Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Chris Schulenburg
Dr. Chris Schulenburg, associate professor of Spanish, has been teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville since 2007. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history and Spanish from UW-Madison, master’s degree in Spanish literature from University of Colorado-Boulder, and Ph.D. in Latin American literature from UW-Madison.
Schulenburg was a 2012-13 UW System Teaching Fellow, and the recipient of the Outstanding Educator Award from Kappa Delta Pi Iota and the College of Liberal Arts and Education Professional Development Award. This spring he presented at the College of LAE Faculty Forum Series on Mexican author Jorge Volpi’s novel, “No será la Tierra” and its look at the role of science in a globalized culture – a topic he will continue to focus his research on this summer.
How did you first become interested in Spanish and later in Latin American studies?
The people – meeting and talking to people and going places. I studied abroad when I was in high school, after my junior year. I did a summer in Seville, Spain, and stayed with a family for a month and a half and that left a mark. The country is incredible. I study Latin American literature so I spend a lot of time with people from Mexico and Venezuela. The culture is vibrant and it’s part of our country now.
Latin American literature is unbelievable. There’s a little bit of the South in the United States in it – the magical realism, like Toni Morrison. There are all kinds of connections between ghosts and strange reality for them is the every day. That shapes their culture.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments during your time at UW-Platteville?
I supervise student teachers and help them work through the program. So students who have majored in Spanish and studied to become teachers are my legacy. They are out in the community and around the state. I have a variety of students who are at Prairie du Sac, Platteville, Benton, Clintonville – I have students who are everywhere. They’ve taken two, three, four or five classes with me, and I’ve supervised them. Having them be able to then form students of their own in communities is very gratifying.
What do you hope your students take away from your classes?
The first 15 minutes of every class I have them talk about their lives. I like to have them meet each other, hear about each other, hear about their accomplishments, sometimes their sadness. It’s good that students know each other, because I have them do a lot of group work. I want them to be able to get something from the class in terms of social interaction – and it’s all in Spanish. I don’t do a single word, until the last five minutes of the semester, in English. So they need to develop their own persona in Spanish.
Another point I want them to take away is being able to understand that language is not an end game. It’s a process. What they read in class, their conversation in and out of class, emailing me, asking questions of their peers, going to reviews, studying abroad – it’s all a process. It’s discouraging when I hear students say ‘I’ve finished my minor, I’m done.’ You’re not done. When someone starts talking to you in Spanish, you better be ready to speak to them and be able to speak to something that is important to them and where they are from; be able to add something that’s going to make me proud as a professor.
What research will you be working on this summer?
I did a faculty forum about Mexico and how globalization is affecting Mexico. It used to be if you were a Mexican author, you talked about Mexico – the history, the revolution – that’s what you talked about. Now, this Mexican author, Jorge Volpi, is talking about how the 21st century is being formed in all sorts of different places – Mexico City being one of them – but how we’re all interconnected. I use science as a common ground for people to talk about Mexico, the United States, the world, and how we’re all interconnected whether we like it or not. Science is the factor that brings everything together; in the end human interest breaks it all apart.
What are some of your interests or hobbies outside of work?
I love traveling. We’re going to New York City soon to do a conference. I love soccer; I coach my sons’ soccer during the summer. I love hiking; we go to the state parks around here. I love being outside.
Interview conducted by Alison Parkins, University Information and Communications. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact email@example.com.