Alumni Events News

April 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Spanish Alumni: Big Dreams, Exciting Journeys, and Fulfilling Careers

Alumni of Spanish and Latin American Studies programs at Spring Colloquium.

Alumni of Spanish and Latin American Studies programs at Spring Colloquium.

The Spanish and Latin American Studies alumni who came to campus in April had two things in common—a love for languages and widely varying career paths that led to jobs they love.

For Spanish-related majors, pursuing dreams often involves studying and working in some interesting places. “I came to my parents as an 18-year-old and said, ‘Mom, Dad I’m studying abroad—in Nicaragua, with a side trip to Cuba!’ Then I came to them one day and said, ‘I’m going be taking off to work in Angola for a couple of months, so don’t worry about me. You raised me to be a curious person, and I need your buy-in to pursue my dreams,’” said Hilary Jones ’03M, one of several alumni telling their stories and networking with students at the 17th annual Spring Spanish and Latin America Colloquium, “Sculpting the Future: Career Paths after Ohio University,” March 28-29.

“It’s amazing the plethora of careers that people have gone into from OU. And I’m finding out more and more that once a Bobcat always a Bobcat. Bobcats seem to help each other,” said Dr. Betsy Partyka, Associate Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages in the College of Arts & Sciences. Alumni with stories to share can email Read how the colloquium came to be, 17 years ago. Hear poet Dr. Fernando Operé read from selected poems from his book, “La vuelta al mundo en 80 poemas.”

Breaking into the Intelligence Community

Kathryn Hampton ’05, a counter-narcotics intelligence analyst, opened the colloquium with her intriguing talk about intelligence in the United States. After spending a year abroad in Venezuela following high school, Hampton began her studies at Ohio University in 2001 as a double major in Spanish and Journalism in the Honors Tutorial College. During her junior year, she returned to Venezuela on a scholarship from the National Security Education Program. In the evenings, she became “obsessed” with watching nighttime soap operas, or telenovelas. She began to realize that these soap operas were very politically charged, and she decided to write her thesis on “The Use of Political Propaganda in the Telenovelas of a Venezuela in Crisis.”

After graduating from Ohio University in 2005, Hampton held jobs as a Press Secretary for a statewide agency and as a Communications Specialist at Nationwide Insurance before deciding to fulfill her government work commitment for her time in the National Security Education Program. She now works as an intelligence analyst and has completed a master’s in strategic intelligence at the National Intelligence University. In addition to sharing stories about the exciting places her career has allowed her to visit, Hampton offered students advice on becoming part of the intelligence community: “Take your education seriously… challenge yourself … study abroad and master a language … work on your writing skills … and get comfortable speaking in front of groups.”

A ‘Love Affair’ with the Yucatan

Dr. Jim Michnowicz ’96, ’98M, Associate Professor of Spanish at North Carolina State University, talked about his career route: “Athens to Mérida: Yucatán Spanish, Language Change and Linguistic Identity.” Michnowicz earned a B.S. in Spanish Education, followed by a M.A. in Spanish from Ohio University in 1998. He then spent four years teaching at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise before attending Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics in 2006.

While obtaining his Ph.D., Michnowicz was drawn to the Yucatan in Mexico. His “love affair” with the Yucatan began in 1994 when he studied abroad there as a sophomore. He parlayed this interest into his dissertation work “Linguistic and Social Variables in Yucatan Spanish.” He credits the contacts he made through Ohio University for his success in conducting research in the Yucatan. Now, Michnowicz teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at North Carolina State University, while continuing his research in dialectology of Yucatan Spanish.

Special Guest: La vuelta al mundo en 80 poemas

Special guest Dr. Fernando Operé, Professor of Spanish and Director of the Latin American Studies program at the University of Virginia, read selected poems from his book, La vuelta al mundo en 80 poemas. Listen to his reading.

Supporting Entrepreneurship in Latin America, Caribbean

Hilary Jones, who earned an M.A. in Latin American Studies with a concentration in International Affairs from Ohio University in 2003, is a senior analyst operational legal officer with the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., which is the largest source of financing for Latin America and the Caribbean. She currently assists with more than $25 million in projects and talked at the colloquium about “Social Entrepreneurship and Start-ups in Latin America.”

Jones was awarded a Fulbright fellowship in 2005 and studied Brazil and Montevideo, where she researched agriculture and cooperatives participating in trade policy. She’s currently in the Georgetown University MBA program.

“Rather than going from one huge achievement and the mind-boggling success of a career,” she talked at the colloquium “about all the failures and all the difficulties of what it really takes to get to a point where you can sort of breathe and say, ‘I have health insurance!’” Her advice to students: “I want you to be thinking really hard as you’re going through and thinking about what the next step is of having the biggest dreams. And then I also want you to think about the logistics of putting food on the table while that happens.” Listen to her journey.

Combining Theater and Language Learning Into a Career

Marda Rose ’96, ’04M told attendees to “Build What You Love into What You Do: Combining Theater and Language Learning into a Career.”

