Humans of UD: Dr. Marisa Perez-Bernardo

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Inspiring is just one word used to describe Dr. Marisa Perez-Bernardo, associate professor of Spanish in the department of modern languages. All the way from northern Spain, Perez-Bernardo has traveled far and wide to have the opportunity to teach Spanish at the University of Dallas. Her passion and enthusiasm about the language are just some qualities that make her one of the great professors at UD.  

Perez-Bernardo was born and raised in Santander, a northern region located on the coastline of Spain. She is “very normal but very Spanish.” Family, learning and culture are just a few Spanish values that hold a close spot to her heart. 

Growing up by the water, Perez-Bernardo found a love for the sea, a love that eventually developed into a dream of becoming a fishmonger. Perez-Bernardo said that she has “always had a love for adventure”and her young heart craved the adventure and journey that waited for her beyond the sand and in the sea. Unfortunately, her fantastical dreams of becoming a fishmonger never came true, but now she has accomplished an even greater dream. Inspired by her parents and siblings who all teach in some manner, Perez-Bernardo found a passion for teaching rooted in the humanities. 

In  primary and secondary education, Perez-Bernardo said that she studied “Spanish, English, Greek and Latin.” The time she spent with these languages fed a love for her interest in the humanities, other cultures and the languages themselves. Perez-Bernardo believes “classical languages help you have a better understanding of your own language.” Language learning has always been an important part of Perez-Bernardo’s life, but she said that “my favorite language is still Spanish.”

Perez-Bernardo’s aspiration for adventure across the sea may have not included fishmongering, but she still found her way across waters by embracing her love for travel. Perez-Bernardo spent two semesters studying in Ireland, and later studied at Salamanca University in Spain, which is not only the oldest university in Spain, but also one of the most prestigious. While at the University of Salamanca, Perez-Bernardo studied the history of the Spanish language and linguistics. Perez-Bernardo says that she developed a fascination for language studies because it was a “combination between history and linguistics that had so many different levels.” She also studied at the Catholic University of America in Washington, to attain her Ph.D., and had also attained a Master’s degree in translation. Whilst at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, Perez-Bernardo heard about a position at UD, applied and here she is today. 

Perez-Bernardo said that she “has been with UD since 2003”, and since then, she has continued to have a significant impact on all of her students. She has almost completed 20 years of teaching at UD, an amazing accomplishment for a woman of her history and background. She teaches Spanish language and literature, Latin American literature and even teaches outside the limits of UD. She has taught summer Spanish courses at the University of El Paso and Oklahoma University. 

Perez-Bernardo has also worked to create opportunities for students who wish to study abroad by collaborating with the Catholic University of Ávila. The summer study abroad program offers students the opportunity to take Spanish speaking and literature courses in Ávila, Spain for the entire month of July. It is just one of the ways Perez-Bernardo has contributed to enabling students to learn and embrace Spanish at the next level. 

Beyond teaching, Perez-Bernardo took a sabbatical in Madrid, Spain to do research at the national library and she has also spent time doing research in Germany. Perez-Bernardo’s love for travel has extended beyond academic reasons, for she often travels to Spain to visit her family there and has many friends in Mexico and all around Europe. To Perez-Bernardo, traveling is important because it enriches your understanding of the world and other cultures.

Perez-Bernardo hopes to one day work for the Spanish Embassy with the languages and education department, since she “loves teaching, research and education.” She believes that there should be as much of a heavy emphasis on language learning in the U.S. as there is in European culture. Perez-Bernardo said that “it is important to know a foreign language because you get to know the culture, and then you get to go abroad.” 

Perez-Bernardo fully believes that “language skills are so important, and appreciation of the culture is so important.” She hopes to inspire students to gain an appreciation of a country’s culture. According to her the best way to do so is to “go abroad, because going abroad is where you fall in love with the language. It opens you up to a whole new world.”

All in all, what seems to be the most defining feature of learning a new language and culture to Perez-Bernardo is that you are awarded with the opportunity to appreciate your own culture while also staying eager to learn about other cultures. Perez-Bernardo believes it is necessary to “assimilate cultures, and embrace the beauty of both cultures.” Similar to what she has done with the American and Spanish cultures. Perez-Bernardo said that she appreciates the “discipline of the American culture, but also the family values of Spain.”

The kick from Spain that Perez-Bernardo brings to UD is unique. It inspires language learners to develop a passion for more than just grammar and linguistics, but for culture. To say the least, she is “asombrosa” — awesome in Spanish!

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