythms, a talent that brings life to both her students and colleagues. Actually, Holly does not need to dance to energize herself since she is kept moving by her responsibilities as director of the basic Spanish courses 100 and 101, taught by 16 graduate assistants whom she supervises. Last year Holly delivered papers at conferences in Santo Domingo and New Orleans and this year is scheduled for three more presentations at equally interesting sites.

Pablo Pastrana Pérez has taught at Western since 2002. He specializes in medieval literature and history of the Spanish language. A native of Old Castile (Castilla la Vieja), Pablo completed his doctorate at the U. of Wisconsin and then taught for several years under the strong Texas sun before returning to more favorable climes in the banana belt of Michigan. Recently, Professor Pastrana has been conducting research in France and Spain for his forthcoming book titled Historia del caballero Clamades: A Critical Edition and Study. Pablo, like his office companion Mike Millar, is fond of camping in the forests of northern Michigan. However, that did not prevent him from going to a conference on the isle of Rhodes in the middle of the summer where he gave a paper on chivalresque literature in medieval Iberia. During the spring and fall Professor Pastrana becomes a soccer coach (slight euphemism) for an AYSO team. In spring semester 2004 he will teach a graduate course on medieval literature. Obviously, Professor Pastrana is a teacher for all seasons.

Mariola Pérez de la Cruz has taught at Western since 1999. She completed her doctorate at the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares and usually spends her summers not far from there. Mariola is a specialist in contemporary Spanish theater. Last year she read papers at conferences in Santo Domingo and Halifax. As director of the intermediate level courses, 200 and 201, Professor Pérez de la Cruz is responsible for the orientation and mentoring of the nine instructors for those courses. As she has done in previous years, last March Mariola organized a Spanish film festival, with free admission for students and public. Films (Spanish with English subtitles) were "Las cartas de Alou, " "Hable con ella" and "Juana la Loca."

Mercedes Tasende has taught at Western since 1991, the same year in which she finished her doctorate at the University of Colorado. She is a specialist in twentieth-century Spanish literature, particularly in the Generation of 1898, the writings of Valle-Inclán and the Civil War period. During the past year she published several articles, one on the influence of Ortega y Gasset on literary criticism of the Sonatas and another on the Sonata de estío. Mercedes spends her summers in Galicia, walking a few stretches of the pilgrims' road to Santiago and taking care to adequately sample the tapas available along the way. This year she also accepted the chore of visiting the city of Santander for the purpose of evaluating the summer courses offered by the Universidad de Cantabria. Professor Tasende is the departmental director of graduate studies, a task which she carries out efficiently and with abundant good humor.

Benjamín Torres has taught at Western since 1990, but is not teaching this year. Benjamín, a specialist in contemporary Spanish American literature, is enjoying a sabbatical leave which promises to be very productive. Among other results, we will soon see his book on the narrative writings of Puerto Rican author Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá. Benjamín is associate director of Caribe, a journal for which he has written several book reviews longer than the books themselves. He is a real baseball fan, especially a Cardinal fan, and also a fan of a basketball team that goes by the improbable name of the "Quakers." Professor Torres, needless to say, doesn't mind losing. Besides, he has no time to bemoan defeats, since every week he receives three books from Amazon.com-- and he reads them.

Robert Vann has taught at Western since 1996. He has a passion for Spanish linguistics, especially socio-linguistics and the study of languages in contact (with each other, of course). Roberto finished his doctorate at the University of Texas, but also maintains close ties with his other alma mater, the U. of Illinois. Professor Vann has returned to the classroom this semester after what might be considered an almost frantic sabbatical leave during which he published four articles. This did not cause him to age, however. Roberto now looks even younger than when he came to Western at the tender age of 22 (we remind readers that we reserve the right to exaggerate, although we have not done so here). The majority of Roberto's recent research has to do with the influence of the Catalán language on Spanish as spoken in the Catalonia region, a topic that he will also treat in a forthcoming book. During his sabbatical, Professor Vann also presented several papers and talks, one of them at the Universitat de Lleida (in Lérida, Spain). As a result of Professor Vann's visit to Lleida, Western had the pleasure of hosting a visit by Professor Monserrat Casanovas, herself a linguist, who came to Western as representative of her institution to finalize an academic exchange agreement between the two schools.

