A Message from the Head of the Department


Dear Friends, Students, and Colleagues:


          The 2008-2009 academic year was eventful for the students, faculty, and staff of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures. Our faculty continued its extraordinary record of scholarly productivity, and our students, graduate and undergraduate, continued to prosper in courses at the cutting-edge of instruction in language, literature, and culture. Ours is a truly collegial academic community. As many of you know, we face considerable fiscal challenges at UTK, but we are dedicating ourselves to a future of exemplary academic programs. It is a pleasure to report that once again members of the MFLL faculty received broad recognition for their many accomplishments. Three of our faculty were honored at the Chancellor's Banquet: Dan Magilow, Assistant Professor of German, was awarded the Chancellor's Professional Promise in Research and Creative Achievement Award, which is conferred on the tenured or tenure-track UTK faculty members who have received international recognition in their fields and show professional promise for their research and creative achievement; John Romeiser, Professor of French, received the Chancellor's Alumni Public Service Award, which recognizes his substantial contributions to the community and state through his work with the East Tennessee Veterans Association; Millie Gimmel, Assistant Professor of Spanish, received the Chancellor's Excellence in Advising Award, which acknowledges contributions to that aspect of our students' formation. Professor Gimmel was also awarded a coveted National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend to pursue her compelling research on the mutual imbrications of New World and European medical practices in early modern Latin America. Dolly Young, Professor of Spanish, was the recipient of the Tennessee Foreign Language Teachers Association's Jacqueline Elliott Award, which recognizes her as Tennessees top contributor to foreign language study. Finally, Chris Holmlund, Professor of French and Cinema Studies, was elected President of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), the foremost international organization in film studies.


          Our students' accomplishments are equally impressive. Graduate students Alberto Rivera Vaca (Spanish) and Noah Soltau (German) received, respectively, the J. Wallace and Katie Dean and Herman Spivey fellowships. Janet R. Salata, a French major, was named a top graduate in the Spring 2009 graduating class of the College of Arts and Sciences. This honor is conferred on undergraduate students who achieve the highest grade point average within their respective divisions; Ms. Salata achieved one of the highest GPAs in the humanities division of the College of Arts and Sciences.


          The MFLL faculty continues its impressive record of research and publication by placing over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles during the past academic year, a truly extraordinary total. Those colleagues have also given more than 50 scholarly papers at major conferences in the United States and abroad. In many cases, our faculty were invited to be plenary speakers. We also had a number of new books published since our last newsletter: In Her Father's Eyes: A Slovak Childhood in the Shadow of the Holocaust, edited and translated by Dan Magilow; American Cinema of the 1990s: Themes and Variations, edited by Christine Holmlund; Literary Passion, Ideological Commitment: Toward a Legacy of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian Women Writers, by Dawn Duke; a special issue of FLANNALS, co-edited by Dolly Young; The Quill and the Scalpel: Nabokov's Art and the Worlds of Science, by Stephen Blackwell; and Valderredible, Cantabria (España): La cuna de la lengua española, by Gregory Kaplan.


          MFLL continues to provide a vibrant environment for all of its students, undergraduate and graduate. This year the Department hosted a number of important events, of which I can cite only a sample. In November 2008, Stephen Blackwell, Associate Professor of Russian, organized a highly successful interdisciplinary symposium on "Academic Evolution and Hybridization: Literature and The Sciences." Flavia Brizio-Skov, Professor of Italian, organized a fascinating lecture series addressing the Italian perspective on American political culture, with the lectures given by historian Massimo Rubboli of the University of Genoa. As part of a team-taught interdisciplinary course that she offered with colleagues John Romeiser (French) and Gregory Kaplan (Spanish), Nuria Cruz-Cámara, Associate Professor of Spanish, brought historians and literary scholars specializing in the Spanish Civil War to UTK for a series of intriguing talks. Óscar Rivéra-Rodas, Professor of Spanish, offered this year's iterations of his internationally renowned "Jornadas Internacionales de Teatro Latinoamericano" and "Jornadas Internacionales de Poesía Latinoamericana" in Puebla, Mexico. Our exciting annual Japanese Speech Contest, organized by Professor Jon LaCure, Associate Professor of Japanese, and Mahagi LaCure, Lecturer in Japanese, drew 60 competitors at all language levels and a crowd of over 100 spectators. These events supplemented our regularly running film series and language tables for the French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish sections.


          The MFLL faculty also completed its strategic plan last academic year. This plan will serve as our road map for the future, and we are truly excited at the prospect of the academic initiatives towards which we will work. The plan aims at strengthening our individual sections while building bridges among them: we have created faculty research-teaching groups that unite faculty and graduate students in targeted areas of shared interest, such as Latin American studies, cinema studies, and literature and science, and that advance both research projects and the creation of new courses; we have designed and begun teaching more team-taught courses; we have launched a technology roundtable that meets four times a year and at which faculty and students present technological pedagogical initiatives that will enhance all of our courses; we have started a regular faculty works-in-progress series, in which faculty have already discovered areas of shared research interest. I believe that these and other initiatives will foster a sense of common purpose and shared vision for our students, staff, and faculty.


          Defying national trends, our undergraduate and graduate programs continue to grow at impressive rates. Our recent study shows that MFLL credit-hour production has increased by 15% in the past 5 years-this at a time when the number of our professorial faculty is actually dropping. Our undergraduate study abroad programs in Mexico, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France are thriving and reached new peaks in enrollment last academic year. We are fostering similar opportunities for our graduate students at major universities in Germany as well as with the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador. Our innovative course offerings for undergraduates and graduates continue to prepare students for a globalizing world. Last May we once again recognized the extraordinary accomplishments of our students at our fifth annual open house and awards ceremony. We list those award recipients in the table below.


          I ask our alumni and friends to update us on their news. As you can see, we have a growing section dedicated to former students and friends of MFLL. We urge all of you to send us updates for future newsletters. Finally, I must announce that this will be the last print version of our newsletter. Beginning next year, we would like to email you a link to our annual newsletter, and we ask you to report your email address to us. In order to receive an electronic copy of the newsletter, please send your request to lrc@utk.edu from the e-mail address to which you would like your copy sent. If you do not have email, please let us know-by conventional mail or by calling Ms. Cheryl Acree at 865-974-2312, and we will, in these exceptional circumstances, print out a hard copy to be mailed to you.


          As always, I would welcome your e-mail: erkoch@utk.edu


          Erec R. Koch

          Professor of French and Head

          Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures