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Alumni Corner

Emily Williams

Emily Williams, ’12 
Spanish and Latin American Caribbean Studies 
State Recruiter, Title One Part C, SC Department of Education 

My time studying Spanish and Latin American Caribbean Studies at College of Charleston truly prepared me for the line of work I am in today.  The Spanish Department offers a myriad of ways to get involved -- from a service learning course, a chance to live in La Casa Hispana, Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish Club, and many internships and fellowships. My professors, experiences, and networks made while completing my undergraduate degree are paramount to my career and continued academic interests. After completing my bachelors, I was a Student Action with Farmworkers Fellow in 2012 and later a Rotary Ambassadorial Global Scholar in 2015-2016 for my masters degree in Human Rights at Carlos III in Spain. Currently, I am working for the Title One Part C Program (Education of Migratory Children and Youth) with the South Carolina Department of Education.  Thanks to my coursework and experience at College of Charleston, I am able to use linguistic knowledge and cultural competency to support Migratory Youth and Children with their educational goals while they are in South Carolina.
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Shannon Himes

Shannon Himes, '14
Spanish
United State Coast Guard Legal Intern
University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law Juris Doctor Candidate, May 2018

“After graduating from CofC I moved to Hawaii with the intention of teaching Spanish. I stumbled into a sailing and snorkeling tour guide job on a catamaran and discovered a new passion for environmental law. This led me to apply to school in my home state of Maryland. I discovered that years of studying Spanish and Italian grammar, writing assignments, and writing my Honors thesis in Spanish at CofC also strengthened my English writing skills. During my second summer of law school I interned with The Nature Conservancy and drafted contracts in Spanish and English. I have also translated for our immigration and domestic violence clinics. I plan to pursue a career that combines my Spanish language skills with my passion for environmental law and I would like to thank my professors at CofC, especially Dr. Vásquez, Dr. Weyers, Dra. Grace, and Dr. Del Mastro, for all of their support and guidance!”

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Justin Lyons

Justin Lyons, ’14
Spanish
Dean of Students, BASIS Phoenix

“I graduated from College of Charleston in 2014 with a BA in Spanish and a Minor in Linguistics. I'm the Dean of Students, which is essentially an assistant principal, for BASIS Phoenix, an accelerated AP curriculum charter school in Arizona. We were voted the Most Challenging High School in America last year by the Washington Post! I handle all of the minor-level discipline and behavior concerns for the 800 kids in the school, and I help teachers with classroom management.

“Additionally, I help out our College Counseling department. We've already had students accepted to Oxford, Brown, and College of Charleston!  

“I get to use my Spanish every day when I speak with our foreign language teachers and our Spanish-speaking students and families. The head of our Spanish department was actually born in Cabo Verde, so I get to use my Portuguese every day, too! Our school is extremely multicultural, with a great deal of our students speaking a different language at home. I feel so fortunate to be able to connect with them on being bilingual because the stigma of having an accent or having parents that don't speak perfect English has no place in an educational environment. I can attribute all of my successes to the College of Charleston and, more specifically, the support I've gotten from the faculty in the Spanish Department.”

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Kim Gabuardi

Kim Gabuardi, ’06
Spanish and Corporate Communications
Certified Medical Interpreter- Spanish

Kim double-majored in Spanish and Corporate Communications and minored in Linguistics while studying at CofC from August 2003 to December 2006, and worked in Hispanic Studies her entire time there. She had planned to go into public relations or advertising, but knew her passion for the Spanish language was greater than her passion for years of likely cubicle life and competition in communication-related fields. It wasn't until she took Dr. Silvia Rodriguez Sabater's Service Learning course that she finally found her dream job: a Spanish medical interpreter. Through this course, she was placed at Angel Oak Family Medicine on Johns Island interpreting for Spanish-speaking migrant workers and she realized how powerful her voice to serve those patients was. This feeling of accomplishment would not have been possible without the professors in the Hispanic Studies department since they not only were extremely effective as professors, but also served as professional role models and were always extremely relatable and available whenever needed. The small classroom size gave students the feeling they belonged to a family and were not just a number in a lecture hall. 

What Kim loved most about all of the professors was how they were always real people who took a genuine interest in their students and how to best expose them to the advantages and opportunities that learning another language could bring. Dr. Elizabeth Martinez-Gibson in particular was extremely influential in Kim's decision to pursue medical interpreting as a profession, so she then went on to get her M.A. in Spanish Translation and Interpretation from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. in May 2008. Immediately after, she moved to Liberia, Costa Rica for a year and a half to become more fluent in Spanish and immerse herself in the language.  She kissed many "career frogs" until becoming certified as a Spanish medical interpreter through NBCMI in November 2017 and has now landed her dream profession as a Healthcare Interpreting Program Representative for the Eric B. Chandler Health Center, run by Rutgers University, in which she acts as a medical interpreter and trains and supervises university students to do the same. 

