IU’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese was recognized as best in the state.
The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese gave IU’s program a 5 Sun Spanish department distinction based on its excellence in academics, cultural and extracurricular opportunities for students.
Israel Fernando Herrera, Indiana AATSP President, said he believes the bevy of available activities and resources sets IU’s program apart.
“IU’s professors and programs gives students so many opportunities for student involvement beyond just learning to speak a language,” Herrera said. “Students can engage in the Latino community through music, theater and community service.”
The department’s activities and groups are expansive, Herrera said. Students may perform theater in Spanish, regardless of previous experience, with Grupo de Teatro VIDA.
The Spanish and Portuguese Song Festival and the Iberoamerican Film Series allows students to experience music and film in their language of study. Students can also perfect their fluency by going to weekly speaking practice sessions at Café Hispano and Cafezinho.
Herrera said IU’s department is ranked in the top five in the nation for the quality of education it provides for students.
Two professors, Vania Castro and Estela Vieira, received awards for excellence in teaching Portuguese. Five senior Spanish majors — Holly Hays, Andru Shiveli, Emma Hughes, Emily Milojkovitch and Rebecca Reeder — were honored with the Indiana Outstanding College Student Award. Two senior Portuguese majors — Megan Dyer and Joseph Romano — were also honored.
Herrera said the student awards recognize non-native students studying Spanish or Portuguese who have a G.P.A. of 3.7 or above and participated extensively in events related to their language of study.
“It is so astounding to see that some of these students have three majors or two majors and two minors and they still find time to participate in outside class activities to polish their language skills,” Herrera said.
Castro said the intimacy and dedication of the department make it a wonderful work environment.
“I like that I have strong support and respect from both colleagues and the staff. I feel that not only do I have the opportunity but I am encouraged to grow and to be creative in my work.”
Hughes said the department is full of passion from faculty and students.
“Everyone in this department knows that they’re making huge strides with these languages and takes pride in the work that they do here,” Hughes said.
Hughes has studied Spanish since middle school. In high school, she studied abroad in Valencia, Spain, through IU’s Honors Program in Foreign Languages. Hughes said her study abroad experience made her want to pursue Spanish seriously in college.
“After I studied abroad, I realized this was something I could really get into,” Hughes said. “The cultural cross-over and immersion was really interesting to me.”
Hughes also studied abroad in Madrid for a year and said the rigor of the program was hugely beneficial to her fluency and her appreciation of Spanish culture. She said she is thrilled to receive the AATSP award and said she feels it reflects all the effort she has dedicated to studying Spanish.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Hughes said. “The fact that something I put so much time into professionally, academically and personally is culminating in an achievement like this is really satisfying.”
After graduation, Hughes said she hopes to return to Spain and use her abilities to teach English. She looks forward to living in the country she fell in love with while studying abroad. She said Spanish has become an integral part of her identity through her studies at IU.
“My friends all say that there’s a Spanish Emma and an English Emma,” Hughes said. “There’s a different personality that I get to access what I’m speaking another language that’s special that I couldn’t access otherwise.”
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