Luis Miguel dos Santos Vicente joined the faculty in August as Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies. Here, he talks about why he loves teaching and his new experience teaching at a liberal arts college in the United States.
Why did you start teaching?
I was an avid reader from a young age. Growing up in a small town — even by Clinton standards — the best day of my month was when a mobile library bus arrived full of new books ready to borrow. Later, I decided to study literature. I had been somewhat reluctant about my interest in teaching, but that all changed when I first entered the classroom as an instructor during graduate school. Then I realized that all those years of reading and studying made sense when I shared a space with my students to help them expand their worldview by learning about societies, languages, and ways of life other than theirs.
Why did you choose Hamilton?
Apart from a semester abroad, all my academic experiences took place in large public universities in Spain and the United States, so I was very curious to know the vision of pedagogy in arts colleges liberals.. For me, the best part of being an educator is connecting with students on a personal level, learning what their interests and goals are or what excites them most. Language courses are particularly welcoming for this type of sharing. I was very happy at the idea of working with highly motivated students who did not have to take language lessons. As a medievalist, I felt this was the right place for me when I started talking with my colleagues in the department and realized how much they considered historical studies to be an essential part of the curriculum. Things only got better when I arrived on campus and met a select group of colleagues working on Medieval and Renaissance Studies in all disciplines.
Please tell us about your research interests.
One way or another, my research interests focus on the nature of cross-cultural relations in medieval and early modern Spain. For nearly eight centuries, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities coexisted in the Iberian Peninsula, resulting in countless contacts and exchanges that shaped the evolution of Spain. This intercultural heritage has mainly been considered through the prism of military conflicts or sometimes idealized. I am interested in how literary and non-literary texts from this period reveal more subtle interactions. I am amazed at how many of the challenges and opportunities we face in our increasingly diverse societies have also been experienced by these people in the distant past.
What is one of your favorite places on campus?
The trail that connects the Taylor Science Center and the buildings of the old Kirkland College. One thing I enjoy the most is walking around looking at the buildings and hearing the distant whispers of lively conversations. It’s one of those things I used to do inadvertently growing up in Spain. When I step out of my office at CJ, I like to walk along the path a bit, try to spot a black squirrel or a woodpecker.
For me, the best part of being an educator is connecting with students on a personal level, learning what their interests and goals are or what excites them most. Language courses are particularly welcoming for this type of sharing.
What are you expecting from this semester?
I teach an introduction to Spanish literature, from its origins to the 21st century. The survey courses are among my favorites because they reveal the breadth of styles, issues, and experiences depicted in the literature. We got off to a good start with our class discussions. I look forward to reading the student’s written responses to such a diverse group of readings. Outside of class, I enjoyed the beauty of fall and winter in upstate New York. I’m curious what spring will be like on the Hill.
What have you learned about your students here?
My students were exceptional! They are highly motivated to improve their Spanish and develop both linguistically and intellectually. Last semester, I taught mostly juniors and seniors in two quite different courses: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Modern Spanish Theatre. I realized that Hamilton students always push to do their best, that means reading 17and Spanish century or understand the intricacies of the structure of a language. One thing that stands out is their willingness to question any assumptions and their openness to thinking about other cultures and historical periods in their own terms and as a means of understanding the pressing issues of our time.