Elena Pellús Pérez, Visiting Assistant Professor:  I have a Ph.D. in Spanish from Yale University (2012), where I studied Spanish and Spanish American literature, with a Minor in Portuguese.  My research and teaching interests are Early Modern Spanish and Spanish American Literature and Culture, Contemporary Latin American Literature, European Renaissance, History of Ideas, and Spanish Language.  I am interested in contributing to the development of the conceptual map of 16th-18th century Spanish American literature, which is far from being complete. I am particularly interested in the political and cultural dialogue established between the metropolis and Spanish America, which offers multiple perspectives on the same historical events and shared realities, thus transcending its original cultural and political purposes.  I find the interdisciplinary approach the most appropriate for this field because the literature of this period deals with historical, political, philosophical, artistic, religious events and the world of nature.

Even though I have studied other topics, my dissertation, entitled “Entre el Renacimiento y el Nuevo Mundo: vida y obras de Hernán Pérez de Oliva” (Between the Renaissance and the New World: Life and Works of Hernán Pérez de Oliva) has been so far my main attempt to make connections between the Old and the New World. I study the relationship among Pérez de Oliva’s dramatic works, erudite treatises, and historical works, aiming to better comprehend his contribution to early literary production regarding America. I focus on the Historia de la invención de las Indias (History of the Discovery of the Indies), one of the first interpretive accounts of the Columbian encounter with the New World, written in Castilian, which belongs to the intellectual context of the beginning of 16th century Spanish humanism.

In the near future I would like to explore the interrelations between the Old and the New World from the Amerindian perspective.  Even though I have not yet decided on a particular author, in my next book I would like to expand my knowledge about Spanish America by further studying works authored by creoles or Amerindians that address the issues and events that I have studied from a European perspective.

Working for three years at the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra digital library (1999-2003) made me soon aware of how useful technology can be for researching and teaching humanities, thus I use them in class whenever possible, and I am always looking for digital projects in which to participate. 

Although I have no experience in it, I find that a study abroad program would be a wonderful way of exploring the cultural dialogue that I study in my research, and if given the opportunity I would love to develop one program with Spain.

Javier Entrambasaguas, Visiting Assistant Professor:  I hold a Ph.D. in Spanish literature and cinema from the University of Michigan.  My areas of specialization are contemporary Spanish peninsular literary and film studies, particularly the 20th and 21st century, visual arts, and cultural theory.

My work analyzes how cultural representations recapture social movements—antiglobalization, labor, and immigration—in Spain, claiming, by means of political resistance, the reemergence of a socially active citizenry and a reformulation of a historically critical present-day democracy.  Since I consider politics and aesthetics inseparable fields, I focus on literary, cinematic and performative texts.

My current research focuses on various collectives of resistance, such as the contemporary 15-M movement (Spain´s "Occupy Movement"), which is reformulating the relationship between democracy and civil society.  I also look at the perpetual movement of immigration that widens the possibilities for liberty and equality, and the gypsy community which, through flamenco music and their way of life, represents an ancestral example of transnational movement.

I am convinced that teaching is the best way to share knowledge and ideas, not only between the student and professor, but also with society as a whole. Teachers have the power to improve society by changing our understanding or interpretation of the knowledge we have about history, culture, society, art and science. I am honored to be a member of this ancient profession.

Maria Martha Manni, Lecturer and Spanish Language Coordinator: 

I was born in California to Argentinean parents who soon after my birth returned to Buenos Aires.  After 31 years of educational and life experience in Argentina, I returned to the US with my husband and our five children in 1999.  I have a diverse background as an environmental educator and writer, an actor, and a puppeteer.  After a very positive experience as a Spanish teaching assistant at the University of Rochester, I decided to focus my career on language teaching and learning.