Elaine Gaudio is not a teacher at Western, but she teaches many things to many people. She is the first administrative secretary of the Department of Spanish, having previously held a similar position in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures since 1993. Elena has degrees in biology and Spanish. She studies in our graduate courses when her work schedule allows it. Everyone who has studied or worked here in the past decade knows that there is not a more pleasant, more helpful or more efficient person at this university. Elena's greatest satisfaction comes from helping people. Since she does that constantly, she is a happy woman. Elena has made several trips to Mexico and plans to make more. She has so many friends in Spain that she will soon need to visit that country as well.

Congratulations! Scholarship and Award Recipients

Students are the essence of the university. They come in all sizes and ages, with different talents, and they all contribute to the formation of an optimal learning environment. We appreciate all of them and their desire to learn Spanish. Those who have distinguished themselves in their studies are too numerous to mention here, so we will consider the following students as representatives of their peers. Congratulations to Allison Danforth (Kalamazoo), Departmental Presidential Scholar, as well as to all the other recipients of scholarships and awards, and to their family members, classmates and friends who share in their accomplishments.

Spanish Departmental Awards

Shaun Wayman (Kalamazoo)
Courtney Grimes (Zeeland)
Britt Hamer (Midland)
Kristen Yount (Troy)
Carlos Santiago Lugo (Kalamazoo)
Lesley Frakes (Holt)
Hillary Molengraff (Holland)
Melissa Bottke (Wixom)
Heather Tubbs (Sandusky)
Megan Haas (Farmington Hills)
Premio Octavio Paz
Premio Jorge Luis Borges
Premio Joan Coromines
Premio Rosalía de Castro
Premio Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
Premio María Moliner
Premio Suzanne M. Wheatley
Premio Alfonso X el Sabio
Premio Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Premio Antonio de Nebrija
These awards (books in the majority of cases) were acquired with funds donated to the department. Our sincere appreciation to the many people who have made donations during 2002 and 2003.


Memorial Scholarships

Angela Zainea (Jackson)
Allison Danforth (Kalamazoo)
Lindsey Cherry (Saginaw)
Nicole Metcalf (Marne)
Herb B. Jones Scholarship
Mathilde Steckelberg Scholarship
Lori Beth Pattison Scholarship
Sue C. Mardis Scholarship
The Herb B. Jones Scholarship ($500) is given in memory of Professor Jones (see article). Our sincere appreciation to the following persons; John and Seidy Benson, Roger and Malou Cole, Delia DeMaso, Dora DeMaso, Mary C. Lens.

The Mathilde Steckelberg Scholarship ($700) is supported by funds donated by the late Ms. Steckelberg, Professor of Latin and Chair of the Language Department.

The Lori Beth Pattison Scholarship ($1500) is given in memory of our former student and university professor of Spanish. The scholarship is awarded annually to the Spanish major considered the best student of literature. Our sincere appreciation to Dr. Dale Pattison and his family.

The Sue C. Mardis Scholarship ($2500) is given in memory of Ms. Mardis, who taught Spanish and French in the public schools. She was a strong advocate of study abroad. This award for study in a Spanish-speaking country is supported by funds donated by Bonnie Mardis.


Ruth Y. Kirby Scholarships in Spanish

Amanda Bellino (Geneva, IL)
Amanda Boyce (Livonia)
Steven Collings (Holland)
Rebekah Friesen (Troy)
Aimee Harasim (Mattawan)
Michele Louis (Vicksburg)
Katherine May (Lewiston)
Errin Menna (Trenton)
Samantha Mudge (South Lyon
Casey Pierce (Northport)
(Ruth Y. Kirby Scholarships in Spanish). These scholarships with a value of $1100 each are awarded from the funds donated by Ruth Y. Kirby. Ms. Kirby taught foreign languages at Western and in the public schools in Kalamazoo and Portage. The scholarships she established may be used either for study on campus in Kalamazoo or for study abroad.


