Tiffany Dayemo '15

I am an Impact Studies Research Intern for Water Missions International, a non-profit organization that builds water systems in countries like Honduras and Haiti to provide safe water to vulnerable communities. I am also applying to law school. I wouldn't have been on the path to become interested in human rights or legal issues concerning them if it had not been for my SPAN 499 course with Professor Chodorowska-Pilch based in Valencia, Spain in the summer of 2012. The Special Topics course focused on Immigration in Spain, a really interesting time to study it because of the 2012 Eurocrisis, and really the beginning of the current migrant crisis we are seeing today in 2015. Through the course, we learned about Spanish political and economic issues through taking a course at the University of Valencia, different types of resources available to migrants by visiting NGOs and refugee centers, and Spanish cultural immersion experiences through weekend trips to Granada and Bilbao. Our research paper on the effects of the 2012 Eurocrisis on various immigrant groups, written completely in Spanish, pushed us to interview a wide range of immigrants from around the EU, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Colombia, and Syria to name a few. The stark differences Spain's economic crisis had on each group of immigrants and the resources available to them was shocking. I knew I wanted to learn more about human rights issues, and set out to seek internships with NGOs specializing in that area. Had it not been for this SPAN 499 course, as well as especially Professor Chodorowska-Pilch and the department's efforts to provide such a wonderful program, I wouldn't have secured my dream internship with Human Rights Watch the following year nor currently be applying to law school. Thank you USC Department of Spanish and Portugese!

Maria Fish '15

As a Spanish major at USC, I took advantage of opportunities to use my Spanish outside of the classroom--opportunities that ultimately shaped my post-graduate plans. In the summer of 2012, I travelled to Valencia, Spain to examine  immigration policy and Spanish culture. I then spent a semester in Santiago, Chile, where I took courses on human rights and Chilean literature, and also backpacked through Patagonia and Chile's northern desert regions. The Spanish department encourages global citizenship, equipping students with the language skills necessary to cross cultural borders and boundaries. Inspired by this idea, I applied for a Fulbright the fall of my senior year. My Fulbright took me to Andorra, the world's seventh smallest principality nestled between Spain and France in the Pyrenees mountains, where I'm living for the next 10 months. Here, I'm working in a secondary school, helping teenaged students improve their oral English skills. Outside of the classroom, I'm learning Catalan and exploring the mountains. My time at USC, especially in the Spanish department, absolutely shaped my desires to see the world and experience the intricacies of different cultures.

Genesse Villalta '15

The Spanish language and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese have given me a home. While I was quick to shun my culture and my language, my culture and my language have never shunned me. I have never felt more welcomed than on my trips with USC to Honduras and Madrid. As a Spanish-speaker, I have had numerous doors open to travel, assimilate with cultures, and listen to stories and life-experiences of others. It is with pride that I will graduate with dual degrees in Spanish and Neuroscience from USC. I plan to hold both of these degrees high in my career as a physician assistant in the communication and health services for those who desperately need it. Above all, my Spanish degree will always help me remember who I am, where I come from, and my heritage as a Latin-American woman.

Genesse Villalta is one of the recipients for the 2015 Outstanding Undergraduate Service Award conferred by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Mary Waller '15

As a tutor for SAAS, I learned to teach a diverse set of students, ranging greatly in their academic ability and motivation. I teach both Spanish and French (levels 1-4). I conduct all my sessions in Spanish or French respectively, and help my students to be able to express themselves in the language to the best of their abilities. I believe that all students can love the language they are studying and be good at it, and I have made it my mission each semester to help my students connect with the language in a way that is meaningful to them. It is a privilege to be able to work with students one on one and adjust my teaching to their level and learning style. As a tutor for SAAS I practice patience, discretion and creativity, while also holding my students accountable. Integrating my own studies of Spanish with teaching Spanish one on one (or in small groups) has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences I have had as a Spanish major at USC.

