This week’s Friday Faculty Spotlight subject is Professor of Hispanic Studies Bryan Pearce-Gonzales, Ph.D. Dr. Pearce-Gonzales is the chair of the Department of Languages and Cultural Studies and director of the Going Global First-Year Seminar. He was nominated for the spotlight for his love of Shenandoah, as well as how he inspires students and teaches Spanish in a fun way. He’s also involved in preK-12 schooling, as a member of the Winchester (Virginia) School Board. We hope you enjoy meeting BPG, as he’s known to many, in his full Friday Faculty Spotlight Q&A.
When did you come to Shenandoah, and what drew you to teaching at the university?
I was hired back in 2005, and I was attracted to the small, close-knit community of students, professors and administrators. I studied only at large, state institutions prior to coming to SU, so I found the small, private school setting quite intriguing.
What appeals to you about the culture of Shenandoah, and what does it mean to you? What makes Shenandoah special to you?
Easy — the students. The typical SU student is one that has not had everything handed to them. They are not intimidated by working hard (some of our students juggle multiple jobs while studying full time!). I love the culture that SU has built around student success, and I hope I am contributing to it with my interactions with the students.
What is the most important element of teaching for you?
I really love interacting with the students. No two days are the same and whether I’m teaching language or culture, the conversations that happen spontaneously in class keep me from ever getting bored with teaching.
How do you keep your teaching (and the classroom experience) fun and fresh?
I tell my students on Day 1 that I like to have fun, and this is why I teach. I try not to become an intimidating presence in class. I’d rather my classroom be very informal and interactive wherein students feel empowered to have conversations and express their minds freely. Many times this leads to smiles and laughter and a feeling of accomplishment and productivity by the time the class ends.
What do you hope students carry forward with them from their time in your classes?
Confidence. I hope my language students carry a level of self-confidence with them and that they are empowered to express themselves in a second language without fear or anxiety of “messing up.” I hope, for my students of culture, that they carry with them the confidence to recognize and celebrate (and maybe even constructively critique) their own cultures while learning about another’s.
How do you spend your free time?
I have kids, and they take up the majority of my free time. I’m usually found at a youth sporting event or a band recital or visiting my daughter while she is away at college. When I have time just to myself, I like to be outside, preferably on top of a mountain, reading a book.
What’s a little-known fact about you?
I was not given a hyphenated last name at birth. At 20 years old, in graduate school, I legally added my mother’s maiden name to my last name (in a typically Hispanic fashion) because my biracial, bicultural, and bilingual heritage was always very important to me, though my name didn’t reflect it. Now anyone who knows me, including my parents and siblings, can’t imagine me as anything other than BPG.
If there’s a faculty member you feel the university community needs to get to know better, just fill out the Friday Faculty Spotlight submission form. Friday Faculty Spotlights appear in the SUN-e and on the university’s website. If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.