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Last modified: Thursday, September 20, 2012

IU's Department of Spanish and Portuguese receives $533,000 federal grant for its graduate program

Sept. 20, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- In advance of its 60th anniversary celebration, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University Bloomington announced that it has been awarded a $533,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which will be used to enhance its graduate program.

Steven Wagschal

Steven Wagschal

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The grant, to be awarded over a three-year period, comes from the federal agency's Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program.

The U.S. Department of Education is contributing $533,064 over the three-year grant cycle, or 71 percent of the total cost of the GAANN fellowships. IU and the College of Arts and Sciences will be contributing $219,904 or 29 percent of the fellowships.

Steven Wagschal, chair and associate professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in IU's College of Arts and Sciences, said the grant will enhance the department's efforts to train scholar-teachers.

"We're thinking ahead of the increasing need for Spanish professors and teachers nationally at all levels, and not just Spanish language but scholars of literature and linguistics who can promote cultural literacy," Wagschal said.

"The influence of Spanish-speaking immigrants to our country is a big factor, as is the increasing size of the Latino community that's already in the United States. But there is tremendous interest in Spain and Latin America among IU students as well, with Spain being the number one destination for all study abroad programs at IU."

With more than 9,000 students each year, IU's Spanish language, literature and culture courses have the second-highest enrollment in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which was established by the presidents of the Big Ten as an academic counterpart. More than 400 course sections are offered per year.

Patrick Dove, associate professor of Spanish and director of graduate studies, led the department's effort to secure the grant and is the principal investigator. The department has a robust graduate program with 98 Master of Arts and Ph.D. students and enrolls about 17 new graduate students each year.

The department is home to 21 tenure-stream faculty whose research and teaching cover a wide array of specialty areas in Hispanic, Lusophone and Catalan literatures and cultures, and Hispanic linguistics.

The graduate assistance grant will help to underwrite highly competitive graduate fellowships for at least a dozen students. Because it is a Department of Education grant, only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to apply.

In addition to health insurance, tuition waivers and time off from teaching, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need fellows will receive generous stipends to enable them to pursue travel and research activities during the summer.

Wagschal said the federal grant will help IU compete for top graduate students who are sometimes drawn to private universities that offer more generous stipends and more time off from teaching responsibilities.

On Friday, the department is marking 60 years of producing scholars and educators in Spanish and Portuguese with a daylong symposium. Successful alumni from the worlds of academics and business are returning to campus to give presentations.

August Aquila, who earned a master's degree and a doctorate from IU and today is president and CEO of Aquila Global Advisers of Minnetonka, Minn., will present the Merle E. Simmons Distinguished Alumni Lecture at 4:15 p.m. in the Georgian Room of the Indiana Memorial Union.