Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA’s Department of Modern Languages and Classics provides endless opportunities for students

CW / Shelby West

The Department of Modern Languages and Classics at The University of Alabama provides options for students looking to expand their cultural knowledge through language, theory, literature and more. Based in B.B. Comer Hall, the department aims to “provide our students with the language proficiency and intercultural competence necessary for the global society of the 21st century,” according to its website 

As a part of the University’s College of Arts and Sciences, the department offers undergraduate majors in Spanish and in foreign languages and literature with concentrations in classical civilization, French, German, Greek, Latin and Italian. The undergraduate program also features minors in French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese and more. 

Cheryl Toman, a professor of French and the department chair, was excited to join the University and has experienced the school’s growth since she arrived in fall of 2020. Toman’s research focuses on French-speaking regions of Africa. She currently teaches a course on 20th- and 21st-century French poetry while supporting and collaborating with other areas of the department as well. Toman acknowledged the different generations of teachers at the University, and the collaboration between different levels of teaching and languages. 

“Everything that needs deciding in the department collectively, we all do that together, so that’s the time we have to kind of put aside our individual lanes,” Toman said. “I can see the difference that the assistant professors have been trained much differently to really work collaboratively and with a lot of interdisciplinary focus.”  

Matthew Feminella, associate professor of German with a focus on 18th- and 19th-century German literature, teaches a mixture of undergraduate and graduate courses. Feminella has studied abroad in Germany in Berlin, Freiburg, Tübingen and Münster, and recommends students to study abroad if they can.  

“Studying abroad is one of the best things I have ever done,” Feminella said. “I didn’t think that learning languages was important and fulfilling till I visited another country.” 

The department has a French club for all levels of fluency, and a French table, where students can practice conversing in French, on the Student Center Plaza from 1-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  

Graduate program opportunities include Master of Arts degrees in Romance languages and German, as well as doctoral concentrations in French or Spanish literature, linguistics and interdisciplinary studies.  

Kate Lamadrid, an international graduate student studying Spanish linguistics at the University, traveled from her home in Colombia to expand her horizons and has been involved in conferences, teaching opportunities and assisting a faculty-led study abroad program in Barranquilla, Colombia. 

“As a Graduate Teaching Student, I’ve had the opportunity to impart my knowledge by teaching Spanish to fellow UA students in the SP 100-200 courses,” Lamadrid said. “This decision has proven to be one of the best I’ve made, as my time here has been marked by academic engagement, skill development, and meaningful experiences.” 

Learning additional languages can present more job and travel opportunities, confer communication advantages, and allow students to have immersive experiences in countries of their interest with direct involvement in the culture. Students can utilize and expand their language skills through one of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics’ faculty-led study-abroad excursions in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain.   

Lamadrid currently serves as president of La Última Letra, the Spanish program’s graduate student organization, as well as leading the LengUA linguistics working group, where members “collaboratively enhance linguistics research, fostering an environment of shared knowledge and exploration.” 

Vanessa Lent, a second-year graduate student at the University, decided to pursue an M.A in Spanish Literature after receiving a recommendation from a past Spanish professor. For undergraduate studies, Lent received a BS in biology with a double minor in Spanish and Liberal Arts through the Blount Program at UA. 

“Looking back on the decision, I can confidently say that it has positively altered the course of both my personal and professional goals,” Lent said. “Giving to the community has been a keystone component in my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and being a part of the Spanish program has opened opportunities to do so.” 

Lent has held various positions with groups in the Spanish program including treasurer and vice president of La Última Letra, tutoring in the Capstone Center for Student Success, and teaching English classes to Spanish speakers in the Tuscaloosa community.  

The Department of Modern Languages and Classics also offers classes on “less commonly taught languages, many of which are vital for national security” through its Critical Languages Center, including American Sign Language, Cherokee, Hebrew, Korean, Portuguese and more, according to its website.  

“The challenging and enriching environment here has shaped me into a more capable and knowledgeable person, increasing my passion for teaching, enhancing skills, and learning through the program” Lamadrid said.  

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