After graduating with a B.A. from the University of Rochester, I began working as an adjunct instructor for intermediate Spanish courses and in 2011 was promoted to senior lecturer. In 2009 I graduated with an M.S. in Education from the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education with specializations in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and Spanish, and also completed the necessary field experience and tests to obtain New York State’s teaching certifications for ESOL and Spanish. My training as a graduate in 2010 of the Warner School's Urban Teaching and Leadership program prepared me to make the most of the storehouse of knowledge that a diverse student population can offer and to design my teaching strategies to meet students’ needs.  From 2009 to 2011, in addition to my teaching at the University, I worked as a full time ESOL teacher at a bilingual school in the Rochester City School District, teaching English to Latino students in grades K through 6.

Learning and researching about pedagogy while teaching at the university level has helped me apply innovative and effective teaching strategies in the classroom.  I’ve successfully incorporated technology into my practice and continuously search for the necessary training to take advantage of tools like Blackboard, online textbook content and platforms, social and communication software and technology.

I’m delighted to have joined the MLLI Department as a lecturer and coordinator for the Spanish area and look forward to devoting all my energy and experience to developing innovative and effective language and culture teaching practices and curricula.

Tavon Cooke (B.A., 2004): Greetings from Belgrade!  Both life and work here are simply amazing.  Hectic at times, but still amazing.  I work as a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy.  I am also serving as the Immigrant Visa section chief for one year.  Consular officers generally perform two functions: adjudicating visas to those seeking to come to the United States, either as intending immigrants or as non-immigrants; and providing a range of services to U.S. citizens abroad.  

Most of my days begin with non-immigrant visa interviews.  People wishing to come for tourism, to cover journalistic events, make investments, serve as religious workers, study, to lend specialized expertise to companies in the U.S., work on a ship, perform concerts, and so on.  After those interviews, I interview applicants who are preparing to immigrate to the U.S. via family ties, work offers, or from winning a Diversity Visa.

Outside of consular duties, I coordinate the Serbian language program for all of the federal agencies at the embassy.  It is quite an administrative task; but at the same time it allows me to learn about how the other units in the embassy function separately, as well as together.

Speaking of Serbian language, I use it every day and I love it!  It is required for my visa interviews, but I have also used it in outreach events and when travelling outside of Belgrade.  In fact, I am just returning to Belgrade after travelling to Southern Serbia to conduct visa fraud investigations and Diversity Visa presentations.  Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to the north to perform passport renewals and voter registration assistance.  I also opened a Jazz Concert near the Hungarian border, helped to open a Fulbrighter's art exhibition, and volunteered with the Roma community here.

Outside of work, I spend my time roaming around the city to see new areas, sampling the endless bakeries in the city, taking in concerts and plays, checking out the numerous film and other festivals, and chatting with people.  People are generally open, and will not hesitate to help if you need it.  And while being black here garners stares like one would expect, it is nowhere near the magnitude like what I experienced in Russia!

I could go on, but I will stop here for now.  For MLLI students currently studying Russian and who are considering picking up another Slavic language, I encourage you to think about Serbo-Croatian.  It is similar enough to give you a good start, yet different enough to pose a real challenge.  And if any fellow Retrievers are planning a trip to the area, definitely drop me a line!

Melissa Stockbridge (B.A., 2008): I recently returned to the mid-Atlantic to join the incredible Language Science community at University of Maryland as I begin my M.A.-Ph.D. student fellowship in Speech-Language Pathology.  I am conducting research examining how on-line comprehension processing at the sentence level differs for people with aphasia, under the supervision of Dr. Yasmeen Faroqi-Shah.  In addition to this primary line of research, I am involved in collection and analysis of various functional neuroimaging data through the Maryland Neuroimaging Center, and I am continuing research on acoustic components of prosodic stress perception, under the supervision of Dr. Yi Ting Huang at the Language and Cognition Laboratory.  I am also a Lecturer for the Hearing and Speech department this year, teaching Introduction to Phonetic Science to a fantastic group of junior and senior undergraduates.  

If any linguistics students are interested in participating in exciting UMD Language Science research, they should check out http://languagescience.umd.edu/ for up-to-date information on the studies currently underway.

