Michigan State University
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Romance and Classical Studies
Letters From Our Chairs
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Professor Douglas A. Noverr

As I conclude my three years as interim chairperson (two years as chairperson and 2017-2018 as interim co-chairperson), my message will appropriately be brief. In my message for 2016 I wrote of the likely forthcoming folding of the department into the proposed structure and organization of the School of Languages with individual language programs no longer contained within a departmental organization or historical identity. For reasons and developments too complicated and lengthy to detail her, the School was not endorsed by a majority of faculty and thus, has not moved forward. RCS continues as a department, and Professor Tony Grubbs has been selected as the interim chairperson for an appointment of two years. A new tenure system faculty member in Spanish linguistics begins her appointment in the department in 2018-2019, and the department will be searching for two new tenure system faculty members (one in French and the other in Spanish) during this coming academic year. These are positive and welcomed signs of moving forward, especially with the recent losses of Professor Anna Norris and Professor Nancy Marino. 
2017-2018 was for MSU a year of tumultuous revelations and developments that shook the very Foundations of the University, bringing about the imperative need for new leadership, direction, and rededication to absolutely essential human values. MSU has begun to deal with what must be done to insure the safety, protection, and dignity of everybody connected to the University.
The future is yet to be written and is not fully in sight, and steps to move forward have been difficult and not always positive. Building and regaining trust is not an easy process, and it is earned by individual and collective acts of good faith. The best of intentions have to be confirmed by tangible and permanent changes that will benefit the welfare of all.  The individual measure has to be valued as highly, and even more so, than the institutional measure.
I believe that MSU faculty and the faculty I know in RCS are willing and ready to be agents of needed change and to examine themselves for needed personal changes. In the crucial next years this renovation of spirit and reorientation of institutional values are far more important than a new administrative structure for the promotion and study of languages, at least for now.
I close what is an almost fifty year career at MSU with a hopeful anticipation of what is emerging from the crisis the University is experiencing, a new culture that has a social, moral,  and ethical foundation and social compact that underlies and guides every action, word, and intention of its community.

0. Co-Chair Rocio.JPGFrom 2017-2018 Interim Co-Chairperson Rocío Quispe-Agnoli

Our department has experienced challenging situations this year with unexpected changes in our faculty cohort. Cherished colleagues have departed either because it was their time to go or because a new opportunity crossed their ways. Last year’s changes have pushed us to think of creative solutions and have opened the door to set plans and think about best courses of action for the years to come.

I have served the department in a dual appointment: as Interim Co-Chairperson an as Chair of the School Executive Planning Committee. The department has successfully conducted three national searches and new colleagues will join us next academic year: Silvina Bongiovanni (Spanish Linguistics) and Víctor Rodríguez-Pereira (Early Modern Spanish Literature). This summer the department is conducting its first “pool search” to identify qualified instructors of Romance languages for next AY. In addition, after consultation with the French and Spanish sections, we have established the “Basic Language Instruction Team” to prepare and deliver the French and Spanish basic language instruction and train TA’s and instructors. The team started working on April and will continue until the end of the next academic year. An assessment of the team’s progress is scheduled to take place in late spring of next year to decide the best direction. Next year Professor Joe Francese will be on research leave and  Ms. Carmen DeLorenzo will coordinate the Italian language program. This summer, Portuguese professor Saulo Gouveia is finalizing the design and implementation of digital materials to deliver the first tech-enhanced courses in Portuguese.

In fall of 2018, Co-Chair Noverr and I held the first meeting with fixed-term faculty and academic specialists. Participation in departmental and college initiatives, academic and professional service, professional development and annual reviews were vividly discussed in this meeting.  This year my office has worked closely with the DGS, the graduate advisors, the associate chair, the conveners of the undergraduate programs, and the staff to reach immediate goals and set plans. I have also made a point of celebrating faculty and student accomplishments, promote their activities, and make them visible in the world wide web as much as time allowed me to. A consistent and strategic use of resources (time, budget and human resources) and clear communication and guidance about using resources have been guiding principles in my tenure as Co-Chair this year.

Between July 2017 and February 2018, I’ve served as chair of the School Executive Planning Committee that was charged with transitioning the two language departments, CeLTA and the SLS program into a new structure (the “School”) and implementing the necessary structures for the its operational start in July 2018. Even though this initiative was brought to a halt last February, the experience gained about academic design, academic governance, policies and practices serve as a learning platform to rethink and address what is needed to foster collaborations across language programs.

On August 15 of 2018, I step down from this position. After more than two very intense years in leading initiatives and administrative processes for our department and the College of Arts and Letters, and thanks to a fellowship and a sabbatical leave,  I am looking forward to my research projects on Latin America’s coloniality. Thanks to everyone who reached out for help because it taught me more than I expected to learn, and thanks to all colleagues (faculty and staff) and graduate students who supported my work throughout these months.

AGrubbs.jpgAnthony Grubbs, Interim Chairperson 2018-2020

To begin my contribution to this year’s newsletter, I would like to thank Professors Rocío Quispe-Agnoli and Douglas Noverr for their tireless leadership of the department during the last year. Their guidance and hard work helped to ensure that the members of the Department of Romance and Classical Studies are well positioned within the College of Arts and Letters to advance their diverse interests in scholarship, teaching, and outreach. The work done in RCS underlines how language not only allows us to communicate, but also reveals the rich cultural fabrics that makes up today’s global society. The department’s members are a dynamic and productive community of scholars and instructors whose innovative approaches to pedagogy and research are second to none. As Interim Chair for the next two years, I relish the opportunity to learn from my colleagues’ accomplishments and help promote their endeavors.

As the department moves forward, we will see many new faces in Wells Hall during the upcoming year. It is my pleasure to welcome Dr. Silvina Bongiovanni to the faculty as our newest tenure-stream Assistant Professor. Dr. Bongiovanni’s areas of specialization are Phonetics and Phonology, and I am certain that her impact on the both the undergraduate and graduate linguistics curricula will be immediate. Dr. Victor Rodríguez-Pereira also joins the faculty as a fixed-term Assistant Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. He will teach a wide array of classes, including two graduate seminars. 

In addition to departmental projects, RCS will continue to promote the Humanities in collaboration with other departments and units both in the CAL and in other colleges at MSU. We especially welcome the opportunity collaborate with Dr. Felix Kronenberg, the incoming director of the Center for Language Teaching Advancement, in support of the center’s new directions in language instruction.

Indeed, the future is bright for RCS and I am fortunate to be a part of it. I wish everyone a great year!