Kim always looks back on her time at CofC with fondness and still keeps in touch with many of her professors via social media since they are still her real-life role models and have become friends. Her next professional goal is to continue learning Portuguese and eventually get certified as a medical interpreter in that language.

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Jessica Latham

Jessica Latham, '12
Spanish
Spanish and Russian teacher at Lexington High School, SC

Jessica Latham was awarded the 2018 Teacher of the Year Award by the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers’ Association.  Jessica graduated magna cum laude from the College of Charleston with a major in Spanish and minors in both Secondary Education and Russian Studies.  She was also a Fulbright Scholar at Moscow State University in the summer of 2014, and she earned her M.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2016.  Currently she is a faculty member of both Spanish and Russian languages at Lexington High School (Lexington, SC / Lexington School District One) where she teaches Spanish 1, 2, 3 and 3 honors, and Russian 1 honors, 2 honors, and 3 honors.  Beyond the classroom, she is Lexington High School’s sponsor of the Russian Club and the SLAVA International Honors Society, among other distinguished professional activities.

"The experiences that I had at College of Charleston were profoundly unique to the college when I compare them to those of my colleagues who studied at other universities. My classes were small and personal, the professors welcoming and inviting, but most importantly, they were genuinely interested in you and how to fully develop your potential. More than once I went to office hours to get additional assistance and the conversation morphed into what my goals and aspirations were and how best to achieve them. More than once a professor took personal interest in me and encouraged me to publish my essays and further develop classwork into potential research projects, so much so that I finally did take that leap with the support and the guidance of that professor. What stood out the most was the passion that my professors had for both their field and their research, but also for their students, so much so that it was not difficult for me to find that same passion later with my own students."

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Heather Crouch

Heather Crouch, '10
Spanish and Business Administration
Manager of Volunteer Coordination, Supporting Kids in Peru

Heather double-majored in Spanish and Business Administration and graduated from CofC in 2010.  "Studying Spanish was one of the best decisions I have made, it has opened so many doors for me and has allowed me to connect on a different level with the community members I work with. I have had the chance to work both domestically and internationally on causes that I am passionate about and fluency in Spanish has been a key part of doing this work effectively. I am now grateful to be in a position as a volunteer coordinator for SKIP - Supporting Kids in Peru where I am able to help volunteers integrate into the local community and work to increase the quality of education for the children that we work with. The travel and volunteer work that I did during my time at CofC really added to my classroom learning - I would love for some CofC Cougars to join me here in Trujillo, Peru for a chance to increase their skills as well."

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Eric Britton

Eric Britton, '14
Spanish and International Studies
Director of Development, Mayan Families

Eric graduated from the College with a BA in Spanish and a BA in International Studies (Latin American and Caribbean Studies). Directly after graduation, he taught English in Chile through the Chilean government’s Programa Inglés Abre Puertas. He then worked in Maryland politics, first as a legislative aide, then as chief of staff to Senator Cheryl C. Kagan. After two legislative sessions, he decided to return to Latin America. Eric now works for Mayan Families, a US-based NGO which facilitates sustainable development programs to a client base of approximately 15,000 indigenous Mayans in Guatemala. As director of development, he oversees a diverse group of programs, from school sponsorships and health initiatives to emergency aid and microfinance. Eric will begin studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC in August 2018.

“Adding Spanish as a major and studying abroad in Trujillo, Spain have proven to be some of the most impactful decisions I made during my college career. Thanks to the Hispanic Studies department and several inspiring professors, the door for bilingual, international jobs is open to me. As our NGO consists of an 85% local and indigenous workforce, the Spanish language skills I learned at the College have proven to be invaluable to my work (and travel habits)."

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Stephanie Madison Schneck

Stephanie Madison Schenck '06
Spanish
Ph.D. Candidate, Clemson University

Stephanie Madison Schenck graduated from CofC in 2006 with a BA in Spanish and a K-12 Teaching Certification. She earned her MA in Romance Languages from Appalachian State University and is currently a doctoral student at Clemson University in the Literacy, Language, and Culture program. She has taught high school Spanish in North and South Carolina, and elementary school English in Madrid, Spain. Stephanie is the current president of the SC Chapter of the The American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) and serves on the South Carolina Foreign Language Teachers’ Association (SCFLTA) board. In addition, she sponsors the Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica at Clover High School in Clover, SC.