Melodee Baines (B.A., 2002): I am an MLLI alum. On 2 October I defended my doctoral dissertation on the role of illiterate women in political change at Old Dominion University ("Illiterate Women's Political Agency"). I also got married on 4 August to Ned Andrews, and we live in Portsmouth, Virginia. You are welcome to visit my blog: http://melodeebaines.blogspot.com/.

Randi Leyshon (B.A., 2009): There is a story thread tied from the semester I began learning the Russian alphabet with Dr. Rusinko to the moment six years later when I asked her to write me a Fulbright recommendation letter. The story weaves through Russian verb conjugations and studying abroad in St. Petersburg and reflexive endings and patient advising sessions and flash cards and eager classmates and memorized lines of Pushkin and a graduate thesis on the “mail-order bride” industry. At the end of my four years studying Russian (and German) at UMBC, my life had become thoroughly steeped in Russian culture and language. Typical of a Russophile, I wanted more. The Fulbright Program, a cross-cultural research and teaching opportunity funded by the State Department, would provide me with my next level of immersion. Fulbright is a competitive scholarship that allows students with a bachelor degree to pursue their own research or teach English in dozens of countries around the world. Guess where I ended up?

Specifically speaking, I ended up in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, northwest of the Ural Mountains. I taught English, journalism, and cross-cultural communications to students at Syktyvkar State University. Well, I taught to the best of my ability. More often I went mushroom picking, cross-country skiing, and ice-skating; I introduced Russians to pumpkin cookies, banana bread, and lemon bars; I went to the movies, the library, the local pig farm. I ate reindeer sausage and pancakes for Christmas dinner. I traveled the entire length of the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

I put my graduate degree in journalism to use and published a weekly blog on Russiaprofile.org, along with writing articles on education for the blind in Russia and the current challenges of modernity in this quickly changing country. I was able to witness the heated 2012 election cycle in Russia. I was able to visit the home of my favorite Russian authors. I was able to eat Russian pancakes for a week straight during the holiday Maslenitsa. Each of these opportunities added another chapter to my ongoing Russia story. The foundation for enjoying and understanding all of these experiences, of course, came from the culture and literature and language courses in the MLLI department at UMBC.

Abigail Bratcher writes: A year ago I spent a semester abroad at the Irkutsk State Linguistic University in Irkutsk, Russia, studying in the international department. Irkutsk is a city about the size of Baltimore, but instead of suburban sprawl, outside of Irkutsk is the Siberian taiga and, a bit further, Lake Baikal. Most of the population of Irkutsk is ethnic Russians, but also a lot of Buryats, Mongolians, Chinese, Koreans, Uzbeks make up this diverse city.

Siberia as a place is one of the most evocative geographic locations on the planet. It's so far; it's so big; it's so cold; it's so…mysterious. Irkutsk has historically been, and still very much is today, a cross-roads for travelers from Asia to the West. Thousands of international tourists visit Irkutsk each year, in part because of its vicinity to Baikal. After having spent the summer before in Kazan', Russia, about 2,500 miles west of Irkutsk in the European part of Russia, I was thrilled to see a completely different side of this enormous country. In fact, most everyone that I spoke to in Kazan' had never been to Irkutsk, but had heard in the news or from friends of friends of relatives what Siberia was like. In short: lots of different kinds of people know of and have such strong ideas about Irkutsk because of its unique location.

Although on the surface it sounds simplistic, a thought I'm always coming back to in my head is how different people think about a place. Whether speaking to native Irkutians, Russian tourists, my Chinese classmates, or Austrian exchange students, I was always interested in how they think about this place, Irkutsk, in the heart of Eastern Siberia: what drew them to such a far-off destination? What do they find interesting in Irkutsk? What do they find strange? To me, that's been one of the greatest parts about studying abroad in such a remote but world-renowned destination: as I uncovered more and more about Irkutsk, Siberia, and Russia with my international friends, I was also learning about other cultures by sharing our reactions.

