Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics

Terra Incognita: Graduate Student Conference

The Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics of Florida State University will be hosting its inaugural graduate student conference entitled “Terra Incognita,” a Latin phrase meaning unknown or unexplored land. The theme of the conference is Encounters. April 8, 2017.

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Department News

2016-2017 Graduate Student Research and Creativity Awards


It is our great pleasure to announce that Shanaaz Mohammed (PhD, French) has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2016-2017 Graduate Student Research and Creativity Awards. It is a truly outstanding accomplishment to receive this highly competitive University award. This awards program is designed to recognize the superior scholarship of FSU graduate students in three disciplinary categories: natural and physical sciences including mathematics and engineering; social and behavioral sciences; and the humanities and arts. Congratulations Shanaaz, we are very proud of your achievements!

Shanaaz will be honored at this year’s Celebration of Graduate Student Excellence on Tuesday April 18th from 3:30-5:00 pm in the FSU Alumni Center Grand Ballroom.


Sultan Qaboos Scholarship Awarded to Two Modern Languages Students for Summer 2017

Two of our Arabic students, Kelly Baker (Middle Eastern Studies major) and Micah Friedman (Religion major) have been awarded the Sultan Qaboos scholarship (SALAM) for Summer 2017 to study Arabic in Manah, Oman.

The SQCC will cover international travel to and from Washington, D.C. and Muscat, Oman, program language classes, room, board, SALAM-sponsored travel for weekend excursions, and all entrance fees for program activities. Only 24 students nationwide were selected for this very competitive scholarship among them our 2 FSU students!


Florida State University Students (Daniela Castro, Jayda Craig and Hannah Dale) awarded

U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship TO study abroad


February 7, 2017 – Ms.Castro, Ms. Craig and Ms. Dale, all students in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, were three of over 250 American undergraduate students from 154 colleges and universities across the U.S. selected to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to study or intern abroad during the Summer 2017 Early Application cycle.  Ms. Castro will study abroad in France, Ms. Craig will study abroad in Morocco and Ms. Dale will study abroad in Spain.

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply towards their study abroad or internship program costs.  The program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad. Such international exchange is intended to better prepare U.S. students to thrive in the global economy and interdependent world. Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply.  Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages, and economies -- making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector. 

Congressman Gilman, who retired in 2002 after serving in the House of Representatives for 30 years and chairing the House Foreign Relations Committee, commented, “Study abroad is a special experience for every student who participates.  Living and learning in a vastly different environment of another nation not only exposes our students to alternate views, but also adds an enriching social and cultural experience.  It also provides our students with the opportunity to return home with a deeper understanding of their place in the world, encouraging them to be a contributor, rather than a spectator in the international community.”

The program is administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).  The full list of students who have been selected to receive Gilman Scholarships, including students’ home state, university and host country, is available on their website: According to Allan Goodman, President and CEO of IIE, “International education is one of the best tools for developing mutual understanding and building connections between people from different countries.  It is critical to the success of American diplomacy and business, and the lasting ties that Americans make during their international studies are important to our country in times of conflict as well as times of peace.”

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations. In an effort to reflect the diversity of the United States and global society, ECA programs, funding, and other activities encourage the involvement of American and international participants from traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.  Artists, educators, athletes, students, youth and rising leaders in the United States and more than 160 countries around the globe participate in academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges.  For more information about ECA programs, initiatives, and achievements, visit

The Institute of International Education (IIE) is the world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas.  An independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1919, the Institute is the world’s most experienced global higher education and professional exchange organization.  IIE has a network of 19 offices worldwide working with more than 1,200 member institutions and over 6,000 individuals with a commitment to the internationalization of their institutions.  IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government and private sources. These programs include the Fulbright and Humphrey Fellowships administered for the U.S. Department of State.  The Institute is a resource for educators and institutions worldwide (, publishing the Open Doors Report and operating and  search engines for study abroad program and study abroad scholarships.  For more information, please contact Lindsay Calvert, Director, Gilman International Scholarship, at 832-369-3481 or


FSU professor bridges cultures with art

Alejandra Gutierrez in a
production of
"The Stronger."

Alejandra Gutierrez cannot resist a good post-apocalyptic novel. One of her favorites is “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel which follows a theater group trying to keep the art alive in a world nearly wiped out by a virus. As an actress and FSU professor of Spanish language and literature, Gutierrez finds a kinship to this kind of story, as she strives to keep her culture alive through theater and teaching. It’s through literature that she is able to share customs, celebrations, and values with her students, connecting them and opening their eyes to a world not so different from their own.

“I think the arts are a vehicle to see things in a different way,” says Gutierrez, who has a role in upcoming Tallahassee Hispanic Theater production. “Literature and theater help you to see things through new eyes and open your mind and heart. It’s a beautiful tool to see what you’re missing.”

The Hispanic Theater is excited to debut “Anna in the Tropics,” this February at Goodwood Museum and in March in Monticello. The play follows a family running their Cuban cigar factory at the turn of the century in Ybor City, Tampa. Gutierrez will play the part of Conchita who decides to turn her life around thanks to this book. Because of the play’s strong ties to Hispanic culture, Gutierrez finds ease into slipping into her role, which shares characteristics with people she’s known.

She’s thankful for the support of the Tallahassee community and the generosity of those who volunteer with the organization like Director, Kevin Carr, who has focused on exploring the relationships between characters and immersing the cast into the era, even learning how to smoke cigars and roll tobacco. Gutierrez especially enjoys this work as the main characters are influenced by the readings of the novel “Anna Karenina” and begin seeing parallels to the story in their own lives.

