Hispanic Studies: Eleonora Figliuoli (Class of 2012): Critical Thinking and Graduate Studies

After interning at the Library of Congress during last summer, this fall Eleonora Figliuoli (History & Hispanic Studies, ’12) started her graduate studies in Hispanic Studies at the University of Virginia.  In the following lines, Eleonora reflects upon her experience at W&M, and the critical thinking skills she acquired through the Hispanic Studies program; skills she considers crucial for success in graduate school.

“My experience at William & Mary helped greatly in preparing me for the work I am currently engaged in at The University of Virginia, both as a graduate student and as a graduate teaching assistant. More broadly, my studies at William & Mary helped hone the critical thinking skills necessary for life in graduate school. I graduated from college as an independent thinker. Throughout my time as a student at William & Mary, I perfected listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills, and I am now able to call upon those skills and strategies when necessary in the graduate classroom. Similarly, I come out of my undergraduate institution feeling prepared with knowledge of foundational concepts in my field of specialization, and the ability to form a concise and well-developed argument.

Eleonora Figliuoli, who wrote an Honors Thesis on César Vallejo and Pablo Neruda from an eco-critical perspective, participated in our W&M Summer Program in Cádiz (Summer of 2011).

“Specifically, the topics presented in my Hispanic Studies coursework at William & Mary have proven of great relevance for my graduate studies at UVA. For instance, in my freshman seminar at William & Mary, and in an upper level seminar later on in my undergraduate career, I studied the literature of the Spanish Civil War, and particularly of Carmen Martín Gaite. This semester, I am reencountering these same works in a broader-themed course on contemporary Spanish literature. The sequence of courses I took at William & Mary also exposed me to an introduction to reading medieval Spanish, which few of my colleagues can boast, and which I am required to do on a regular basis in a course on the History of the Language.

“Moreover, though I was never formally trained to teach undergraduate students at William & Mary, there I discussed teaching Hispanic culture in a senior seminar on colonial Latin American literature. This knowledge gave me not only introductory knowledge of the canon of colonial Latin American literature, but also of a few important topics in foreign language pedagogy.

“Lastly, when the time will come to prepare for comprehensive exams, or write articles in my seminar courses, my confidence is boosted knowing that the research skills I gained at William & Mary allow me to reflect independently on the lectures or texts that I listen to or read, and on my own written and spoken work in order to constantly challenge my preexisting assumptions and form new paradigms. In my duties as a teaching assistant, I try to facilitate the development of the same learning skills and strategies in my students, so the knowledge I gained comes full circle.

At W&M, Eleonora received the R. Merritt Cox Fellowship in Hispanic Studies, awarded to the graduating student with an outstanding level of academic excellence in the field of Hispanic Studies, and who will pursue a graduate degree in the field in Hispanic Studies.  This award was established in memory of Professor R. Merritt Cox, a well-known 18th century scholar in Spanish Studies and a highly esteemed colleague in W&M’s Department of Modern Languages & Literatures for many years. With this award, the faculty recognize a graduating Hispanic Studies major who exhibits those qualities admired and embodied by Professor Cox: a deep appreciation and broad interest in Hispanic cultures, literatures, and the Spanish language.

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