Faculty’s Recent Research and Scholarly Activities

We are excited to share about recent research completed by members of the Department of Modern Languages & Classics. While all professors spend a lot of time teaching at Siena College, they also dedicate a considerable amount of time to honing their research and scholarly activities. This informs and enriches their courses and is line with the mission of Siena College to “explore knowledge from a variety of perspectives and disciplines.”

Dr. Lisette Balabarca (Associate Professor of Spanish) presented at two international conferences during Summer 2023, for which she received funding from prestigious academic entities. She presented “Jewelry and Precious Stones: The Resignification of Female Luxurious Accessories in Early Modern Spain” at The Migration of Objects between Islam and Christianity in the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean: New Uses, New Meanings, held at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia Herzegovina. This conference was funded by the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Association. Her travels also took her to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where she presented “Christian and Muslim Female Converts in Early Modern Spanish Literature” for the Arabic Poetry Cairo Genizah (APCG) Research Project, a conference supported with funding from the The European Research Council (ERC). In September 2023, Dr. Balabarca attended the Society for the Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry at the University of Chicago where she presented “The Inversion of Christian Rites in Morisco Poetry: An Analysis of Scatological Elements in Juan Alonso Aragones’ Romances.”
Dr. Balabarca’s recent publications include a teaching unit titled “Francisco Núñez Muley’s Memorial,” a collaboration for Open Iberia/América, an online Open Access collection of short pedagogical editions and translations of premodern Iberian and Latin American texts modeled after the editorial practices of commercial anthologies. Take a look at: https://openiberiaamerica.hcommons.org/2023/11/14/francisco-nunez-muley- memorial-granada-1566/ . She also published a book review of “Catherine Infante’s The Arts of Encounter: Christians, Muslims, and the Power of Images in Early Modern Spain” in Bulletin of the Comediantes, vol. 74, no. 1–2, 2023.

Dr. Nathalie Degroult (Professor of French and Department Chair) was elected editor of La Gazette violette last April. It is the newsletter of ASFAP (American Society of French Academic Palms). It is published 3 times a year: Spring, Fall, Winter. She is also the contributor of two rubrics published in each edition: “Le coin des livres” and “L’actu ciné.”
Dr. Degroult continues to work actively on pedagogy and film studies. She presented the pedagogical dossier of the film “Il a déjà tes yeux” during a 3-hour workshop entitled “AATF Commission on Cinema presents Volume IV of “Allons au Cinéma: Promoting French through Films—la famille et la communauté” at an International conference in Trois-Rivieres, QC in July 2023. The volume was published in 2022. Degroult also published two book reviews: “Harcele” (Pierre Filoche), French Review, 96.4 (May 2023), and “Rien n’est perdu” (Patrice Guirao), French Review, 97.1 (October 2023).

Dr. Marcela Garcés (Professor of Spanish) traveled to Granada, Spain in the summer of 2023 to present her research at a conference titled Post-Pandemic Tourism Transformations. Eighth International Conference on Tourism & Leisure Studies. Her presentation, titled “In Defense of the Anchovy: Tourism Through Place-Based Cuisine” began her work on her sabbatical project about this topic. In October 2023, Dr. Garcés published a book review in the journal Romance Quarterly about a book titled Women’s Work. How Culinary Cultures Shaped Modern Spain by Dr. Rebecca Ingram (UC San Diego). Garcés also published a creative Spanish-English work of poetry titled “Protect Your Magic” in Nos Volvimos a Pasar, edited by Lori Celaya and R.E. Toledo.
In Fall 2023, Garcés published an article based on pedagogy in a recent 400-level Spanish course at Siena College. The article, titled “Creative Pedagogical Synergies: What Can We Borrow from Rosalía?” was published in Romance Notes as part of a special edition about the international music star Rosalía called The Rosalía Effect: Popular Music and Culture in Contemporary Spain. Garcés has given several invited lectures recently, including “The Culinary Exchange between Spain and the Americas: Recognizing Difference while Celebrating Fusion” at the FBI Central Offices in Albany, New York in conjunction with her business La Centralita Culinary Studio which she owns with her husband and creative partner; “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: My Story” at Bethlehem Central High School; and a virtual presentation titled “Teaching the Cuisines of Spain Hands-on at La Centralita” for Georgia State University.

Dr. Michael Sham (Professor of Classics) published the 12th edition of his canonical textbook Classical Mythology in early 2023.

Dr. Michael Sham (Professor of Classics) published the 12th edition of his canonical textbook Classical Mythology in early 2023.