“It’s a beautiful play about family and literature,” says Gutierrez, who deeply connects with both. “For me, it especially speaks to the impact and the power that literature can have to provoke change in our lives.”

Alejandra Gutierrez will play the part of Conchita in "Anna in the Tropics." (Photo: Nicole Alfonso)

Gutierrez’s hometown in Venezuela didn’t have a movie theater or many opportunities to participate in the arts. After graduating high school at age 16, she moved to the capital, Caracas, for college, and spent much of her first year going to every event she could. She still recalls being enchanted by Alfonso Plou’s “Laberinto de cristal” as it followed five young people and their journeys in the arts as writers and actors. Studying journalism, Gutierrez related to the characters and enrolled in a theater class that required a performance by the end of the semester. Though she had never performed before, when the play’s leading lady dropped out, Gutierrez stepped into her role and fell in love with the stage.

For six years, Gutierrez worked during the day as a journalist and spent her evenings acting with groups like Grupo Actoral 80, founded by Argentinean playwright and actor Juan Carlos Gené. The group performed in Venezuela during the era of Argentina’s dictatorship, and under Gené’s tutelage, a whole generation of actors was formed, including Gutierrez. After coming to the U.S., she continues to be motivated by her colleagues back home, and their tenacity for using the power of story and theater.

“I’m always inspired by the people doing theater in Venezuela right now because they’re still trying to do theater even though it’s so hard to do it,” explains Gutierrez. “Theater helps us to talk about our reality. They don’t have any support, but they’re still trying to find ways of making meaningful plays and universal stories that speak to their moment.”

Fully immersed in the theater community, Gutierrez was the special events coordinator for Venezuela’s international theater festival, which hosted groups from Spain, Germany, Italy, Latin America, and more. She continued acting and was greatly influenced by another of her mentors, Giovanni Reali, who directed August Strindberg’s play “The Stronger.” Gutierrez played the lead that spends the entire show in monologue with another silent actress. She was grateful for the chance to work with Realli who coached and improved her skills in character work.

Alejandra Gutierrez joined the teaching faculty in Florida State University’s Modern Languages
Department, Gutierrez brought along her ambition, and in June 2016
founded the non-profit organization, Tallahassee Hispanic Theater. (Photo: Alejandra Gutierrez.)

Alejandra Gutierrez joined the teaching faculty in Florida State University’s Modern Languages Department, Gutierrez brought along her ambition, and in June 2016 founded the non-profit organization, Tallahassee Hispanic Theater. (Photo: Alejandra Gutierrez.)

“He had a wonderful way of helping you to know your character,” says Gutierrez. “We did a lot of visualization and internal searching since I was only 22 and playing a woman who was married with kids. It was a beautiful experience that I will always remember and I admire him so much.”

In 2004, Gutierrez pursued her PhD, working and acting with University of Virginia professor Fernando Operé who inspired her to want to start a Hispanic theater company similar to the University of Virginia’s program. When she moved to Tallahassee and joined the teaching faculty in Florida State University’s Modern Languages Department, Gutierrez brought along her ambition, and in June 2016 founded the non-profit organization, Tallahassee Hispanic Theater.

Their first show featured one-act plays by Spanish contemporary playwright Paloma Pedrero, and subsequent performances have been at the HOLA Tallahassee festival and the School of Math and Science. The theater’s mission is to get the entire community involved with all performances spoken in English to allow anyone to audition and direct.

“With this theater group, I would like to let people know about my culture,” says Gutierrez. “I think we have a really rich and long tradition of theater in the Hispanic world that is unknown here in the U.S. and those are the stories I want to tell.”

As president, one of Gutierrez’s future goals is to translate new plays happening in Latin America currently into English to expose Tallahassee to what’s going on abroad in Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, and beyond. As a professor, she enjoys combining her love of words with her passion in theater, though she’s only translated books thus far. The creative process is one of finesse, as the translator cannot take poetic license with every work.

“I’m teaching a translation class right now and I tell the students that you have to resist the temptation to improve the work or the writing,” explains Gutierrez. “When it’s a good piece of literature it’s easy and you want to convey their ideas and find the right words to express what that person is trying to say. When I finally come up with the right sentence, verb, or adjective I should use, it’s wonderful. I love it.”

Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain

Monday, February 6, 2017 5:00 PM
009 Diffenbaugh

Would you like to spend a full academic year in Spain as an English language assistant in a public school? The Spanish education Office of the Embassy of Spain in the US offers the Cultural Ambassadors program. This is a cultural exchange program in which U.S and Canadian senior students and college graduates work as English language teacher assistants supporting bilingual programs in K-12 public schools throughout Spain.



Professor Melissa Hyde, (Art History, University of Florida) will give a public lecture on “Becoming an Woman Artist in Eighteenth-Century France,”  February 17, 1:30pm, WJB G-40. (co-sponsored by the Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies).

Melissa Hyde, Professor of Art History at the University of Florida, has published widely on the subject of women artists in eighteenth-century France. Her talk will look at examples of how deftly, productively, and variously women artists navigated the cultural institutions and restraints of the world in which they lived.  The lecture draws on research for her book, Women in French Art, co-authored with the late Mary D. Sheriff, W.R. Kenan, Jr. Professor at UNC Chapel Hill.  It relates also to an exhibition they curated, entitled Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment. French Art from the Horvitz Collection, which will be at the Harn Museum of Art, October 3-December 31, 2017, before traveling to the Ackland Museum and beyond.