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Alumni Spotlight

Dr. Ana María Díaz-Collazos (Ph.D. Hispanic Linguistics, 2014) and Dr. David Vásquez-Hurtado (Ph.D. Hispanic Literatures, 2016), participated in the creation of the program Borders & Languages at Fort Lewis College, a public liberal arts college (Durango, Colorado) in 2018-2019. Along with Dr. Janine Fitzgerald (Sociology) and Dr. Carolina Alonso (Modern Languages), the program responded to the decline in enrollments in Spanish. It is an interdisciplinary major involving Spanish, Sociology, Criminology, Gender Studies and Cultural Studies.

The program was launched in 2019-2020 with courses such as Music and Borders, Dancing Across Borders (Dr. Díaz-Collazos), Immigration Law and Professional Spanish, Monsters at the Border, Biopolitics and Immigration (Dr. Vásquez-Hurtado), The Immigrant Experience, The Wild Tongue and Latinx Literature (Dr. Alonso), under the coordination of Dr. Fitzgerald. The program is pedagogically innovative in the way language is taught through the lenses of culture. Instead of doing small chunks of culture at the end of a heavy grammar chapter, culture is at the core of the curriculum and language follows as a supportive instrument. The course work offers the flexibility for students to pursue their personal interests, whether they be culture, education, social issues, or the Spanish language.

The course design and implementation has drawn the attention of important academic venues such as the Chronicle of Higher Education and the MLA periodicals. Certain outreach activities have received attention from The Durango Herald, the local newspaper, beginning with the performance of Un violador en tu camino (A Rapist in your Path) created by the Chilean feminist movement Las Tesis, followed by a serenata in Spanish led by Dr. Díaz Collazos with students from her classes. At the same time, Dr. Alonso leads a program of food assistance for students called the Grub Hub, also recognized by The Durango Herald as providing an important service to the community.

The program has also met its goal of increasing enrollments. Courses not only meet the maximum occupancy, but also a considerable number of students place themselves on the waiting lists, which shows the need for expansion in course offerings and sections, in contrast to the general tendency of the college to struggle with enrollments.

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