By Geri Smith, chair, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures |
July 19, 2019
UCF spanish students in cuba

The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures had a productive year filled with course offerings in ten world languages, Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages and Latin-American Studies. Our extra-curricular activities have ranged from language-immersive conversation tables to film nights to cultural events shared with the local community. We have created study abroad opportunities and have enjoyed a variety of accomplishments by students and faculty alike, often on the international stage.

Undergraduate student clubs and research projects were recognized with grants, scholarships and awards by organizations such as the National Italian-American Foundation, the American Council of Teachers of Russian, the US Department of State and the Japanese government’s Exchange and Teaching Program. Students participated in study-abroad opportunities that included a Spring-break program in Cuba, which included an innovative virtual component, and Summer study-abroad programs in Italy, Russia and Spain. Two graduates of our Master’s program in TESOL were selected for the Department of State English Language Fellow Program, and several graduates of the Spanish Master’s program have gone on to pursue doctoral study.

It was an exciting year for faculty as well. The department promoted six faculty members, named two Professors Emeriti and one Endowed Chair, and earned eight UCF awards for teaching and research. Two faculty members established the Center of Language Outreach, Research & Study (COLORS) as a digital hub and language database to promote language research at UCF and beyond. This year, the MLL faculty earned $206,000 in external grants and awards and a UCF Quality Enhancement Program grant of $3,500. Faculty also continued research on projects funded by previously awarded multi-year grants totaling over $3.9 million. Faculty published and presented over 55 times in peer-reviewed venues.

Our focus on international work and partnerships has continued to open up new opportunities for students and faculty. Among the highlights were a grant from the Italian government to expand language instruction, a new student exchange agreement with a university in Perugia, Italy, and a $25,000 Pabst-Steinmetz Arts and Wellness award for an interdisciplinary student-faculty collaboration to develop animated fables in three languages, designed to teach critical parenting skills.

Modern Languages also shared a number of experiences with the local community. Italian Studies hosted a presentation by a world-renowned opera expert. The Spanish Graduate Association welcomed over 100 attendees to its 18th Annual Colloquium, including graduate students from other universities and Spanish students from an area high school. The Japanese faculty arranged performances of live painting and comedic storytelling by artists from Japan. The UCF-Hillcrest Foreign Language Club continued its work teaching French and Spanish to students from an Orlando elementary school, and a group of faculty has been inspiring children in local hospitals by distributing books and educational toys through their grant-funded “Spanish 4 Children’s Wellness” program.

We have continued to expand our range of undergraduate certificate programs to prepare language students for the professional world, with topics including Spanish for Tourism and French Translation. We have also added courses in Creole to the curriculum. Looking to build upon the successes of 2018-2019, we look forward to another year of celebrating languages, cultures, and their rich diversity in 2019-2020.