Mary Waller is one of the recipients for the 2015 Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Award conferred by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Mary K. Planchet '15

My Spanish education is incredibly important with regard to the furtherance of my career. I plan on working in the legal field once I graduate, and possessing the ability to speak a second language will undoubtedly help me to achieve my goals and find jobs that assist the public, including the large Hispanic population of Los Angeles.

Mary K. Planchet is one of the recipients for the 2015 Outstanding Undergraduate Academic Award conferred by the  Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Jasmine Gale '15

I am often asked where I learned Spanish, and I proudly describe USC's interdisciplinary Department of Spanish and Portuguese and study abroad programs. My newfound confidence in the language has allowed me to communicate more effectively with a large portion of the world, including the large Spanish-speaking population in USC's backyard. Whether tutoring students of Spanish, serving as a cultural and comfort bridge for emergency patients, or teaching science in Spanish, I am proud to be both the product of, and an ambassador for, USC's Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Jasmine Gale has received the 2015 Honorable Mention for Academics by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

Ryan Trombley '13

My first trip to Spain sparked my interest in Spanish when I was eight years old. As I strolled through the Parque Güelle in amazement at its aesthetic brilliance, I was equally captivated by the elusive, mellifluous sounds of Castellano. Upon returning to the United States, I sought recreate my experiences in Spain by watching Spanish television and immersing myself in the language.

My undergraduate degree in Spanish was an invaluable part of my professional and personal development. Studying Spanish greatly improved my verbal and written expression; in addition, it completed my coursework in International Relations by providing me with unique historical, cultural, and political insights into Brazil, Mexico and Argentina.

My Spanish degree was formative for allowing me to achieve personal and professional goals. In 2014, I interned in the legal department of a non-profit in New York dedicated to providing asylum to marginalized HIV+ and LGBT individuals throughout the world. My Spanish proficiency allowed me to connect with the Latino, Immigrant, and LGBT communities and to make a modest effort towards promoting social justice.

As a current law student, aspiring MBA candidate, and former Global Business major, I plan on using my Spanish and Portuguese language skills in conjunction with my legal and business acumen. I am interested in international transactional law involving emerging markets (Brazil and Mexico) and am confident that my Spanish and Portuguese proficiency will help unlock opportunities in the legal spheres.

Michael Hergenrader '12

I am a foreign language grammar geek. I love exploring all the possibilities of expression in rich languages like Spanish and Portuguese. Throughout my time at USC, I strived to communicate creatively in these languages, inside the classroom and out, constantly playing with new patterns and phrases to find a style. However, without full-time immersion in a native speaking environment, how could I determine that my manners of expression were in tune with the native parts of the world?  To start answering this difficult question, I leveraged my other passion, Computer Science. In my senior thesis, I used natural language processing and machine learning techniques to statistically analyze millions of native Spanish and Portuguese texts. From the results of this analysis, I have discovered some of the most distinguishing features of written styles in many Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries.  Today, this research is a foundation for my continuing linguistic investigations. At Microsoft, I employ statistical machine translation theory to provide more relevant search and ad results in various international markets. And, on my time, I continually experiment, be it with algorithms or pens, to perfect my writing, striving to someday publish works written in the languages I so eagerly explore.

Martin Hodis '12

I strived to optimize all the resources that the Spanish Department had to offer.  I joined the Spanish Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA) where I served as secretary and eventually president, working on ways to immerse myself and other students in the Spanish language and the various cultures of Spanish-speaking countries.  To improve my Spanish skills, I participated in the USC Summer Madrid Program where I spent seven weeks taking Spanish classes, living with a host family, and learning about Spanish culture and history.  One of the best opportunities I had was studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, for five months.  I not only had an incredible host family that taught me much Spanish (and chilenismos) but studied in the top universities in the country.  This experience greatly assisted my goal of achieving fluency.  In addition, I had the opportunity to explore Chile and South America, becoming further immersed in the Spanish language and South American culture.  Due to my positive experience in Chile and a strong desire to return, I began work as an English teaching volunteer for the Chilean English Opens Doors Program.  I will be in Chile for 5 months, working to animate Chilean students from sixth to eleventh grade to learn English.

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.


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.

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.

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