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Elise Lasko

Elise Lasko '11
Spanish and International Business
Training Specialist, Estrellita, Denver, CO

"My CofC studies, along with my 4 years of Spanish immersion while living and working in Honduras and Guatemala in health and development, education, and marketing, have prepared me for my current job working for the Spanish beginning reading program Estrellita.  My job combines everything I love to do: account and client management, travel, speaking Spanish, and working with teachers to help make their students more successful in Spanish reading. Every day I have the opportunity to interact with people from Spanish-speaking countries where we share our cultural backgrounds, regional differences in Spanish, and ways to inspire students through the Spanish language. Bilingual education is spreading throughout the U.S., and I am truly proud to be a part of a movement that is working towards creating a more bilingual and global society."

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Meredith Shay

Meredith Ritz Shay '11
Spanish
Chief Operating Officer, InCord

"I use Spanish on a weekly basis: from fielding customer calls to helping employees with questions and medical translating if they have been hurt. We are an international company, on our video page is a link for the Cinco de Mayo Celebration in Puebla, Mexico. I organized this project, from idea to installation -- and we produced the cargo nets used on the cathedral structure in the video!  "College of Charleston prepared me in so many ways to be sucessful in my career -- analyitical thinking, professionalism, writing and comprehesion skills, Spanish for the workplace ... the list can go on! The stresses and workload are much different; I really enjoy leaving at 5 pm every day and not having anything work- or study-related to do. I will probably go back to school for my Masters degree in a business-related field in a couple of years, but for now I am enjoying gaining valuable experience at a well-run small company."

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MeredithClark

Meredith Clark '02
Spanish
Consulting-Teaching & Learning Special Areas, Region 10 ESC, Texas

"After completing a BA in Spanish in 2002 and a Master’s Certificate in the College’s Bilingual, Legal Interpreting Program, I embarked upon a career in education as a teacher of English as a Second Language, Spanish Language and Hispanic Literature and Culture.  Along this path, I taught in Surry County, North Carolina; San Antonio, Texas; the University of Texas at Austin and the College of William and Mary.  At the University of Texas at Austin, I completed my doctoral research, an analysis of how visual and material textile art intersects with 20th-Century Latin American Poetry.  From this research, I published an anthology of literary criticism about the art and poetry of Chilean poet and artist Cecilia Vicuña, Vicuñiana:  El arte y la poesía de Cecilia Vicuña, un diálogo sur/norte.  Currently, I design and conduct professional development for teachers of World Languages at Dallas Independent School District."

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Laura Ferguson

Laura Ferguson '10
Spanish and Marine Biology
Research Associate, ECS Federal, LLC

"Since graduating from CofC, I have served in the Peace Corps in Peru (2010-2012), earned an M.S. in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University and am now working in Silver Spring, MD for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow. There my work focuses on supporting protected-species science. Our nation's protected species - sea turtles, marine mammals - are called ocean ambassadors because they cross international boundaries in their migrations. As a result, when we study and manage these species, we must cross international boundaries as well. I tap my Spanish occasionally for this coordination, but more often, I draw from the cultural sensitivity we learned in Hispanic Studies, seeking to understand a way of life that is different from our own."

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LaurenOBrien

Lauren O'Brien '05
International Business, Spanish and Pre-Med Studies
Surgical Sales, Ethicon, Inc.

"I never thought that I would tell (in español) someone named Sr. Muñez that we (Embraced) would be giving him a wheelchair, not to worry and that I hoped the rest of his day would be better...  Matter of fact, it was not long ago that I was sitting in class, going through conjugations or getting really frustrated because I couldn't make my mouth get out the jumbled mix of 'español' known as 'Spanglish' that was in my brain. However, looking back on the situation, there is one thing in my life that I am so happy to have achieved, and that is obtaining fluency in Spanish.  I can not express to you the beauty that fluency brings to your life, and I encourage all my fellow alums to keep conjugating, keep practicing and not to give up on your road to fluency.

"As a result of obtaining fluency (thank you to my wonderful professors, especially Sra. Hanahan, Sr. Escobar, Sr. Gómez to name a few) I have been able to connect to another world, one outside of English.  But, little did I know that Spanish would give me an experience and be the tool that would forever change my life.

"I went horseback riding a few days before the MCAT and ended up having an accident that not only left me side-lined for medical school, but also left me with medical equipment.  After healing, I wanted to donate this to someone in need.  I had been serving as a Spanish translator at a health clinic and had seen patients that needed things like crutches, walkers and wheelchairs.  This led me to question: if the purpose of crutches, walkers and wheelchairs are to provide mobility, then why do so many sit idle in closets, basements or worse: landfills?  This was the genesis of 'Embraced.'  