President's Award and Scholarships for Study Abroad

Lisa Bungert (Comstock Park) *
Liza Brockway (Kalamazoo)
Jamie Hanson (Holland)
Kirsten Jorgensen (Rockford)
Dacia Reinhold (Williamsburg)
Vanda Snyder (Kalamazoo)
Ellen Waisanen (Farmington)
(President's Award and Scholarships for Study Abroad). These scholarships, funded by the university, were established for students of foreign language by former president Diether Haenicke (*Recipient of President's Award). The President's Award is for $2500, the other scholarships for $2000 each. We are grateful for the vision and support of Dr. Haenicke.

Sports Report

The Mambo Kings won the championship. After many hard-luck seasons and hundreds of plays, both bad and good, and after thousands of hours of analysis of the mysteries of softball and the human condition, the Mambos reached the pinnacle of the sports world (as if there were any other) on a hot August night crowded by insects whose wings made not music. The ten-foot trophy is now displayed in one office after another, the individual golden (bronze?) gloves proudly grace fireplace mantles, and the team photo covers doors, walls and computer screens. Might there be a more important event in the lives of these athletes (professors, students, alums and friends), youngsters still and forever? No way. Not close. Forget it. Congratulations to the Mambos of this glorious season of 2003: Gary Bigelow, Ben Jones, Arnie Johnston, Jack VanEngen, Michael Recchia, Steve Satisky, Mike Wagner, Joey Hall, Mike Millar, Bryan Hill, Jorge Febles, Antonio Isea and Scott Bango.

Las Tortugas (The Turtles) did not win the Homcoming Classic, but they put in a great race. All the Turtles, aptly trained by their swift leader Montilla, covered in mere minutes the 5K course across campus, not lacking for hills (as former students will remember). It was a splendid affair, properly and eloquently described by phantom sports commentator La Fidedigna (The Trustworthy One): "These eight Titans have inscribed a memorable page in the annals of the Department of Spanish . . . The passing years will never diminish the well-deserved fame of these Turtles." Well done, Turtles: Patricia Montilla, Scott Bango, Greg Benson, Carmen Febles, Luis Flores, Seidy Flórez, Iñaki Rivas, Javier Saorín.

Cultural Corner

The centennial year has commenced with a flurry of cultural activity offering a variety of events. On September 4, the day after the official inauguration of the centennial and of new WMU president, Dr. Judith Bailey, the Spanish Department held its own inaugural ceremony. Faculty, graduate students and friends of the department gathered in the Language Library in Brown Hall for a triple toast: to the new TAs and DAs, to the new century at Western, and to the new Department of Spanish.

The first extracurricular cultural event of the year arrived on September 24, in the person of well known Chilean writer and critic, Marjorie Agosín. Dr. Agosín, who has taught at Wellesley College since 1982, talked of her experiences as a Jewish women author who writes in Spanish within a predominantly Christian, English-speaking culture. Professor Agosín came to Western accompanied by our former student, Natalia Gómez, herself a professor of Spanish at Grand Valley State University. It was a genuine pleasure to welcome Dr. Agosín to Western and to see Natalia again.

Mario Bencastro, Salvadoran painter and writer, spent three days at Western in early October at the invitation of the university's Visiting Scholars and Artists program. His visit to Western was made possible by funds obtained by Professor Millar. Mr. Bencastro, author of the novels Disparo en la catedral and Odisea al norte, is presently working on a new book titled Viaje a la tierra del abuelo. The socio-political situation, the civil war in El Salvador and the emigration of many people from that country to the United States, are the topics of these novels, published in Spanish and subsequently translated into English. In his characteristically warm and informal manner, Mr. Bencasto gave several presentations in Spanish and English, all well received by students and faculty from a number of departments.

Monserrat Casanovas Catalá, professor of linguistics at the University of Lleida (Lérida, Spain), was invited to Western by the Haenicke Institute. Dr. Casanovas represented her university at the signing of an exchange agreement with Western. Her presence at our university came about as the result of contacts made by Professor Vann last year when he was invited to give a lecture at the U. of Lleida. Professor Casanovas made good use of her time at Western presenting two talks, one in English and another in Spanish, on the subject of teaching Catalán, Spanish and English. Her visit, both pleasant and productive, coincided with the peak fall colors, which we hope she found beautiful.

