The Department of Modern Languages organizes the annual Latino Symposium—a multi-disciplinary, multicultural event highlighting bi-cultural interaction on campus and in the surrounding community.
Growing numbers of Latinos began to move to the Central Susquehanna Valley during the 1990s, in search of economic opportunities and a safer environment to raise their families. This demographic shift provided a wider range of nearby service placements for modern language students, creating opportunities to build bridges between regional Anglos and Latinos. The department's Latino Initiative, Latino Symposium, Children’s Latino symposium and a course in service learning are a few of the programs to come out of this effort.
The Latino Initiative emerged and has flourished thanks to the service-learning course Spanish for the Service Professions. Service learning extends near and far for Susquehanna students. From the diverse Selinsgrove community of Pine Meadows adjacent to campus, to an elementary school in a Latino barrio of New York City—students observe and engage children.
Through the Pine Meadows program (discontinued) and the Summer Enrichment Programs, service-learning students offer ESL instruction as well as social and emotional support to the growing population of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse children in the Selinsgrove area. The service-learning hours spent in Head Start programs, Hispanic church services, bi-lingual classrooms and community centers greatly enrich students’ preparation to provide service in Spanish.
In 2003, the department's work was recognized by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese with the “Engaged Departments Award.” This award honored the successful multi-faceted program of activities, events and courses designed to link the university to the regional Latino population.