The World Language Department’s faculty and students are working to promote Spanish elective courses while also brainstorming ways for curriculum enhancements. For example, Professor of Spanish, Luis Mora-Ballesteros, Ph.D., not only wants to emphasize the importance of studying a language, but also encourage the University’s language elective course, Afro-Caribbean Literature (FS-398). This course is commonly taken by students pursuing a major in Spanish.
According to Mora-Ballesteros, this class is conducted in such a way that enables students to better grasp both the Spanish language and heritage of Latin America and the Caribbean. “I am pleased that the course includes integrated tasks that allow students to enhance their reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills to develop their Spanish Advanced Proficiency,” explained Mora-Ballesteros. Afro-Caribbean Literature has an additional historical element, incorporating the language learning process with themes of diversity, race, culture, and identity politics in Hispanic Caribbean cultural production.
Mora-Ballesteros continued, “It is an ambitious class that pursues to make visible other Afro-Latinx and Caribbean identities by exploring artistic productions and their creators whose roots and backgrounds are from the Hispanic Caribbean.”
Mora-Ballesteros noted how this course in particular aligns with his goals as a professor. “One of my key objectives as a teacher is to motivate my students to maintain a high level of dedication and advise by encouraging them to discover and acquire skills autonomously,” said Mora-Ballesteros, “In doing so, I am cognizant of and aim for both current requirements for global intercultural proficiency and a high standard of college challenges at Monmouth and beyond.”
Current students of Afro-Caribbean Literature agreed with Mora-Ballesteros. Reya Foster, fourth year Spanish and education major, expressed her interest in taking courses related to Latin America. “I have an affinity for learning about Latin America, specifically about the African Diaspora in Latin America. The Afro-Caribbean Literature course exposed me to the nuances of Latin American culture via the exploration of works from Afro-Latino creators.” Foster mentioned that it is this emphasis on achievements that she is most passionate about. “While we do examine the role of colonization and the influences it has on the region, I appreciate that the course is centered around the accomplishments and contributions (whether it be literary, cinematic, or musical) of African descendants, highlighting the extent to which these contributions shaped the region, and consequently, our world.”
Katelyn Fabian, undergraduate Spanish major, concurred with Foster, underscoring how essential courses like Afro-Caribbean Literature exist at Monmouth. “As part of the Caribbean community on campus, it is important that we get recognition. Just as other cultures have served as an object of academic study, the Caribbean should too,” said Fabian, “The Afro-Caribbean Literature course is special because it studies the Caribbean not superficially but as an academic subject with many layers.”
With more courses like these within the Spanish undergraduate and graduate curriculums, Mora-Ballesteros believes that the University will foster greater inclusivity among its students while providing more avenues by which students can effectively learn a language. “I encounter this course as a remarkable opportunity to facilitate inclusivity as we continue disseminating awareness of the Caribbean cultures, community engagement, and cultural grasp with the students at Monmouth University,” said Mora-Ballesteros.
Foster recommended several ways the University could expand the variety of classes available to students. Foster started, “I propose a more in-depth study of specific countries in Latin America. While the existing curriculum already includes courses regarding Latin America, it is nearly impossible to do an extensive study of the 20 Spanish-speaking countries in the region. However, permitting students the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive investigation on one nation via independent study allows individuals to explore, recognize, and value those cultural niches.”
On the other hand, Fabian suggested a more Caribbean-centered study abroad program. “There is no better way to learn about a culture than actually experiencing it… A study abroad program in the Caribbean would allow students to develop skills such as intercultural communication, adaptability, problem-solving and increase their foreign language proficiency,” added Fabian. Foster concluded, “To learn a language is to learn another way of thinking, making language electives that much more pertinent to Monmouth’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.”