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Spanish graduate student organization holds 25th annual literature conference

People sit at several rows of tables as a presenter in one corner of the room speaks. One wall of the room is entirely windows; another is painted lime green and has a projector screen in the middle of it.

SPAGrad, the Spanish Graduate Student Association, held its 25th annual literature conference last month, drawing presenters and attendees from the Spanish program of the School of International Letters and Cultures as well as graduate students and scholars from institutions across the United States, Mexico and Europe.

March 25, 2022

SPAGrad, the Spanish Graduate Student Association at Arizona State University, held its 25th annual literature conference last month, drawing presenters and attendees from the Spanish program of ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures as well as graduate students and scholars from institutions across the United States, Mexico and Europe.

“The conference was open to the public and (School of International Letters and Cultures) students were encouraged to present their research or attend sessions of interest. We had a few students from our program present,” said Aaron Arizmendi, a Spanish graduate teaching associate and co-chair of SPAGrad and the graduate literature conference.

He said each session drew about 30 to 35 attendees, and the conference was conducted both in person and virtually.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Intersectionalities and Global Studies in Literature, Film, and Photography.”

Professor Sam White of The Ohio State University, an environmental historian, delivered the keynote address on “Climate and Crisis in the Borderlands of Myth and Reality.”

Arizmendi and conference co-chair Morgan McCullough, also a Spanish graduate teaching associate, said White’s presentation connected environmental history to colonial narratives and the climate crisis genre.

“The topic of the environment, highlighted by our keynote speaker, drove a few of our sessions, bringing the world of scientific and historical data to the space of literature, leading to many questions regarding the role of myth and reality in many of our interpretations,” Arizmendi said.

The conference was entirely planned by students, with financial support from several faculty members from the Spanish program along with the School of International Letters and Cultures, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and ASU’s Jewish Studies program and research center. ASU Spanish professors, instructors and lecturers also chaired many of the various sessions over the course of the conference’s three-day schedule.

Associate Professor of Spanish Jesús Rosales, who serves as the faculty adviser for SPAGrad, said the annual conference provides current students with a valuable opportunity to network with their peers and share their research with national and international audiences. It also shows prospective graduate students the breadth of scholarship being produced at ASU and across Spanish programs more broadly.

“I hope that the attendees can have a better sense of what we do here at ASU as far as our Spanish and Portuguese literary and cultural studies, and realize that we understand the diverse cultural landscape of our borderlands,” he said.

Celebrating 25 years is a significant milestone for SPAGrad’s signature event. Both the conference and the graduate student organization have been sustained over the years by the passion and dedication of their student leaders and members, along with the School of International Letters and Cultures's faculty and staff.

“There is now an established tradition of bringing Spanish and Spanish-American literature to new spaces of inquiry by allowing for greater interdisciplinary connections,” Arizmendi said.

This focus has been borne out in the most recent conferences, and SPAGrad plans to continue to expand the event’s interdisciplinary ties in the future.

Another goal is to increase the direct involvement of faculty members from the School of International Letters and Cultures, and other institutions across the country and world. This year’s conference had a professor panel, for example. The conference organizers said increased participation from established faculty will offer students more opportunities to network with scholars already working in academia, allowing them to develop more connections in their field.

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