Zoe Gensheimer shares some photos from her study abroad trip in Cuenca, Ecuador, Spring 2012:

Yekaterina Pidgurskaya writes: This summer, as a McNair scholar, I had a great opportunity to conduct research on Central American immigrants in Maryland and Virginia with the help of my mentor, Dr. Sara Poggio. The McNair Scholars Program at UMBC helps undergraduates obtain research experience and prepares them for graduate studies. The program, which gave me an experience I never could have obtained from attending classes, provided a stipend, free room and board on campus and independent study credits.

My research topic was the perception by Central American immigrants of their life in the United States in terms of their work, lifestyle and community situations. Dr. Poggio and I used her previous research experience to format interview questions and procedures. Thanks to my mentor, family and friends, I was able to obtain about 20 interviews from Central American immigrants in less than a month. Since some of the participants did not feel comfortable answering in English, I created a Spanish version of my interview questions.

Dr. Poggio helped me at every step of the research process: collecting background information, creating and conducting interviews, developing the paper. But the hardest part of the Fellowship was the paper: I had so many results that were difficult to summarize in just a few paragraphs. I was eventually able to notice several major trends and interesting exceptions to those trends with the help of my mentor. 

It was a magical experience to meet people and hear their stories.  I was not just reading a book about the interviews of some sociologist—I was living these experiences by hearing them from the participants, feeling their emotions. As an immigrant myself, it was heart-wrenching to hear what  these people had to say: their difficulties in being away from their homeland, not having enough money or a job, not feeling successful, not knowing the language, feeling alone.  At some point in my life, I could relate to these frustrations.

The McNair program gave me an opportunity to discover the life of research, and the passion to continue: it is my hope to interview other groups who have migrated to the United States and hear their own experiences adjusting to living in this country. Ever since I moved to the United States, I have been fascinated by how this country, created by immigrants, seems so unwelcome to the immigrants of today.

Demarius Seymour writes: It's probably not something I should be saying in an academic newsletter, but the most of my learning in Russia took place after my semester ended, on a seven-day train ride from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I traveled on the third-class wagon, where there are no enclosed spaces, only open-ended cabins with about fifty bunks in total, which I had the pleasure of sharing with a unit of Russian tank soldiers.

I wasn't sure about what attitude the military would have towards Americans, and I initially decided my best course of action would be to simply read my book silently. However, Russian manners would not allow men to drink tea without offering some to the woman sitting in their bunk, and one of the soldiers soon engaged me in conversation. After about ten minutes, he asked me where I was from, obviously having noticed my accent. As it turned out, neither he nor anyone else on the train had ever met an American before, nor spoke any English. Basically, everyone was pretty interested in talking with me, and I was never wanting for conversation.

For the next seven days, while traveling through the sometimes beautiful, sometimes bleak Siberian landscape, I learned how to play Russian card games, saw countless pictures of small towns, families, and tanks, and improved my speaking and listening skills at least tenfold. I cannot stress enough the importance of study abroad for students, to improve both language skills and cultural knowledge.

Yasmin Radbod, a senior with a major in Asian Studies and a minor in Chinese Language and Culture (and also Environmental Science and History), was recently awarded a fellowship with The Shambala Foundation, an organization that works to alleviate childhood poverty in Asia, with their target population being orphans: http://childrenofshambala.org/home/. She has just created a new student organization on campus called the UMBC Shambala Foundation, in order to raise awareness of childhood poverty, especially in Tibet, Thailand, and Burma, and to raise funds for Shambala's sponsorship program:  http://childrenofshambala.org/pages/20/. What's so unique about this program is that zero percent of the donations go to overhead costs; they go directly to supporting the orphans. Yasmin is trying to raise $15,000 this year before leaving for Thailand in July. 

Korean Film presented by the MLLI Korean Area
The Host (Monster) (2006)
By Director Joon-ho Bong

The Host is the story of a mutated monster that emerges from the Han River. However, beneath that it's actually the story of the Park family, who find themselves at odds with the Government after the youngest daughter is kidnapped by the monster. They're being held in quarantine, and decide to break out to track down their missing loved one. The Host is a mixture of horror/monster movie, comedy, family drama, and a social commentary.

