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Alumni Panelists Discuss Benefits of Learning Spanish

Published on April 8, 2014

Latino Symposium PanelNine Susquehanna University alumni panelists took the stage at Isaacs Auditorium in Seibert Hall to give current students insight into the benefits of including Spanish as part of their education.

“Highlights of the Past/Hopes for the Future” drew about 50 students as part of April’s weeklong 19th annual Latino Symposium. They heard how the panelists, who all hail from different backgrounds and took Spanish as either their major or minor, use the language in their professional lives.

The range of career opportunities the panelists have taken advantage of since graduating is attributable to their learning Spanish and their study away experiences, whether through the Global Opportunities (GO) program that launched in 2009, or earlier programs.

Dawn Konrady ’06 is now director of the Child Welfare Education Institute at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey Program and oversees three statewide grant programs. She has used Spanish in a variety of ways since going on three different overseas stints while attending Susquehanna.

“It forces you to explore any vulnerabilities you might have and gives you a chance to grow. Getting the chance to do that has had a tremendous impact on what I do,” Konrady said. “Anyone who might be on the fence, don’t be afraid to go out and explore, because it will change your world regardless of where you end up.”

Latino Symposium PanelMario de la Barrera ’07 was one of the few panelists who did not study abroad, but wished he had. He worked, however, with the migrant education program in Adams County, which has helped him as an elementary school teacher now.

“I got hired as a bilingual first-grade teacher,” de la Barrera said. “I incorporate Spanish in history or math lessons, but the most important thing I use Spanish for now is to communicate with parents. There are a lot of families moving into the area and it is a global society now. You have people speaking different languages and the best thing you can do is meet them halfway. It makes your life and the life of someone else a little easier.”

De la Barrera was hired in his first year out of school, illustrating the doors open to the bilingual Susquehannans and the benefit of students pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone.

The other panelists studied anywhere from Puerto Rico to Spain, took classes all in Spanish, developed independence, lived in a cloud forest, made lifelong friendships, translated for parent-teacher conferences, and took advantage of career opportunities otherwise not available for single-language speakers.

That all made sense to first-year student Amanda Alexandre, from Cleveland, Tenn., who attended the panel session to see how she could work Spanish into her education. She took the opportunity to speak with the alumni at a reception following the presentation and left with a clearer direction.

“I think their passion for Spanish inspired me and I know after the talk today, it made me realize I really want to major in Spanish,” Alexandre said.

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