April 4, 2011
11-72

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Spanish Professor Unites Art and Research

 

VALDOSTA -- Dr. Miryam Espinosa-Dulanto speaks in colors and photographs. With English as her second language, the Spanish professor blends art and research to communicate in the academic world.

“Sometimes it is difficult to express in words, the feelings raised by discussions on certain issues such as, immigration, slavery or world customs and cultures, so I encourage students to explore other methods of communication to sharing their feelings and findings,” said, Espinosa-Dulanto, whose office is lined with vibrant photo essays on different themes from child slavery, to love and family."

Espinosa-Dulanto dedicates much of herself to bridging cultures through language and art. Within the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, she coordinates the newly established Spanish for Professionals, a Quality Enhancement Plan designed to improve the Spanish-speaking skills of nurses, law enforcement officers, businesses owners and other professionals who regularly communicate with Spanish speakers.

Many of these students volunteer their time to work at the Migrant Farmworkers Clinic, which provides support groups, legal resources, medical aid, basic necessities and education to migrant workers in the region. In early March, the clinic recognized Espinosa-Dulanto and Dr. Tracy Woodard Meyers, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, for their contributions to the rural outreach program.

“I have been working with the region’s migrant population for the past two years. I go to the clinic about three times each week, helping with everything from women’s groups to legal education. Some situations are so desperate, and I could let myself get depressed, but on the weekends, my students and I teach language classes to the most hopeful bunch of people. They go to great lengths to travel to the class and work so hard to become productive members of society. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Education in the Borderlands

The proud grandmother also teaches field research courses to prepare students for the Borderland Cultural Immersion Experience, an interdisciplinary, experience-based program that introduces undergraduate and graduate students to life along the borderlands. About 25 students will participate in the 2011 experience, which will be held May 12 -- June 3 in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico.

“It is amazing to watch students transform once they open themselves up to these issues and people,” she said. “Not all of them have the same views, but they realize how much they have to be grateful for when they see a man working 12-14 hour days to send all his money to Guatemala or a single mother struggling to feed her baby. They start to become connected with the world in a very human way.”

Espinosa-Dulanto, who recently traveled to a photo essay conference in California, said she plans to incorporate an artistic research project into the borderland experience, which is organized through the Women’s and Gender Studies Program with input from the departments of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice as well as Modern and Classical Languages.

“Some of the student participants are not fluent, and they are reluctant to communicate on the trip or after because they are afraid they will say the wrong thing or not express themselves fully,” Espinosa-Dulanto said. “The freedom to speak through other means, such as artwork or photographs, gives students an outlet to communicate with each other and break through cultural barriers.”

For more information about the immersion experience, go to www.valdosta.edu/womenstudies/U.S.-MexicoBorderIssuesCourses.shtml. E-mail Espinosa-Dulanto at meespinosadulant@valdosta.edu to learn more about her work.