Dr. Janet Shideler (Professor of French) carried out research this past summer related to the lives of various deceased parishioners who worshipped at the Troy, NY Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church and to the church’s significant place at the heart of the city’s “petit Canada” neighborhood. The remarks that she shared at the September 12, 2023 dedication of a historic marker for the church, razed in 2021, are accessible via a QR code on the plaque and were part of the content of a September 15 Times Union article.

As you can see, our department exemplifies diverse, interdisciplinary scholarship that addresses a wide range of material culture, time periods and topics. Stay tuned for more exciting news from the department about our accomplishments!

Applied Physics, Applied Spanish Skills

Jaime Cochran ‘25 has a diverse skill set, which is reflected in her choice of study: she is an Applied Physics Major, a Spanish minor, and is also pursuing a Theatre Certificate. Most recently, her talents were combined as a researcher at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota in the summer of 2023. She spent ten weeks working on what’s called “Ultra-Low Background Counting” for the LUX-ZEPLIN Dark Matter Detector. Cochran describes the technical parts of the experience as follows: “my colleagues and I went a mile underground and assayed (evaluated for radioactivity levels) machine parts for the detector and reported back to the data collection team so they’d know what was Dark Matter and what was naturally occurring radioactivity in the environment.”

When she arrived in South Dakota, Jaime learned that four out of her six fellow student researchers spoke Spanish, so they decided to discuss their data findings in Spanish. It was a great way to both practice and learn new vocabulary in Spanish, and Cochran noted “I was so happy to use vocabulary for what I call a ‘frontier topic’ – vocabulary on the border of my knowledge of the Spanish language.” Cochran is a great example of a student who challenges herself to practice her skills in real-world scenarios. She further applied her skills gained from her Siena College Spanish minor while attending a conference where she spoke with Dark Matter researchers from Argentina in Spanish. “I noticed I was among a very select group of people who could speak Spanish and therefore connect with researchers from other countries,” remarked Cochran. This is proof that developing proficiency in languages leads to networking opportunities and professional contacts. In Cochran’s case, she was told by the person who selected her for the position that “her application was placed at the top of the pile since she had competency in Spanish, since it set her apart from other candidates.” Cochran will surely continue to use her skills in Spanish as she recognizes they are such an important tool to have in her repertoire.

We encourage students to continue the pursuit of studying other languages, because they open so many doors!

A Unique Path to a Fulbright Master’s Degree Program

Written by Dr. Marcela Garcés

Emma Willette ’23 double majored in Spanish and Political Science, and will begin a prestigious
Fulbright Master’s Degree program at Queens University in Belfast, Ireland in Global Security and Borders this fall.

While she started out studying History and Pre-law, Emma ended up pursuing in Spanish and Political Science. Courses in Women’s and Gender Studies and Political Science confirmed her interest in majoring in Political Science, while studying abroad in Spain inspired her to continue studying Spanish.

Emma was also able to spend a fall semester in Washington DC and completed an internship while there. The experience in DC made her think about who she was, what she wanted and what she liked – and being away from campus at Siena allowed her to define herself and even learn new life skills and think about where she wanted to grow personally. She felt more comfortable taking the step to study abroad after this experience as she interacted with a lot of international students in DC and practiced starting conversations with people she didn’t know.

Emma enjoyed studying Spanish in high school, and recognized it was valuable to her in whatever she ends up doing. Studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain made her change from a minor in Spanish to a major as she realized she wanted to continue pursuing studies in the language and culture. In Bilbao, she was able to use Spanish in everyday conversation, whether with her host family or out with friends. The whole experience of studying abroad was challenging, but it gave Emma skills to interact with new people and learn about other cultures. She gained confidence, and friends and family remarked how she even carried herself differently. Living with a host family allowed her to build a more intimate relationship with the language and with native speakers, and while it was hard work to speak Spanish all the time at first, but she eventually fell into a rhythm. Emma learned to travel on her own and navigate airports – she felt good realizing she could plan a trip to Berlin to visit a friend she met while studying in DC and return home safely. In the photo, she is pictured soaking in the beautiful Gaudí architecture on a trip to Barcelona.

Emma began thinking about applying for a Fulbright while she was in Spain. She returned home and realized “I’m ready to go on to the next place!” She had learned about the possibility of a Fulbright program in DC from peers who worked with Fulbright and the State Department. Upon returning to Siena, she researched different Masters’ Programs with Fulbright connections, and found one in Queens University in Belfast, Ireland in Global Security and Borders. Right away, she noticed how there were social justice aspects in the program that attracted her and clearly connected to coursework at Siena, such as classes in Medical Spanish and Political Science. She spent the summer of 2022 working on her Fulbright application, realizing “this is so niche to my interests – why not apply?” Her persistence paid off, and Emma was accepted to the one-year program, the first Siena student to win this prestigious award.

