Alumni

Alicia Isom Hernández '05

Alicia Isom Hernández '05

After graduating from USC in 2005 with Bachelors of Arts in Spanish and International Relations, I returned to São Paulo, Brazil, where I studied abroad as an undergraduate, and taught English for six months. These additional few months in Brazil cemented my Portuguese fluency and my determination to pursue an international career. In 2006, I was offered a year-long position to teach English in a public elementary school in Fuengirola, Spain. Upon returning to the United States, I started my master’s degree in Latin American Political Economy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. While at Georgetown, I became deeply interested in Latin American agricultural trade. My strong background from USC in Latin American languages, politics, and economics enabled me excel at Georgetown, where I was awarded a Dean’s fellowship to research regional sugar markets in Brazil in the summer of 2008 and a Foreign Languages and Area Studies fellowship for the entire 2008-09 academic year. Upon completing my master’s degree, I secured an invaluable entry-level position – the Mexico Desk Officer for the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I coordinated trade negotiations, Cabinet-level meetings, and market access strategy development with the United States’ third-largest trading partner. I also worked directly with diplomats from around the Americas to promote international agricultural trade throughout the hemisphere. In the spring of 2012, I passed the FAS Foreign Service exam and I am presently preparing for my first overseas posting as the Deputy Director of the U.S. Agricultural Trade Office in Mexico City. My education from the USC Department of Spanish and Portuguese has opened so many doors and I am still in the early stages of my career. I look forward to the many wonderful opportunities yet to come.


Vanessa Lauzon '04

Vanessa Lauzon '04

I graduated from USC in 2004 with a B.A. in Spanish and B.S. in Biological Sciences, and am now a physician, practicing psychiatry and family medicine in San Diego. While at USC, I was involved with the Spanish Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA) and served as president for two years; I also studied overseas in Madrid in 2002. I also did molecular neuroscience research with Dr. Michael Quick for my honors thesis in biology. I was a Renaissance Scholar and was inducted into Sigma Delta Pi (Spanish honor society) and Phi Beta Kappa. At graduation I received the Outstanding Undergraduate Student award from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. I stayed in the Trojan family for medical school at the Keck School of Medicine, which was a great decision because of the opportunity to do my clinical training at LAC+USC medical center, where I used my Spanish every single day and was able to truly make a difference for many underserved patients, even as a medical student. During medical school I maintained connections to the Spanish department and collaborated with Prof. David Zarazúa to create a Medical Spanish curriculum at the Keck School of Medicine, and helped teach the course during the first 2 years. Later on, I worked with Dr. Donna Elliott and created a series of workshops on how to use a medical interpreter. I received my M.D. in 2008 and moved to San Diego for a unique double residency (specialty training) in family medicine and psychiatry at UCSD. I am currently in my final year of residency and will finish training in June 2013. My main clinic is located in a homeless shelter, St Vincent de Paul Village, where I serve a very underserved population. Many of my patients are homeless or formerly homeless; others are housed but very poor. Since I am bilingual, I have a large number of monolingual Spanish speakers on my patient panel; I spend about 50% of my workday speaking Spanish. Spanish speaking doctors, let alone psychiatrists, are surprisingly scarce, and are very much in demand. For better or for worse, I have a reputation for enjoying challenging cases, and my colleagues often refer patients to me who are struggling not only with severe medical and psychiatric illnesses, but also with major linguistic, cultural, and social barriers. I am so thankful for the education and experiences I had at USC, which prepared me so well for the work I am doing now. While all the science pre-reqs allowed me to go to med school, my humanities courses gave me the space to explore and understand the human condition, which is really what is at the core of practicing medicine. In addition to my clinical duties, I also do health policy and advocacy work, maintaining a special interest in healthcare access for minority and immigrant populations and for people with chronic mental illness.


Wan S. Tang '05

Wan S. Tang '05

As clichéd as it may sound, studying Spanish at USC changed my life.  I was convinced that my future lay in advertising until the summer of my sophomore year, when I studied abroad with the Madrid Summer Program.   Everything I had read about came to life in that summer, and I could not get enough.  Upon my return to the States, I declared a Spanish major and plotted ways to return to Spain.  Fortunately, I won a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship after graduation, and spent a glorious year teaching English at a Spanish high school, researching the marketing of Spanish “women’s literature,” and traveling as much as possible.   Graduate school seemed like the logical next step, and I have spent the past six years completing a doctorate in Spanish literature at Yale.  As a graduate student, I wrote a dissertation that examined fantastic short stories from nineteenth-century Spain and, most importantly, I taught my own Spanish classes, trying to infect my students with some of my enthusiasm for the Spanish language and its literature.  I’m now beginning a new adventure as Professor Tang at Boston College.  I’m excited to have come full circle from the days I spent in Taper Hall, listening to my professors talk about Spain and its illustrious literary tradition.



  • Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 156
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0358