A particularly rewarding role for graduate faculty members is the opportunity to foster the academic and professional growth of our MA and PhD candidates as they transition from being our students to becoming our eventual colleagues. That is, in short, the goal of our graduate program — to form professionals in the fields of Hispanic linguistics and Spanish and Latin American literatures and cultures, who will shape the future of Spanish studies both within and beyond the academy. In so doing, we continue a commitment that can be traced back to the very origins of the University of Florida.
Spanish has been taught at UF since the school’s move to Gainesville in 1806. In the mid 1940s, we began offering graduate-level courses, culminating in the creation of a graduate-degree-granting program in the academic year of 1950-51. On our shelves, we can find the oldest MA thesis on record, Ronald M. Bryant’s “Four Novels of the Cristero Movement in Mexico” (1955), accompanied by the oldest PhD dissertations: Edna Coll’s “Injerto de Temas en las novelistas mexicanas contemporáneas” and Robert R. Morrison’s “Sainthood in the Theater of Lope de Vega” (both from 1963). Painstakingly typed long before the advent of computers and electronic submissions, these volumes provide a physical connection to a rich heritage for our graduate students as they embark on their own research projects and professional development.
The Spanish graduate program is currently comprised of eleven graduate faculty and thirty-five graduate students who work toward their MA or PhD degrees in either Linguistics or Literature and Culture. All of our students are offered appointments as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) at the time of admission, which provides them with a tuition waiver, a competitive stipend, and free health insurance. The role of GTAs is twofold, as they complete the coursework and other academic requirements of their intended degrees while they teach Spanish classes at the elementary or intermediate level. As demanding as it is, this dual training as instructors as well as scholars is extremely valuable for their competitiveness on the job market. In addition, our graduate students regularly present at academic conferences (including the Symposium of Spanish and Portuguese Studies they organize every year at UF), participate as instructors in our study-abroad programs, and serve as student representatives on various departmental committees. Yet, all curricular considerations aside, what makes this program a truly remarkable endeavor is the inspiring passion for learning and teaching that our graduate students exhibit, as well as the rich cultural diversity they bring to the classroom and the community: more than half of our current TAs self-describe as female and non-white, and the current cohort comes from eleven different countries. Thanks to their dedication and that of the faculty advising them, a seven-decade tradition of Spanish graduate studies at the University of Florida continues to thrive.