With a firm handshake and a welcoming smile, professor German Labrador Mendez brings comforting warmth to his classroom. A native of Vigo, Spain, Mendez earned a B.A. in Romance Philology and Hispanic Philology from the Universidad de Salamanca, as well as a Ph.D. in Spanish Literature from a joint program between Salamanca and Paris’ Sorbonne.
Mendez attributes his interests in academia to both his mother, who was involved with teaching literature, and his university professors, who fueled his love of learning. “The scholar is a permanent student — someone who studies all his life. I just love being around books,” he said.
Now, as a professor, Mendez hopes to provide “the experience of a great lesson and the pleasure of a challenging course for [his] own students.” A faculty member of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures since 2008, he is excited to teach SPA 230: Contemporary Spain in Context this semester.
According to Mendez, SPA 230, a new course, is the natural progression from SPA 227: Contemporary Issues in Spain and/or Latin America. Whereas SPA 227 examined modern Spanish issues through film and the news, SPA 230 will offer students the opportunity to directly engage with and experience Spanish culture. Its 15 students will travel to Madrid and Barcelona over spring break, where they will meet with notable academics in the fields of art, history and politics.
Such an experience is critical to students who hope to understand Spanish culture, Mendez explained. While on the trip, students will work on independent research projects in addition to immersing themselves in Spanish culture.“To learn a language, one must learn a world of values, ideas and differences through real interactions with real people,” Mendez said.
“The addition of SPA 230 is a strategic decision made by the department to increase the number of majors and certificates,” Mendez explained, adding that he is optimistic about the prospects of the growing Spanish department. Travel abroad, he said, is a crucial attraction for language studies because it acquaints students with “the complexity of learning a language, learning a world and understanding how language is a material from which the world is made.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the class' code in the headline. The 'Prince' regrets the error.