Emory Report

August 31, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 2

Faculty 'endure' intensive four-week stint learning Spanish

A two-hour drive northwest of Madrid, Spain, Salamanca is a historic and graceful city and home to the 13th-century University of Salamanca. This summer seven Emory faculty--Natasha Barnes, Bill Brown, Richard Joseph, Anthony Martin, Mary Odem, Bonnie Pomfret and Carol Worthman--spent a month there immersing themselves in Spanish language and culture.

Michael Solomon, associate professor and director of the Spanish department's undergraduate study-abroad programs, came up with the idea for faculty study abroad a few years ago. He thought that using the often-overlooked courtesy scholarship benefit would facilitate faculty participation.

Last spring department chair Carlos Alonso worked with Solomon and colleague Karen Stolley to secure operational support for a pilot program through the Center for Teaching and Curriculum, the Fund for Internationalization and the Emory College dean's office. Salamanca was chosen as the site because existing infrastructure made set-up easy; the university has a well-organized program for language training and the Salamanca Emory Center facility is situated next door to the school.

Participants stayed in the historic district at the city's center. Their four-week program consisted of intensive language courses, a Spanish culture seminar and introductions to Salamanca faculty members who shared their research interests. For five hours a day, instructors from the university's Cursos Internacionales division taught the language classes.

Stolley, an associate professor of Spanish and program coordinator, led the seminar. The group met weekly with a Salamanca art history student for walking tours of the city's art and architecture. He introduced them to convents, Romanesque churches and gothic architecture. Sometimes they indulged in Spain's famous tapas, the culinary delicacies enjoyed in cafés with drinks and conversation. Stolley also organized excursions outside the city to Avilla, Segovia and Toledo as well as a five-day stay in Northern Spain's Galicia.

By all accounts, the faculty experience was an enormous success. "The greatest outcome was the 'ferment,'" Stolley said. "Faculty coming from different disciplines and ranks created the kind of intellectual community that people at Emory talk about. We are always discussing how to achieve that. This program achieved it."

Making the trip with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and their babysitter, Associate Professor of History Mary Odem appreciated how the program accommodated her family's needs. "The advantage for me, having a small child, was that we basically stayed in one place. Salamanca and it seems Spanish cities in general, are family friendly. Every day we would walk to the town square with our daughter. There were whole generations of families gathered there. They were open and friendly. It was a wonderful experience for all of us." As for her professional development, Odem's improved Spanish will help her prepare for the graduate course she will co-teach with Latin American historian Susan Socolow this year.

Tony Martin, assistant professor of geology, found the program benefits multifaceted. Until his summer abroad, the only occasion he'd had to perfect his limited Spanish was through Evening at Emory courses. "The [Salamanca] classes were very challenging, the instructors extremely good," he said. "I made contacts for cooperative research with professors from the university. I can now develop a field course in a Spanish-speaking country, and in my lectures this fall I'll be using slides I took this summer." In Salamanca Martin presented himself with a great challenge: He wrote and delivered a lecture in Spanish about his research specialty.

A filmmaker and instructor in art history, Bill Brown travels frequently to Mexico, Guatemala and the Honduras for his documentaries on the history of the Spanish conquest and Indian civilization. He discovered the value of being a student again. "Oddly enough, the good teachers in the language program helped me as role models. Their attention to the classes and intense, high-level teaching made a big impression." By the end of the program Brown and others were able to read original source materials for their work.

This year the Spanish department will seek ongoing administrative support for this faculty development program, one that holds many potential benefits for teaching and research down the road. "So many Spanish colleagues, and our teachers, exclaimed over the extraordinary largesse of a university that would actually pay faculty to go learn language in an intensive, tutorial system," wrote Worthman, an associate professor of anthropology, in her program evaluation. "Thanks for having me in the program-it was the single most intellectually and personally novel thing I've done in years, so there will be many unexpected repercussions that resound over time."

--Cathy Byrd

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