Q&A with Dr. Dawn Bratsch-Prince

CATEGORIES: April 2014

Many of our alumni will remember Professor Dawn Bratsch-Prince, a professor of Spanish who was WLC Chair from 2002 to 2008.  Some of you will also recall that it was under her leadership that the former Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures became World Languages and Cultures.  Dr. Bratsch-Prince was honored with the award for Outstanding Departmental Leadership  at ISU in 2006 and, in April 2014, YWCA Ames-ISU honored her with its Woman of Achievement Award.  Currently an Associate Provost for Faculty, Dr. Bratsch-Prince maintains research interests in medieval Iberian studies. She has authored two books on important Spanish medieval topics, and her many articles examine historical linguistics, medieval translation, and women’s writings.

We have asked Prof. Bratsch-Prince about her career, recent travels abroad, and most memorable international experiences.

WLC Newsletter Questions 


How did you decide to become a university professor?

I have always loved school:  reading, studying, and doing school projects were my hobbies, as my parents remind me to this day!  So choosing an academic career was a logical choice for me.  It has been a privilege to spend my life learning, and sharing that knowledge with students.

 What do you consider to be your most notable professional achievement?

My time as chair of the Department of World Languages and Cultures is the professional achievement that I value most because I was able to shepherd the department through a period of major transition (turnover of faculty, new department name and focus, new curricular initiative in LCP, the first student internships, first offering of Arabic, etc.) in collaboration with outstanding faculty colleagues, supportive staff, and eager students.  I like to think that these efforts set the stage for the department’s continuing innovations in curriculum and student learning.

What has been your most memorable international experience?

That’s a difficult question, because I’ve been fortunate to travel to so many memorable places.  My visit to ISU’s study abroad program in Cuzco, Peru was one of the most memorable.  This magnificent colonial city sits in the Andes mountains at over 11,000 feet, so adjusting to the altitude took some time.  The indigenous cultures of the Inca thrive in this region of Peru and one can hear Quechua spoken frequently on the street.  Of course visiting the Inca site of Machu Picchu at sunrise with our ISU study abroad students was the highlight of my visit.

 What is the last foreign country you visited? Is there a place in that country that you recommend anyone to visit?

The last foreign country I visited was China in 2013.  I spent most of time in Beijing which is an enormous city by any standard.   Beijing is like all big cities: busy, noisy, and exciting.  I was surprised as how minimally English is used in China which made communication and interactions more challenging than I expected.  Chinese culture surprised me by how very different it is from western culture.  I returned home determined to learn more about Chinese language and culture before my next trip – yes, I plan to return to China and recommend Beijing to anyone interested in an adventure!

What has been the most interesting or unusual course you taught at ISU?

Many years ago I had the opportunity to teach a senior-level course on “The Transmission of Culture along the Camino de Santiago”.  The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) is actually a medieval pilgrimage route that runs through northern Spain from the Pyrenees to the city of Santiago de Compostela.  It was a popular route highly traveled by medieval pilgrims and tourists, one that fostered the transmission of ideas, art and architecture, literature, language, religious beliefs, and other cultural practices.  The breadth of cultural influences attributed to the pilgrims who passed along the route allowed us to explore elements of culture (like architecture or food) that we didn’t typically get to study in the more traditional classes offered at the time.  I still hope to one day walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago with friends!