" 'Embraced' is a 501 c 3 organization that I founded.  We are on a mission to mobilize the estimated 87.5 million pieces of orthopedic and prosthetic equipment out of closets, out of basements and into the hands of those that need them most: the uninsured, the underinsured and the less fortunate.  I use my Spanish constantly. Non-US citizens are ineligible for governmental programs like Medicaid, therefore Embraced serves as a solution, providing medical equipment, like the wheelchair for Sr. Muñez, to individuals in need at no cost.  Thus, reducing healthcare spending and providing a solution to an individual in need.  I also utilize my Spanish when we do shipments to Spanish-speaking countries such as Ecuador.  My very own crutches were given to a gentleman in Ecuador.  

"Spanish has broadened my horizon.  I doubt I would have known about the challenges that non-profit health clinics face if I didn't serve as a Spanish translator at one.  I doubt that I would have started Embraced if I didn't speak Spanish.  And, I doubt that without Spanish, through Embraced, I would have had the ability to impact the lives of over 1800 individuals in need.  

"Fluency in another language allows us to connect to folks we might not otherwise be able to....it's beautiful.  I thank all my teachers for this gift and I encourage all of my fellow Cougars to habla."

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Caldwell

Wendy Caldwell '90
English and Spanish
Professor of Spanish & Latin American Literature, Francis Marion University

"The individualized attention that I received from the professors in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the C of C played a huge role in my own professional destiny.  Their passion for the field was contagious, and they inspired me to learn more and to expand my horizons through study abroad.  Summer study in Spain was a defining moment in my undergraduate career.  It opened my world in so many wonderful ways and led me to return for an extended period of time during my graduate studies.  I was also among the first class of undergraduate Spanish conversation instructors.  This experience gave me a taste of what life would be like as a graduate teaching assistant.   I am grateful to the special professors who mentored me and guided me toward a rewarding teaching career in higher education." 

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Hannah Tate

Hannah Tate Smith '10
Communications Major, Spanish Minor
Master of Family and Marriage Therapy student, Converse College

"Since my time in Chile, I have had the opportunity to work in non-profit, a startup, and a finance corporation. In every position that I have had, my Spanish has been extremely useful in connecting with clients, employees, managers - you name it! However, this year will actually be a turning point for me in my career. I have been accepted into the Master of Marriage and Family Therapy program at Converse College and will begin in the Fall of 2016. Through all of my professional experiences, I learned that counseling was my strongest and most favorite skill set - it is my absolute passion, alongside Spanish (of course!). In congruence with pursuing my masters in therapy, I will be traveling to Nicaragua this Fall to do some market research on volunteer opportunities in hopes of leading small groups there to provide 'immersion' for all. I have learned that therapy and immersive travel can go hand in hand, and so I'm thrilled to eventually create a means for individuals to broaden their understanding of themselves and others through international volunteer opportunities. And, of course I'll be partial to leading these trips to Hispanic-speaking countries!"

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 Allessandra Castillo

Alessandra Castillo '10
Political Science Major, Spanish Minor; MBA from Tulane University in International Business
Corporate Relations Manager, Gecamin - Conferences for Mining (Santiago and Lima)

"My experience at College of Charleston helped me to shape my career in international business. Without the Hispanic Studies department, my opportunities to volunteer with the Hispanic community in Charleston through the service-learning course, and my semester abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, I wouldn't have had the knowledge base or confidence in my spoken (and written!) Spanish to develop working relationships with professionals throughout Latin America. Thanks to my experience at CofC, I now have clients and colleagues from Chile, Perú, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, and even Spain!"

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Rogers

Chelsea Rogers '10
Spanish Major, Hospitality and Tourism Management Minor, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Minor
Community Health Organizer, Sustainable Food Center in Austin, TX

"So far after graduation I haven’t ended up quite where I thought I would be, but it has been well worth it.  I am currently in Austin, TX working for a non-profit that strengthens the local food system and improves access to healthy food in low-income areas.  My professors and classes at the College of Charleston inspired me to be open with my future, prepared me for working with Hispanic immigrants and how to integrate more comfortably into their culture while learning the language.  The training and experiences I had in Charleston improved my abilities to reach out to the people I now work with everyday more so than just with language, but culturally as well.  These skills are something I will take with me throughout life and I am very thankful."

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Alicia Shade

C. Alicia Ingram Shade '01
Elementary Education and Spanish
Teaching Assistant Professor of Spanish, UNC-Chapel Hill

"I never planned on majoring in Spanish until I met my CofC professor Dr. Walter Fuentes.  Dr. Fuentes encouraged me to study abroad in Chile, his homeland.  The trip was magical and life-altering, and Dr. Fuentes turned out to be an extremely supportive and immensely inspiring professor.  The decision literally changed my life as I declared Spanish as a double-major upon arriving home.  I had several other wonderful professors at CofC too, like Dr. Escobar, Dr. Martinez, and Dr. Walters.  They all inspired me to teach Spanish at the university level, and I am truly happy to do so at UNC-Chapel Hill."

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