Aquinas Alumn Samuel Johnson recently presented at the Rocky Mountain Council on Latin American Studies (RMCLAS) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joining him on his panel were Dr. Shelli Rottschafer, Assistant Professor of Spanish at Aquinas College, and Dr. Damián Wilson Vegara, Assistant Professor of Linguistics and the Director of the Heritage Language Program at the University of New Mexico. The nationally renowned annual conference was held April 3-6 this year and featured the work of over 200 scholars from around the United States.
Their panel was titled “Chican@ Sites of Resistance: Poetic, Linguistic, and Organized Resistance to Hegemony.” Sam’s presentation focused on the Brown Berets, a militant wing of the Chicano Protest movement born out of the divisive sociopolitical landscape of 1960s era Los Angeles, California.
Creating Community Through the Spanish Language and Research
On Friday, March 22, 2013, the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts & Letters was held at Hope College. Aquinas' Department of World Languages represented AQ by presenting two panels in the Spanish Language, Literature & Culture Section at this annual conference.
Dr. Shelli Rottschafer selected several students from her previous Advanced Composition in Spanish courses. The first panel focused on The Use of History in Spanish-Speaking Movies, "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006) and "Machuca" (2004). Presenting in this panel were Katie McKay ‘14 (Spanish and English major), Justine Westermann ‘13 (psychology and Spanish major), and Megan Rogers ‘14 (Spanish and English for secondary education major).
"It was not only good practice for speaking Spanish, but also getting my ideas out into the professional world,” said senior Justine Westermann. “I felt very prepared by my Spanish professors within our language department and Aquinas’ focus of social justice."
The second panel was The Mother's Role and Social Criticism within "La Siesta del Martes" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The presenters were Katrina Danko ‘16 (business major and Spanish/sociology minors), Sarah Wade ‘16 (Spanish major), and Azra Fazil ‘16 (Spanish and business major, German minor).
"I was able to practice my Spanish in front of a group of peers and it exposed me to other language departments at another liberal arts college within West Michigan," said first-year student Azra Fazil.
Junior Megan Rogers said overall, "The experience was not only academically stimulating, but also a great opportunity for Aquinas students to bond with each other within our local community."
Presentation: AQ Meets César Chávez
Essays were presented on February 26, 2013 by three AQ seniors doing independent study projects at César Chávez Elementary School.
Pictured (from left to right):
Camille Charette and
I was determined to wear my torn khaki shorts and summer short sleeve shirt to the Grand Rapids Airport on January 8, the day we left for Costa Rica. I knew when the day’s travels were over I would not regret my choice of attire. After a few sad farewells and two flights prolonged by extreme anticipation, our plane touched down at the San Jose airport, just a few miles outside the bustling tropical metropolis that is the capital of Costa Rica. As the plane doors cracked open, the warm moist tropical air and blazing sun pushed through and it began to hit me; YES, Zachary Stepanovich, your semester abroad in Costa Rica has finally begun. >Read More
Join AQ Casa Hogar
AQ Casa Hogar is a student group that meets on Fridays (during the academic year) at 2 p.m. in the upper level of the Cook Carriage House. Want to learn more about the mission of Casa Hogar? Join us!
Aquinas & Justice for Our Neighbors Partner for Local Immigration Panel
By Lauren F. Carlson, '12
Pictured above (left to right) - Back row:
Marissa McCorry (International Business and Spanish Double Major) -
Club Español Presidenta;
Dr Shelli Rottschafer - Assistant Professor of Spanish.
Ms. Lauren Carlson (English 2010) - Legal Assistant JFON;
Ms. Liz Balck - Regional Attorney JFON;
Angelica Herrera (English and Bilingual Education Endorsement) - Poet;
Roni Ranville (Spanish and Business Administration minor) - Club
Aquinas College as a whole has a penchant for social justice. In my four years on campus, as I navigated the tricky waters of general education, picking a major and a minor, switching that particular major and minor, and earning my credits toward my degree, I couldn't help but learn the College's and the community's desire for a greater good, and interest in supporting local organizations and populations. As an English major, I was afforded a fantastic education in literature, history, and the arts, which aided a better understanding of my role in society, and the value of the written word. As a Spanish student, I was able to garner a skill for conversational bilingualism, and an awareness of the Latino community in Grand Rapids, the United States, and abroad. Lastly, as a writing minor, I grew to understand all too well the importance of language in any culture, as it shapes our values and perception of the world around us.
In my junior year at Aquinas, I had the unique opportunity to interview for a position at Justice for Our Neighbors West Michigan (JFON), a ministry of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), that had a local office in my church. Honestly, I knew little about immigration in the legal sense, and understood only that, as a student of Spanish and English, I possessed the language skills necessary to support an attorney in the role of legal assistant. Truly, the foundation of an education in language, as well as my prior work experience, allowed me to learn new skills and apply daily lessons to the
complex work at hand. Each day, I learned more about the organization, and the wider message of immigration reform in the United States.
Justice for Our Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that provides high quality legal services to those who cannot afford the many and complex legal forms and processes in immigration law. A faith-based and national organization, JFON also seeks to provide education and advocacy throughout the states, as legal workers, attorneys, and coordinators utilize the unique stories of their clients to further the mission of welcoming communities. JFON's West Michigan chapter has a small staff of three individuals: the regional attorney, the regional coordinator, and myself, the legal assistant. These three roles work together to provide over a hundred clients in a wide range of family and humanitarian based immigration cases.
