Department of Modern Foreign Languages & Literatures

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Notes from the Department Head — Dr. Adrian DelCaro

Sidebar graphic or photoWith three successful faculty searches in 2013, one in progress for French, another in progress for our postdoctoral fellowship, and the possibility of one additional late faculty search, it is clear that MFLL is on the move. We are joined this year by Yen-Chen Hao, Assistant Professor, Chinese (PhD Indiana); Drew Paul, Assistant Professor, Arabic (PhD Texas, starts in January), and Rudy Alcocer, Shumway Professor of Excellence in Romance Languages, Associate Professor (PhD Iowa). New Lecturers in MFLL this year: Megumu Burress, Rachel LaMance, Donald McDowell, Ennio Nulia, Lisa Parker, Abdoulaye Yansane. Welcome to MFLL!

Are we growing? Not yet — but we aren’t shrinking, and in these times that in itself is good news. As Dean Theresa Lee has articulated since her arrival at UT, we have a gap to fill in terms of faculty, because our peers and aspirational peers are bigger than we are. If UT is to compete in the meaningful categories of program quality, external funding, and major awards, we will be more successful when there are more of us to meet the challenges of Top-25 standing. In our current state, we are closer to filling the gaps caused by recent faculty attrition, but we are still a good distance away from adding the number of lines that will ensure optimal performance.

What this all boils down to is that MFLL’s languages and degree programs are in demand, as they should be, and I believe there will be increasing demand. In October we were fortunate to have on campus our Spanish-LWB alumnus Chad Goldman, who is Marketing VP for CauseForce. Chad spoke to LWB students about his year abroad in Argentina, how study abroad helped to prepare him for his career, and how the opportunities created by his degree in Spanish-LWB positioned him to interact creatively in unforeseen circumstances. Concepts I heard repeatedly in his presentation were drive, ambition, confidence, initiative — at one point Chad explained: “If it’s not in your job, make it your job.” This particular quote can serve as a metaphor for a degree in the languages. Our College is not in the business of preparing students for specific professions, but an MFLL degree is a vibrant, flexible platform from which to define one’s value to prospective employers, to graduate schools, or to professional schools. Language majors have two important benefits not necessarily shared by other majors, namely a high level of proficiency in another language, and detailed knowledge of a different culture — these should be difference-makers.

My thanks to the students, faculty and staff of MFLL for their excellent work in this period of stepped-up activity, and my thanks also to our alumni and supporters, who understand that giving to MFLL enables us to support the aspirations of promising, dedicated students. And speaking of dedicated and promising students! – Congratulations are in order for Lindsay E. Lee, double major in Math and Spanish, minor in Portuguese, who is UT’s winner of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship! Only 32 Rhodes were awarded in the U.S., over half of them to elite private schools: Lindsay is from Oak Ridge and all of us at UT are proud of her!

Cordially, Adrian.


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