To complement her studies, she hopes to do an internship at a refugee organization in Belfast, where she can help people settle and empathize with them due to her own experiences learning another language. She plans to join the Spanish Club at Queens University to continue practicing her skills.

Emma’s prior experiences abroad will surely be of help to her, particularly leading with humility and an inquisitive spirit to be open to a new culture and embody the values of the Fulbright program as a cultural ambassador. When asked about advice she would give to future students, Emma remarked that “pushing yourself further than what you think you’re capable of is really important.” Emma is a great example of her own ethos, and we are delighted she is pursuing her dreams through all her hard work!

Duncan Tallman ’23: An interview

Written by Dr. Marcela T. Garcés

Duncan Tallman ’23 completed a Spanish major with a Biology minor at Siena College.
During his academic career, he was a successful, dedicated and engaged student both inside and outside the classroom. Last summer, he applied his studies to volunteer with a community in Lima, Perú to develop mobile medical clinics. Duncan also completed a short-term study abroad program in Salamanca, Spain.
This summer, he spent time in Costa Rica helping run medical mobile clinics with a university from Puerto Rico before he starts medical school in the fall. Referring to his experience in Costa Rica, Duncan was enthusiastic about using his Spanish: “between working with my co-volunteers and the patients, I am getting so much practice with my Spanish!” He noted that Dr. Garcés’s course, Medical Spanish, was of particular use to him. It is offered each spring and is a Franciscan Social Justice Core course. Garcés designed numerous activities about social justice in medical situations for students to go in depth with the course content. Duncan was able to apply his knowledge of social justice in Costa Rica: “we provided healthcare to individuals that lack adequate access to necessary healthcare. It was not only an amazing
learning experience, but an opportunity to provide a human right to those that do not have access.” 
In addition, in Medical Spanish, students practice their conversational skills by talking regularly with medically trained native Spanish speakers online through a platform called Talk Abroad. This practice came in handy for Duncan in Costa Rica this summer, as he noted “it feels good to be able to use the skills I learned in the real world, however, I have a lot more learning to do!” Learning a language is definitely a lifelong pursuit, and we look forward to hearing more about Duncan’s adventures in the future!

Photos provided by Duncan Tallman.

Spanish Club host Tertulia

In February, the Club hosted its first Tertulia since the Covid pandemy. Do you know what “tertulia” means?

The name traces its origin back to gatherings in Spain and Latin America where members of the community would discuss culture and current events. At Siena, the members of the Spanish club meet for lunch once a month and have the opportunity to practice their Spanish speaking skills without faculty oversight. It’s a wonderful (-and yummy!) monthly activity!

Learning languages at Siena!

Robert Iadevaia, a senior mechanical engineering student at RPI, comes to Siena to study Italian and French. His dream is to work for Maserati in Italy, a company which speaks English, Italian, and French. To that end, he enrolled in classes at Siena to further enhance his Italian proficiency and begin to learn French. He takes advantage of the opportunity to enroll in Siena language courses completely free of charge through RPI, an opportunity available to all RPI students.

In his French course taught by Prof. Herbelin, Robert delighted his peers with some delicious croissants. What an awesome cultural experience!

My teaching story

Bonjour! Je m’appelle Jeff Petteys et je suis professeur de français depuis deux ans!

Although the past two years teaching have been crazy, chaotic at times, I’m so glad that I became a teacher through Siena’s teacher preparation program. Just like any current student in the program, I was placed in two different schools to fulfill my student teaching requirements. I taught for six weeks at Goff Middle School and three days at Shenendehowa before COVID happened! I did not realize the connections that were being made at the time and where this would all lead me in my career.

A maternity leave at Shenendehowa secured a position for me within their school district which inadvertently led to where I am teaching now, in my hometown of Corinth, NY! I feel so lucky to be colleagues with my teachers from both middle and high school. Teaching where I grew up thus far has been inspiring, motivating, and has ultimately brought me so much joy. My position is teaching French to 7th-11th graders. I am also coaching modified and JV wrestling along with hosting a trip to Europe in 2023! It has been extremely busy, but my course load at Siena prepared me for this. Although I am teaching during a pandemic, I have no regrets choosing this profession and I arrive home everyday proud of what my students are accomplishing. I am able to see growth and show my students that hard work and determination leads to success, although it is hard to see one day at a time. Just six years ago I was in their seats walking the same hallways. I’ve gained a new perspective and appreciation working in my home district and I feel very honored that they welcomed me back with open arms.