Linda Smith, News Editor
Over the summer, the Spanish, classics, politics and math departments at the University of Dallas each added a new full-time professor to its faculty. Like those professors whose names are already familiar to us, each of UD’s newly minted set of four has traveled his or her own path to our university.
Tucked away in a corner nook of the modern languages department, Dr. José Espericueta’s office is lined with what he loves in the two languages that he loves: literature in Spanish and English. Currently teaching two first-year Spanish language courses and a 20th century Spanish-American novel course, Espericueta had many influences that fostered this dual love. Perhaps most influential among them were that his mother was an English teacher and his father was a Mexican immigrant.
“I always knew that I liked literature,” Espericueta said. “I was really impressed with my English classes, and the logical thing for me to do as a Spanish speaker and somebody who wanted to study Spanish more was to combine my interests.”
Espericueta believes that language is important for connecting with people across the globe. A story he tells from his childhood describes the communication that he, a self-proclaimed “Spanish learner,” shared with his cousin, a native Spanish-speaker. The pair were able to converse by forming sentences from the random words that they both knew.
“It reached the point where he understood and I recognized that he understood, and he was excited because we had just shared something that was incredibly rewarding,” Espericueta said. “It’s a nice feeling to make that connection with other people.”
While Espericueta received his doctorate in Latin American literature from Indiana University, he first attended Knox College for his bachelor’s degree, and Miami University of Ohio for his master’s degree. He remarked upon his love for the small, liberal arts university experience.
“I liked being able to talk to my professors outside of the class; the classroom experience wasn’t confined to the classroom,” Espericueta said. “I like that breakdown of barriers between professor and student and there’s some of that here, and I like that a lot.”
Similarly, Dr. Robert Hochberg – UD’s new addition to the math department – has known since the seventh grade that he wanted to be a professor. He liked the lifestyle of his uncle, an English professor, and has been teaching at universities and summer workshops for both teachers and students since 1994. Hochberg actually applied here 15 years ago, but UD’s first attempt at installing a computer science major in the late ‘90s fell through.
“UD has a great reputation,” Hochberg said. “For about 16 years, I knew it was a really good Catholic school, and I always wanted to get to a really good Catholic school.”
Dr. David Andrews not only resurrected the computer science program but fit it into the core curriculum, and Hochberg is excited to be teaching math and co-pioneering this new major. His classes this semester include Euclidean and Non-Euclidean Geometry, Linear Algebra and Introduction to Computer Science.
“We have this neat opportunity to do that,” Hochberg said. “We’re going to really try to make UD stand out, to attract students looking for a Catholic liberal arts school and give them a top-notch computer science program.”
Dr. Daniel Burns – the latest addition to the politics faculty – never thought that he would follow in the footsteps of his father to become a professor. In fact, a college friend back in his undergraduate years bet Burns that he would end up teaching political science within 15 years, which Burns denied at the time.
During his undergraduate studies at Williams College, his professors and certain authors, including Joseph Ratzinger, Ernest Fortin and Leo Strauss, cultivated his interest in philosophy, theology and, of course, politics.
“I just realized that they know so much because they’ve devoted their lives to reading and they’re talking about questions that I really wanted all the answers to. I realized that if I wanted to work on that myself, I’d have to spend a lot of time reading myself.”
Although Burns is starting this job a little more than six weeks after finishing his doctorate, he is impressed with many things about UD, especially the Core and how it encourages the understanding of several disciplines that students seem enthusiastic to learn about.
“That’s a great thing about UD; people don’t insist on these absolute boundaries between the one subject and the other,” Burns said. “There’s recognition that they have some influence on each other.”
Indeed, Dr. Gwenda-lin Grewal – the newest member of the classics department – has experience with bridging supposed gaps between two different topics. Not only does she teach Philosophy and the Ethical Life, first-year Latin and second-year Greek, but she is also a fashion designer based in New York.
When asked how the move was affecting her other love, Grewal said that it “was rough,” but that she would “make it work.” She has lectured before on the correlation between the seemingly polar-opposite topics of philosophy and fashion; in the future Grewal plans to come out with a book about how the two actually go together.
However, Grewal’s first love is for Greek and Latin, and she has very fond memories of her time as an undergrad at Sarah Lawrence College with her professor, Dr. Michael Davis.
“He spent hours reading Greek with me and talking about the philosophical ideas, and I fell in love with Plato at that point,” Grewal said. “I knew I had to read it, and there is this terrible thing where you also have to make money. It’s actually an amazing thing that they pay you to read great books with students that are interested in them; it’s kind of wonderful.”
Although Grewal had doubts about teaching, she agreed that it has “only made [her] a better thinker” and has given her many opportunities: the chance to co-teach with Dr. Davis a class based on her own translation of an ancient dialogue, and to teach Latin at Due Santi.
“To be able to teach the language is actually a great gift,” Grewal said. “All the grammatical principles and rules that surround it are really interesting to me, so watching a group of students encounter them for the first time and sort of generate new problems for me to solve is wonderful.”