Spanish native, scholar and newly minted educator Alejandro Rico Pol recently arrived on campus to begin a yearlong stint as Keuka College’s first Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant.
Alejandro, who holds a master's degree in Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language, will work alongside Assistant Professor of Spanish Malia Spofford Xavier in the Spanish and Cross-Cultural Studies program.
But he doesn’t plan on limiting his instruction to the classroom.
“I will be teaching both language and culture courses alongside Malia,” says 24-year-old Alejandro. “Also, I will be leading conversation sessions with the students who want to practice their Spanish skills. Furthermore, I will be organizing activities during the evenings such as game nights or movies in Spanish.”
And his objectives don’t end there.
“Besides the important goal of guiding the students through their language-learning process,” he says, “in a world threatened by hate, I left my home behind to fight for making this world a better place, spreading love and joy, and contributing to the mutual understanding among cultures.”
Landing a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant was the brainchild of Dr. Spofford Xavier, who learned of the program several years ago while teaching in Brazil.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. government, is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries.
Dr. Spofford Xavier began the process in January.
“I was looking for a good fit for the College,” she says. “I wanted to find somebody who was going to relate well to our students – to engage them on lots of levels, not just in the classroom but through co-curricular programming. Somebody who had a passion for language learning and cultural exchange.
“Alejandro stood out.”
The feeling was mutual.
“I was given four options,” Alejandro recalls. “The huge interest that Malia shows in the development of the Spanish program, alongside (the College’s) geographical location, made me believe that Keuka should be my first option. When I received the news that I was coming here, I could not be happier."
Indeed, Dr. Spofford Xavier has made growing the Spanish and Cross-Cultural Studies program a mission since joining the College two years ago.
“The College overall, we have a big push to increase students’ cultural competency,” she says. “Obviously, our foreign language program is an ideal venue for that. … When students learn a new language, they’re going to learn a culture even more.”
The increased visibility of the program – in which student enrollment has more than doubled in the past two years – is hard to miss: A new Spanish Language and Cultural Center at Allen House (open house and reception planned for Thursday, Aug. 31!); an ongoing art exhibit by Enrique Portas at the Lightner Library Art Gallery (including a talk and reception on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 4:45 p.m.); a group Field Period® to Spain next May; two new courses planned for the 2018-19 academic year; and, of course, Alejandro, who calls Keuka College, “probably the most beautiful campus I have ever seen.”
He should know. Though this is his first visit to America, he has been seemingly everywhere else: France, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Morocco and Mexico are just a sampling of the stamps on his passport.
“The faculty members have been amazing to me,” Alejandro says of the College, “making me feel like home since the very first day.”
Alejandro plans to make a career of teaching – the better to fuel his main interests: Travel and meeting new people.
“My long-term career plans will always be linked to my desire of traveling the world,” he says. “Thus, I hope I can be lucky enough to have the possibility of working as a language teacher in as many different places as I can.”
Much like the students he will help instruct this year, then, he will be launching a rich and successful career from the solid foundation that is Keuka College.