On Wednesday, November 28, 2012, JFON partnered with the Spanish Club at Aquinas College to provide an informative immigration panel at the Moose Cafe. On the panel sat myself, JFON's Regional Attorney Elizabeth Balck, Assistant Professor of Spanish Dr. Shelli Rottschafer, and poet and current AQ English and Bilingual Education student, Angelica Herrera. The panel began with a short explanation of my own road to a career in immigration, and continued with Ms. Balck's summary of JFON's operations and a few of the complex paths through immigration law in the United States. Dr. Rottschafer offered her educational perspective on the influence of Aquinas students working within the Latino community whom volunteer at César E. Chávez Elementary School, which has a transitional bilingual program.
Lastly, Ms. Herrera shared her own family's immigration story, as her parents struggled with their concept of “The American Dream” as they transitioned into life within the United States. Her poem, "Identity Lesson," offered a personal perspective on the heart of immigration in America. The panel provided a unique opportunity for the students of Aquinas to learn about the complex processes of immigration law, as well as the impact of immigration within our smaller and larger communities.
by Angélica Herrera '13
Who am I?
Where do I come from?
Do you really want to know the pieces of my puzzle?
I come from the high Sierra Mountains of Mexico,
from the green and red chiles.
I come from the small town with no plumbing –
only a bucket to do our business,
a river to take a bath.
I come from the hot days and cold nights,
from the busy streets,
home to stray dogs and drunk men.
I come from long, sweaty nights
after a Quinceñera fiesta.
I come from high heels
and shiny dresses.
I come from a secretless family
who knows everything
about anyone and anything.
I’m from long periods of time
in a crowded, cement kitchen,
making tortillas for a family of a hundred,
waking up to a rooster in the far distance.
This is who I am.
A Mexican-American in the United States
Trying to make something of my puzzle.
Presentation: "Tongue-Tied: Engaging Hispanic Grand Rapids at Cesar Chavez Elementary"
Speakers: Shelli Rottschafer, Emilie Becht, Shelby Side and Nicole Crafts
October 30, 2012
Aquinas Alumni in the Land of Enchantment Fall 2012
By: Erin Lamers-Johnson '11
New Mexico attracts a unique blend of people.
Samuel Johnson (2011 history and Spanish), Erin Lamers-Johnson (2011 Spanish and biology minor), and Joseph Leestma (2012 history and Spanish minor), all have found their unique paths to Albuquerque New Mexico.
This autumn, the Aquinas alumni met with AQ Spanish professor Dr. Shelli Rottschafer who was visiting her alma mater, The University of New Mexico. Sam Johnson and Joe Leestma are beginning their master degrees in Latin American Studies at the Latin American and Iberian American Institute at UNM. Erin Lamers-Johnson is completing prerequisites in organic chemistry before furthering her studies in the medical field. Sam and Joe currently are in a first-year seminar together. One of their comments was that their training at a small liberal arts school helped them gain the confidence they needed. Now that they are in
graduate school, they are of the most vocal in their seminar - participation comes easily. "Aquinas provided me with the best of both worlds: a great liberal arts education and also a strong base in biology, which has given me a huge advantage in my current classes," said Erin.
Alumni Profile: Samuel Johnson '11
Following graduation I worked in the Admissions office at Aquinas and as an interpreter and translator at Godfrey Lee Public Schools. Currently I am pursuing a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque under a Graduate Assistantship. Through my assistantship I will be aiding in the planning of study abroad trips to Ecuador and Cuba as well as helping to organize academic conferences and recruiting students to our program. My studies will focus on Latin American History and Spanish American Literature and Culture with hopes of teaching or working at a higher educational institution in the U.S. or Central America after graduation.
While attending Aquinas College I majored in both Spanish and History, and I was able to study abroad in Salamanca, Spain
and Santa Ana, Costa Rica. Participating in both study abroad programs opened my eyes to the diverse travel and service opportunities available to Spanish students. While abroad I spent a majority of my time and money traveling all over Iberia and Central America. I learned much about not only the language, histories, and cultures of Spain and Costa Rica but also about myself. Studying abroad was essential to my education and enabled me to be successful in my endeavors after graduating from Aquinas. If you have the opportunity to study abroad get out and explore the country you are in. Indulge in everything your host country has to offer and you will be better off for it. My advice to all students would be to take advantage of all the opportunities, foreign study and otherwise, available to you as Aquinas students!
Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival
The Department of World Languages at Aquinas College is pleased to announce: The Fourth Annual Grand Rapids Latin American Film Festival
The Festival will open on Thursday April 4 at 7 p.m. at Celebration! Cinema North. The following days (April 5-7), it will be held at Wealthy Theater (1130 Wealthy Street SE, Grand Rapids), a ten minute walk from campus. All films are free!
Films are from Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. All are subtitled.
We will have among us Juan Andrés Bello, who will discuss his documentary The Queen of the People on Saturday, April 6 at 5:30 p.m., as well as the director of Sidewall, Gustavo Taretto, whose film will be screened on Saturday, April 6 at 8 p.m. In between these two screenings, at 7 p.m., Venezuelan food will be offered to the public.
Aquinas students will help with organization for three of the movies shown on Sunday, April 7.