Carolina Ramos, Class of 2009
When people ask why I have chosen a career in academia and research my response usually involves a story about Southwestern. While at Southwestern I majored in Spanish and Communication Studies, which I have managed to combine as a current Ph.D. student in Culture, Literacy, and Language at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Although there have been years of schooling between my time as an undergraduate student and where I am now, as a doctoral student I still rely on the critical thinking skills and the writing and public speaking techniques I acquired at Southwestern. My friends in graduate school know that if they ask for my opinion on how something should be taught or approached I usually begin answering with, “Well, at Southwestern…” The truth is that I do believe my time as a student there influenced me to pursue a graduate education. Also, as a Spanish major, I discovered that a career involved with language use and language learning was more relevant than I ever considered.
Despite being a native Spanish speaker, my experiences as a Spanish major helped me work with language in a completely different way. Through coursework and conversations with professors I began valuing language as much more than a means of communication and I learned to distinguish languages as ways of life, forms of expression, and as tools for constructing distinct social worlds. Gaining this newfound appreciation for the Spanish language and having professors who encouraged me to ask new questions about things I once thought were ordinary, led me to consider deeper and more meaningful topics that ultimately resulted in my move to the University of New Mexico so that I could continue exploring and researching as an M.A. student.
Currently, my doctoral work is focused on the English-Spanish bilingual practices, language preferences, and identities of students on the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the issues I explore I can relate back to my Spanish capstone project and it was not only the topic itself but the understanding of what research is and how it develops that made graduate school a less intimidating world. In addition, I also work as a research assistant for Educational Testing Services. Specifically, I am involved with a team who designs English language assessments for English language learners. In this teamwork setting I also think about how presenting our work in classes and having intensive writing assignments contributed to my knowledge of what it means to contribute to a learning environment. Overall, the motivation I received while at Southwestern and the ideas and questions my Spanish professors encouraged me to pursue have contributed to the satisfaction and enjoyment I gain from what I am working on today.