A Spanish major, Rose was the first person to take advantage of National Security Education Program, spending six months in Paraguay in 1995. After graduation, she taught high school for a while in the Cleveland area, did a Fulbright exchange and taught in Colombia, then went to the Middlebury M.A. program in Vermont. “She went back down to Colombia, and we had an opening for a visiting professor here, and Marda came back and taught at Ohio for three years,” said Partyka, “and during that time she decided to do her master’s in Linguistics. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics, studying second language acquisition at Indiana University, while teaching at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.” She has spent multiple summers teaching language and theater in the Middlebury summer intensive language school in both Middlebury, VT, and in California.

“I think since middle school I’ve always been interested in language learning and theater,” Rose said. “I study how people learn language, and that’s my passion, too, and there’s a way to bring these things together.” She talked about “how you can continually connect the dots in what you do.” Listen to where the path led her.

Joining Advocacy and Academia to Fight Violence Against Women

Lauren Whitmer ’05, ’10M earned an undergraduate degree in Spanish, a minor in Anthropology, and a certificate in Latin American Studies while an Honors Tutorial College student, followed by an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Ohio University with a Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies. Her thesis was on “There’s No Respect: An Ethnographic Study of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in Lambayeque, Peru.” Now she is an instructor in the Anthropology Department, as well as the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, at Miami University. She talked about “Academia and Advocacy: Bringing Them Together in the Fight Against Violence Against Women.”

Whitmer remarked, “I have navigated in this very serpentine way to get where I’m at and kind of create things where things already exist so that I can do what I want. And it’s worked out remarkably well. It’s been a really interesting journey and it just keeps getting better and better. I had the privilege of working with Dr. Partyka for my very first quarter here, really being pushed and learning to push myself.”

She had “wonderful opportunities to study abroad as an undergraduate, including 12 months in Peru as a sophomore. Before her master’s, she took some time off to get some “life experience.” She moved back to Peru for two years to teach English. “I also worked as a tour conductor, so I got paid to go on vacation with people, which was the best job ever. If you can get that job, quit whatever you’re doing now and do that!” She also worked in a travel agency and even at Panera Bread before returning to Ohio the master’s program in Latin American Studies, where she specialized in cultural anthropology and did the Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. Doing research in Peru “is when I really found my niche.” Listen to see what she’s doing now.

Bringing New Insights to an Old Story

“I bring to you a cautionary tale. If you study Spanish, and I speak now to the undergraduates and graduates, if for some reason naval intelligence is not interested in you, if you are not going to get paid to take vacations, if the inter-American Bank is not interested in what you’ve got to do, if you don’t have the good sense to go to the Yucatan and get engaged in dialectology, you may actually get what you’re studying for … and then you’ll be forced to give a presentation just like this,” said Dr. Sean McDaniel, ’86, ’94M, as the crowd laughed.

McDaniel, Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, earned both an undergraduate degree and an M.A. in History and Spanish from Ohio University in 1994, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in early modern peninsular Spanish literature. He talked about “El lazarillo de tormes: Always New.”

“What I wanted to suggest with the title is the idea that despite being the subject of literally hundreds and hundreds of articles and books over the last 50 years alone, El lazarillo remains open to serious study and investigation. To my mind, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface.

“When I read El lazarillo for the first time with Abelardo Moncayo on this campus many, many years ago, and I sat in those classrooms in Ellis Hall, and discussed for the first time el ciego, el cura, y el escudero,  the work felt as remote and as alien to me as it no doubt does for my own students now. What I did not know then but know now is that Drs. Moncayo, Serna, Torres, Franz, Burton, Weissenrieder , and the other OU professors in Spanish, history and the multitude of other disciplines that I dabbled in during my undergraduate and graduates studies here… All of their work, for which I was not worthy, they gave me the tools that I needed not only to read and understand El lazarillo, but to come, I hope, to make a meaningful contribution to its critical understanding.

“OU is the rock upon which my career as a teacher and scholar has been built, and I am grateful for everything that OU has done for me.” Listen to him discuss El Lazarillo de Tormes.

Still Studying Abroad

Lori Lammert ’03, ’05M, Associate Director of the Ohio University Study Abroad Office, rounded up the alumni presentations on the second day of the colloquium by talking about “Where Are They Now? What Spanish/Latin American Studies Program Grads Are Doing with Their Lives.”

Lammert earned a B.S. in Journalism with a concentration in Spanish and Sociology, followed by an M.A. in Spanish from Ohio University in 2005. Since then she has traveled to France, Australia, Africa and to Southeast and East Asia, where she has helped develop new programs for the study abroad office.

“When I was a senior here as an undergraduate in journalism, I was really unsure what career path I wanted to go down, and I talked with Dr. Partyka a lot about that…. I knew I was very passionate about the study abroad I’d had. I knew I really loved the Spanish I had studied, so she convinced me to stay for my master’s in Spanish. And from there, the path I’ve taken has been a more administrative path, but I very much enjoy teaching and I very much enjoyed studying the literature when I did my master’s here. I look back on those two years fondly.

“Whenever I tell people what I do there are always two questions that I get. The first is, “Oh my gosh, do you travel everywhere?’ The other question that I get all the time is, ‘So are you like a travel agent?’” Listen to her answers.

About the Spring Spanish and Latin America Colloquium

The colloquium was sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, Latin American Studies, the Center for International Studies, the College of Arts & Sciences, Communication and Development, English, History, Political Science, International Development Studies, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Economics, Women and Gender Studies, the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, and Honors Tutorial College.

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