The Department of World Languages and Cultures at Monmouth University has pursued many unique initiatives to promote the campus’s mission for increased inclusivity and diversity. As Mirta Barrea-Marlys, PhD, Associate Professor of Spanish/Italian and Chair of the Department retires from her eleven-year tenure as chair, the Department’s faculty reflect on the programs and advancements that have thrived under her leadership.
“Every department chair’s success depends on supportive faculty, administration, and students, such as those in our department, that are hard-working and recognize the importance of diversity, linguistic knowledge, and cultural understanding,” said Barrea-Marlys. She further emphasized the dedication of the faculty by noting some of the Department’s programs, such as the Major in Spanish and Communication, its vast range of experiential education opportunities, the Spanish for Business Minor, and the recent Department-wide achievement that now requires all University students to take one semester of a language.
Frank Ciprani, MA, Director of the Major in Spanish and Communication and Specialist Professor for the Department of World Languages and Cultures gave some background around the importance of language-based majors. “It is important that the Department offers language majors and classes that optimize students’ ability to be capable, global citizens since English is no longer front and center in the world,” started Ciprani. “Most of the world is at least bilingual, which means those Americans who aren’t are at a competitive disadvantage on the global stage.”
Priscilla Gac-Artigas, PhD, Fulbright Scholar, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature, and former Department chair expanded on the Spanish Communication Program, “Under the direction of Professor Frank Cipriani, we have a student-run, Spanish radio show, Nuestros Sonidos Latinos — an award-winning show that won first place for the best foreign-language broadcast in the Intercollegiate Broadcast System (IBS) in 2020.” She continued, “Receiving that award made Monmouth University the first university radio station outside California to achieve the honor.”
In addition to the Department’s collaboration with the Communication Department, Julia Riordan-Goncalves, PhD, Associate Professor, and Director of the Spanish for Business Minor described the Department’s unique minor program. “The Spanish for Business Minor is a very important part of the World Languages Curriculum. It is the only in-depth and comprehensive Spanish for Business Minor in New Jersey, and it is one of only a few in the country,” said Riordan-Goncalves. “It offers Monmouth students the chance to develop and hone skills that will benefit them when they go on the job market and in their future careers.”
Students are also encouraged by the Department to pursue study abroad opportunities that facilitate greater language proficiency. Alison Maginn, PhD, Associate Professor for the Department of World
Languages and Cultures, is also the Director of the study abroad program in Cadiz, Spain. Maginn said, “I’ve yet to meet a student who did not flourish when able to practice and apply their linguistic and intercultural skills within a global community…The student who leaves the familiarity of their home or campus, whether locally or abroad, gains a new perspective about global communities and themselves.” Maginn also added, “Outcomes from these experiences prove to me every time that academic, social and civic learning is greatly enhanced for our students and our community partners when both groups have the opportunity to connect and collaborate through an immersive experience in a bilingual, multilingual and/or translingual dynamic.”
Maginn, also a former chair of the department, highlighted how Barrea-Marlys has contributed to the Department’s overarching mission for inclusivity and diversity. “Professor Barrea-Marlys has supported and also created similar experiences both locally and abroad. She has been instrumental in establishing a partnership with a local hospital so that students training for health professions can have placements using their Spanish in clinical contexts,” elaborated Maginn. “She has also served as a member and chair of the Global Education Committee, guiding our efforts to oversee all current and new global programs,” Maginn said. She continued, “On a curricular level, Professor Barrea-Marlys has advocated for a replacement of our tenure-track position in Afro-Hispanic Studies. New courses developed in this field were in demand and continue to be highly relevant and sought after by our students.”
Barrea-Marlys’ successor as chair, Riordan-Goncalves, hopes she can continue the momentum carried from Barrea-Marlys’ term. “I want to continue the good work done by Dr. Barrea-Marlys as well as that of my departmental colleagues,” said Riordan-Goncalves. “While we already offer a rich and varied curriculum that enhances and develops students’ linguistic and cultural competence, I would very much like to enhance our course offerings with specific sections of courses dedicated to topics of interest to Monmouth students, honors sections, additional courses in Caribbean and Central and South American literatures, as well as and cultures and Spanish for Health Professionals.” Gac-Artigas added, “To this end, our department does not work in a vacuum. We strive to tend bridges with other departments and schools to provide our students with tools and venues to insert successfully in this globalized world.”
In speaking on behalf of the Department, Barrea-Marlys said, “We are passionate and proud of our offerings and support for our students, despite full-time staff shortages and the challenge of the pandemic, which unfortunately limited our global education programs around the world.” Barrea-Marlys further described how unbalanced the Department is between full-time and adjunct faculty (6 to 20 ratio), which currently prevents it from expanding the Latino/a/x programming. As she wraps up her eleven-year tenure, Barrea-Marlys reflects, “I am beyond grateful to my colleagues that are also so passionate about languages and the missions of the department and university. Without my colleagues, both in the department and beyond, and support from the administration throughout the years, we would not have been able to become part of Gen ED nor expand our programs.”