Why did you start teaching?
I was an avid reader from a very young age. Growing up in a tiny town — even by Clinton standards — the best day of my month was when a mobile library bus arrived full of new books ready to check out. Later on, I decided to study literature. I had been somehow reluctant about my interest in teaching, but everything changed when I entered the classroom for the first time as an instructor during graduate school. Then, I realized that all those years of reading and studying made real sense when sharing a space with my students to help them broaden their worldview by learning about societies, languages, and lifestyles other than their own.
Why did you choose Hamilton?
Other than a semester abroad, all my academic experiences were at big public universities in Spain and the United States, so I was very curious about the vision of pedagogy at liberal arts colleges. For me, the best part of being an educator is connecting with the students at a personal level, learning what their interests and goals are or what excites them the most. Language courses are particularly welcoming to this type of sharing. I was very pleased with the idea of working with highly motivated students who were not required to take language courses. As a medievalist, I felt this was the right place for me when I started talking with my department colleagues and realized how they view historical studies as an essential part of the curriculum. Things only got better when I arrived at the campus and met a tight group of colleagues working on medieval and renaissance studies across disciplines.
Please tell us about your research interests.
In one way or another, my research interests investigate the nature of cross-cultural relationships in medieval and early modern Spain. During almost eight centuries, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities coexisted in the Iberian Peninsula, resulting in countless contacts and exchanges that shaped the evolution of Spain. This cross-cultural heritage has been primarily viewed through the lens of military conflict or sometimes idealized. I am interested in how literary and non-literary texts from that period reveal more subtle interactions. It amazes me how many of the challenges and opportunities we face in our increasingly diverse societies were also experienced by those people in the distant past.
What’s one of your favorite places on campus?
The pathway that connects the Taylor Science Center and the buildings of the former Kirkland College. One thing I enjoy most is walking around looking at buildings and hearing the distant murmurs of lively conversations. It’s one of those things that I used to do inadvertently growing up in Spain. When I leave my office in CJ, I like walking a bit along the pathway, trying to spot a black squirrel or a woodpecker.
“For me, the best part of being an educator is connecting with the students at a personal level, learning what their interests and goals are or what excites them the most. Language courses are particularly welcoming to this type of sharing.”
What are you looking forward to this semester?
I’m teaching an introduction to Spanish literature, from its origins to the 21st century. Survey courses are some of my favorites because they reveal the breadth of styles, issues, and experiences portrayed through literature. We are off to a great start in our class discussions. I look forward to reading the student’s written reactions to such a diverse group of readings. Outside class, I have enjoyed the beauty of fall and winter in Upstate New York. I am curious about what spring will look like around the Hill.
What have you learned about your students here?
My students have been outstanding! They are highly motivated to improve their Spanish and grow both linguistically and intellectually. Last semester, I taught mostly juniors and seniors in two quite different courses: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Early Modern Spanish Theater. I realized that Hamilton students always push to do their best, whether that means reading 17th century Spanish or understanding the subtleties of the structure of a language. One thing that stands out is their willingness to challenge any assumption and their openness to think about other cultures and historical periods in their own terms and as means for understanding the pressing issues of our times.