A Note from the Chair

CATEGORIES: November 2013

A Note from the Chair

Greetings from Iowa State!  I hope you like the inaugural e-newsletter from the Department of World Languages and Cultures (formerly the Department of Foreign Languages).  WLC is the central resource at Iowa State for teaching, research, and the study of cultures in and through their native languages.  Boasting a global perspective through the teaching of nine world languages and dozens of cultures, WLC is at the heart of Iowa State’s efforts to develop culturally informed global leaders.

With this new avenue of communication, we want to stay in closer contact with our alumni, current students, and WLC friends and supporters.  Each month the newsletter – edited by WLC Associate Chair, Olga Mesropova, and designed by Lecturer in German, Mark Looney – will inform you about recent departmental highlights. You will learn about new courses, student achievements, faculty research projects, study abroad, alumni interactions, important developments in language learning, and WLC collaborations across campus and beyond. But, more than anything, we want you to know about our hard work making the world a little smaller by training the next generation of global professionals.

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Chad M. Gasta, Associate Professor of Spanish, Director of International Studies, and Co-Director of the Languages and Cultures for Professions (LCP) program. As of July 1, 2013, I am also Department Chair. My area of research expertise is 16th and 17th-century Spanish and Latin American literature, particularly theater, opera, Cervantes, and the picaresque. I was hired at ISU in 2001 and since that time I have been teaching courses in Spanish for business and the professions, contemporary Spain, as well as other courses on early modern Spain and Latin America. I am married to Julia Domínguez, a colleague in the department, and we have two daughters, Sofía (6 years-old) and Victoria (almost 3 years-old).

The start of the new academic year and the first months as Chair have been full of excitement. Last summer, I returned to Ames from a trip abroad thinking that the quietness of campus would allow me to get accustomed to my new position.  However, with ISU’s record student enrollment and the challenges of finding classes for all of our new students, it quickly became apparent that the end of summer and the beginning of the new semester would offer up many wonderful challenges. Instead of easing comfortably into my new position, I quickly came to realize that the new year would be an exciting one: in addition to record enrollments, WLC is once again poised to make profound advancements in teaching, research, and service and outreach with the introduction of new faculty scholarly projects, new courses, new clubs, and constant interest in language study by students, faculty, and the public.

Allow me to highlight a few of the extraordinary recent developments in WLC:

  • WLC now teaches nine different world languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. WLC also houses the cross-disciplinary studies programs in Classical Studies and International Studies. Innovative curriculum in each of these areas and small student-to-teacher ratios remains the focus of our mission, and students seem to appreciate our work: they give WLC instructors an average rating of 4.45/5.0. This is an outstanding assessment when one considers that during one academic year WLC teaches over 14,000 student credit hours.
  • WLC Faculty are highly productive scholars.  Over the past five years, WLC faculty have authored or edited 17 books, 34 book chapters, 92 articles, and they delivered over 250 presentations at national and international venues.
  • The department continues to develop the Languages and Cultures for Professions (LCP) secondary major designed for students in the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business and Engineering.  LCP students take targeted coursework in professions and contemporary cultures and work or study abroad.  The LCP program is truly unique; only a hand-full of universities in the nation has anything like it! This is but one way we are preparing ISU students for the global community.
  • You may know that WLC is a significant supporter of study abroad and international internships.  We estimate that as many as 80% of our students study abroad during some point in their time at ISU, and many of these undertake an internship or participate in service learning abroad.  Whether doing biology field research in Spain, taking engineering courses in Germany, or working abroad in China, Russia or France, WLC students are on the move!

These are but a sample of the exciting things happening in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. We will continue to update you on other interesting developments in future newsletters.  In the interim, we invite you to learn more. If you have the opportunity to visit Ames, please stop by the Department.  We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and talk to you about the exciting developments WLC is undergoing. Even if you don’t make it campus, as always, we want to hear from you!  Tell us about a special moment from your time at ISU, send us updates about your personal life or professional career, or simply let us know how studying languages has impacted you.

On behalf of my colleagues, we thank you for your support of WLC and urge you to keep in touch!