This film is required for students in MLL 311 (Introduction to Korean Culture) as an assignment and recommended to students in Korean language courses.

2:30-4:30 pm November 9th (Fri.), ITE 231
Film Presenter: Dr. Kyung-Eun Yoon

The Chinese area has added two new courses to its offerings: CHIN 315: Introduction to Literary Chinese and MLL 329: Early and Medieval Chinese Literature. Both will be offered Spring Semester 2013.

UMBC’s German Club Celebrates Oktoberfest

The world’s largest festival is held annually in Munich (München), Germany. It’s called ‘Oktoberfest’, even though it’s held mostly in September and ends the first weekend in October. Following that tradition, the German Club’s Oktoberfest celebration was held on September 19 and went off without a hitch. Members and friends of the Club, but also many others from the campus community met in the Game Room and immersed themselves in the culture of Oktoberfest.

The food, provided by Old Europe, a German themed restaurant in Washington D.C., went quickly. Bratwurst, delicious potato salad and apple strudel, among other offerings, was expected to last until 11 p.m. but was gone by about 8:30. The club members had decorated the Game Room like a Bavarian beer hall, with blue and white table cloths and paper beer steins on each table. The music was authentic, thanks to president Kyle Childress, who had purchased the official Oktoberfest CD from the 2011 festival in Munich.

Club officers Kyle Childress and Jen Wachtel  invested many hours working with SGA to make this unique event possible. Between the club members, the caterers and the help of the Game Room staff, the event went smoothly and proved to be a smashing success.

To hear more about German Club events and happenings, or to get in touch with us, head over to www.facebook.com/groups/umbcdeutschclub. —Samuel Manas, Secretary, German Club.

Dr. Elaine Rusinko's recent book, God is a Rusyn: An Anthology of Contemporary Carpatho-Rusyn Literature (Slavica Publishers), collects for the first time a representative sampling of contemporary Rusyn poetry and prose by twenty-seven authors from six countries. An introduction surveys Rusyn literary history, and an appendix provides texts from each country in the original Rusyn, as well as an extensive bibliography of language resources.



In January 2013 a group of fifteen UMBC students will travel to Montpellier, France for three weeks of intensive language study.  They will stay with local families and take advantage of the location of the city near the Mediterranean to explore some of the best known and most beautiful parts of France.  The oldest parts of the city of Montpellier were built 1000 years ago at a time when the city had one of the most important medical schools in Europe and was a cultural crossroads for Christian, Jewish, and Islamic culture.  From Montpellier students are able to visit the small fishing villages of the coast, the great port of Marseilles, Romanesque abbeys and Roman ruins, the Palace of the Popes in Avignon, and the natural wonders of the Massif Central.  The group will be accompanied by Dr. Thomas Field. The Montpellier trip is offered every two years. 

Dr. Sara Poggio writes: On September 25th,  I took students of my First Year Seminar course “International Migrations: The National Debate” on one of the Fells Point Historical Society’s walking tours.

Not everyone knows that  Fells Point, the port of early Baltimore, was second only to Ellis Island as a port of reception of immigrants in the country. Baltimore, and particularly the streets close to the Fells Point port area, have thousands of personal and intimate stories of individual immigrants, their dreams and their despairs. In the late afternoon of September 25 my students and I were transported to different periods in time, to different languages, and to one dream shared by newcomers of all times: to become Americans, to be part of the country, to succeed.

We could not help but be inspired by the memories we found on the narrow streets of Fells Point. The students were excited to feel and perceive what I always try to convey with readings and lectures. As always, I am impressed by the power of historical spaces in the comprehension of the past.

Retriever Fever in the MLLI Office: Jacalyn, Fontella, and Carolyn get in the spirit!

The MLLetter is edited by Dr. Steven Young
The deadline for our Spring semester issue is Friday, March 15, 2013.
MLLI students and alumni are encouraged to submit items.