Student comes full circle, guest lectures for former professor

Associate Professor Vinodh Venkatesh (right) gives his talk about the connections and similarities between sociology and the study of Latin American culture.

When Virginia Tech Associate Professor Vinodh Venkatesh stepped onto Radford University’s campus to give a talk to Radford University Associate Professor Rita Martin’s students, it wasn’t the first time he was in a classroom with Martin.

In 2003, Venkatesh was a political science student in one of Martin’s Spanish culture courses while she was pursuing her doctorate. He developed a passion for Spanish culture – and decided he wanted to pursue his master’s in that field.

“At that time, no Spanish professors would give Vinodh a letter of recommendation to pursue a master’s in Spanish because he was studying political science,” Martin said. “I wrote him a recommendation. He was very grateful – he said, ‘Thanks to you, I have my Master’s in Spanish.’ He got his doctorate, too, and now has the same title as me. What can I say? I’m very proud.”

Venkatesh’s visit enlightened Radford University students about the connections and similarities between sociology and the study of Latin American culture, about which Venkatesh wrote a book.

“Our goal today is merging that of Spanish speech and English speech. That’s a goal that we are working toward accomplishing by having this guest speaker here today,” said Montrice Edwards, a sophomore at Radford University and president of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.
Venkatesh hoped that students would remember two key aspects of the bridge between sociology and Latin American culture.

Sophomore Montrice Edwards

“Latin America has reacted heavily to globalization,” he said. “With globalization – and things like NAFTA in the news recently – we’ve had more and more global ideas of how culture operates.”

The second concept that Venkatesh wanted students to take away from his talk was the diversity contained within Latin American literature.

“It’s not the four or five authors that almost everybody has studied in the past, but you really have a looming, broad range of authors who live in and publish in Latin America, Spain and the United States,” Venkatesh said. “They contribute to a literary ecosystem that’s constantly changing.”

Martin hopes that her current students see how Venkatesh became successful – and use him as an example. She also said that she wants students to “gain a better understanding of Latin American Issue, our history, our culture and the importance of these issues.”

Venkatesh’s visit to Radford is just one such event aimed raising awareness of the influence a second language can have on a career.

“We are looking forward to having more events in the future,” said Edwards, who helped organize the talk. “We want to give people the ability to market themselves by speaking Spanish.”

For more information on the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, visit its web page or contact the department directly at 540-831-5120.

Mar 6, 2017
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749