Dr. Heidi Backes will join modern and classical language’s Spanish faculty in the fall. Most recently, she was an assistant professor of Spanish at Drury University.
Degree in modern peninsular literature
Backes received her Ph.D. in modern peninsular literature from the University of Wisconsin in 2011, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on the neo-Gothic movement in contemporary Spanish fiction.
Classes she’s taught
Specializing in 19th-century romanticism and naturalism, Backes has previously taught courses on 19th- and 20th-century Spanish fiction, an introduction to literary analysis, a graduate seminar in literary theory and the evolution of Spanish visual and print culture during the Franco dictatorship.
Interests include Spanish literature, international travel
She has authored several articles and book chapters on modern Spanish literature, and she is currently working on a book-length project that explores the Gothic literary tradition in Spain.
Backes encourages students to study abroad, and she loves to share her own international travel experiences with them.
In eighth grade, Spanish major Jessica Garcia watched a documentary film that would change the course of her career.
Since she could remember, she wanted to be a teacher: “I was always the little kid forcing my friends to play school so I could be the teacher.”
But when she saw the film “Waiting for Superman,” she was shaken by the state of public education.
“It was shocking to realize not every student is getting a great education, which is one of the pillars of U.S. democracy. It’s supposed to be the land where if you work hard, you’re going to succeed. That documentary highlights that is not the case.”
Seeing education from a different perspective
Jessica was not giving up on education, though. Instead, she made it her mission to approach teaching from a different perspective. She is majoring in Spanish and sociology, with a minor in diversity studies, rather than education.
“I chose to study language because I didn’t want that to be a barrier for my students. I want to be able to speak to them, or their parents, or anyone in their lives that they need to have their educational experience communicated to.”
Admittedly, learning Spanish was difficult for her, she said, but with encouragement from friends, family and the faculty in modern and classical languages, she pushed through.
“I’m really glad I did because it taught me that failure doesn’t define who you are. Not only has Spanish given me the tactical skills of learning the language and learning how to communicate with other people, it’s also taught me a lot about myself.”
Understanding systemic poverty
At about 12 years old, Jessica and her mom started volunteering at a women’s homeless shelter. Her outreach efforts continued throughout college, and her heart grew bigger for those in our society who have the greatest needs.
That drove Jessica to learn more about the systemic causes of social issues.
“My friend was majoring in sociology. He told me about the classes he was taking in juvenile delinquency, social inequality and social problems in the community. It just sounded exactly like what I was passionate about.”
She said her sociology classes have given her insights into the challenges facing low-income children and families and the resources available to help them.
“I feel like my knowledge of the entire picture of poverty, and not just education, is so much bigger because of the nontraditional route I took.”
Looking to the future ahead
As she approaches graduation on May 13, Jessica is looking to the future, and to a job waiting for her in New York.
“Democracy Prep is really passionate about taking in students who actually were likely to underperform in traditional public schools. They have really high graduation rates and high achievement rates.”
Jessica found Democracy Prep through Teach for America, a national organization that places “recent college graduates who commit two years to teach and to effect change in under-resourced urban and rural public schools,” according to its website.
She is eager to get started this summer.
“If we could provide everyone with a quality education, I feel like the level of achievement within the communities that are traditionally underachieving would be astronomical.”
Missouri State offers several opportunities to study abroad, including Japan and China. Whether you are a student or a typical traveler, there some cultural differences you should know. Plan your study away experience. In Japan, don’t bow like in the movies When visiting Japan, there’s one mistake that most people make when greeting someone, said […]
The Middle East is a region rich in culture, history and language. Many people on the Western side of the world, however; don’t have a clue about what it is like to live in, or even hold a simple conversation with someone from the Middle East. According to Islam Farag, a graduate teaching assistant in […]
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Contests, activities introduce students to language programs
In a day full of contests, proficiency activities, guest speakers and lots of languages, middle and high school students are invited to campus on March 30 to get insights into college life and the study of language.
Students will meet MCL faculty members and college students. For more information and a complete schedule, visit the showcase website.
Date: March 30 Time: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Location: Plaster Student Union Admission: Middle and high school students Contact: MCL department by email or at 417-836-5122
Degrees:German, physics and applied mathematics; minors in astronomy and environmental physics technology (’12) Current status: Research scientist at Lockheed Martin Space Systems
In addition to earning three majors, Swett was a student government president and active in the MSU research community before he graduated in 2012. Now, he is part of a world-class team researching ways to use nanotechnology to improve health care.
Swett said learning languages has enabled him to talk to foreign colleagues in their native languages and has expanded his ability to solve problems.
“I believe that the perspectives gained and skills acquired during my language course work through MCL have directly influenced the way I approach and understand research problems, which is crucial. And a major takeaway from my language coursework was gaining different perspectives on the world.
Degree:Global studies, with Spanish minor (’13) Current status: Graduate student at University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
As a Missouri State student, Amanda Klimek studied away to India and completed an internship in the United Kingdom. She graduated in 2013 with a global studies degree and Spanish minor. She is currently pursuing a master’s in public and international affairs at one of the nation’s leading policy schools. Her goal is to work with an organization like the European Union to help come up with foreign policy solutions.
“I can say with full confidence that I would not be in this master’s program without both my background in study away and my proficiency in a second language. And MSU’s public affairs mission not only makes graduates competitive on a nationwide and global scale, but it fosters the knowledge base and emotional intelligence that you need to be effective and make a difference wherever you end up.”
In Asia, the Chinese New Year is a traditional holiday where families gather, eat, decorate, exchange gifts and enjoy festivals. In an effort to share that cultural experience with the Missouri State University community, Dr. Weirong Schaefer, senior instructor of modern and classical languages, along with the China programs office, has coordinated the Chinese New […]
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Various departments across campus will come together again this year for more than 20 events for the Chinese New Year Celebration Week — from music and dance performances to tea ceremonies and cooking workshops. Attendees are encouraged to participate while at each event.
Degrees: German, global studies (’09) Current status: Presidential Management Fellow for the U.S. government
Benjamin Lachmann graduated from Missouri State in 2009 with degrees in German and global studies. From there, he pursued a graduate degree in foreign service at Georgetown University. He has worked for the U.S. Treasury Department as an investment analyst, and he is currently on a four-month rotation to the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg. There, he is serving as a foreign policy liaison with the European Union.
“Back when I was at Missouri State, this is the kind of thing I’d envisioned myself doing for a career: taking part in major policy decisions and shaping foreign policy on the ground level. I am at the front lines where critical decisions are being made — right in the middle of the migration crisis happening in Europe right now.”