Unclassified Notes

Roberto Robles Valencia (M.A., 2003), resident of the city of Burgos to which he has now returned, was one of only six graduate students (of more than 6000 at Western) recognized by the Graduate College as an All-University Research and Creative Scholar. Congratulations, Roberto.

Bryan Hill, resident of this fair city of Kalamazoo, was one of only six graduate students at Western to be recognized by the Graduate College with the All-University Award for Graduate Student Teaching Effectiveness. Very nice, Bryan.

Nicole Metcalf (who will finish her master's degree next year) and Marcie Noble (who just completed hers) are presently in Burgos taking advanced courses at the Universidad de Burgos. How fortunate they are.

María Rama is another fortunate grad student. She will spend next semester studying on a scholarship at the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro. Other Spanish M.A. students who have received similar scholarships from the UAQ in previous years are Rashmi Rama, Melissa Coulter, Kate McCarthy and Corey Thompson.

Steven Kokmeyer, who graduated from Western in 1986 with majors in biology and Spanish, received the Alumni Achievement Award in Foreign Languages and Literatures for 2002. Dr. Kokmeyer completed medical school at the University of Michigan and did his internship in Kansas City. At present he is an orthopedic physician and surgeon affiliated with Kalamazoo Valley Orthopedics. Steve has found his Spanish useful in speaking with some local patients, as well as in Costa Rica where he has done volunteer work. Congratulations, Dr. Kokmeyer.

Thomas King, a 1977 graduate from Western with majors in political science and Spanish, received the Alumni Achievement Award in Spanish for 2003. Mr. King completed his law degree at Loyola University. He specializes in municipal and governmental law and is a partner in the firm Kreis, Enderele, Callender & Hudgins, with offices in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Tomás continues to be an enthusiastic traveler to Mexico, a good habit which he acquired during his student days at Western. Congratulations, lawyer King.

Changes and Non-Changes

Some things change with the years, others do not. Our cause, the education of students, has not changed. The way in which this cause is financed has indeed changed, and not to the advantage of our students. Therefore, unfortunately, the way in which we support our cause needs to change also. We have never before requested donations, but we think it is our responsibility to do so now. Our students need assistance. If you can help, even a bit, we will be very grateful.

John Benson
Chair, Department of Spanish
john.benson@wmich.edu

Three options, only one cause: the Students

A few decades ago Western students paid for approximately 30% of the cost of their education, the State of Michigan covered 70%.

This year students pay for over 50% of the costs, the State covers less than half. Even without analyzing the causes of this situation, we can all understand the consequences. The students feel them.

_____Herb B. Jones Student Support Fund. These funds are used for $500 scholarships, minigrants for purchase of books, minigrants for research support, student cultural activities. Donations of any amount are welcome and appreciated.

_____Circle Cervantes. These funds will be used to assist students who show a strong interest in Spain and in Spanish culture. Depending on the amount available, funds could be used for minigrants, books, videos and DVDs, cultural programs focused on Spain.

_____Circle Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. These funds will be used to assist students who show a strong interest in Spanish America and its culture and/or in Hispanic culture in the United States. Depending on the amount available, funds could be used for minigrants, books, videos and DVDs, cultural programs focused on Spanish American or U.S. Hispanic culture.

Checks should be made out to the Department of Spanish-Western Michigan University. They should be sent to WMU Foundation, 1903 W Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49008.

Where are you? . . . Let us know

The faculty and Elena love to receive e-mails from former students, even if they are just to ask for a recommendation. Dozens of you send us notes on a more or less regular basis: those who are in Ph.D. programs at other schools; those who are traveling in South America, Europe, Oceania or Africa; those who are teaching somewhere in the wide world; those whose children are already in college; those who have passed through the streets and the classrooms of Querétaro and Burgos; those who no longer remember all the vocabulary they learned here; and others. Thank you for your notes and news. If you would like us to share your news with readers of future newsletters we will do our best to oblige, but in any case we want you to know that we enjoy hearing from you. So please let us know where you are. Can we share your news with other readers?