Felipe De Oliveira Fiuza wants to make the Language and Culture Resource Center at East Tennessee State University more inclusive of all international students, not just those with Hispanic heritage.
Fiuza joined the ETSU faculty in August 2017 as the director of the Language and Culture Resource Center and clinical assistant professor of Spanish.
This linguist and translator from Brazil says he is excited for the challenge of uniting the international community with the rich culture of East Tennessee.
The LCRC’s website explains the program’s goal: to be a source for translation, interpretationand inclusion within the ETSU community and beyond.
The centeralso provides services to the areas surrounding ETSU, mainly high schools in the general Tri-Cities area. Fiuza has high hopes for the center’s community outreach initiatives.
“I am what people call a generalist in my field,” said Fiuza, “someone who can work in different areas.”
Fiuza got his first taste for translation and interpretation during his second semester in the United States when he was asked to work at a four-day United Nations conference at Purdue University. Fiuza jumped at the opportunity to gain expertise in areas other than Spanish Literature.
Fiuza received his doctorate in Spanish Literature from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, in May 2017.
Fiuza has specialized knowledge of Spanish literature of the Golden Ages, Medieval Spanish Literature and Latin-American literature, the latter specifying with Brazilian literature.
He has been a language and literature instructor for over a decade in both the United States and Brazil.
Fiuza is also a poet, and presented his work at the Lusophones Studies section at the 70th Kentucky Foreign Languages Conference in April 2017.
“At Purdue, I also created bilingual veterinarian lessons in English and Spanish for K through fifth grade,” he said. “The goal was to engage the children in veterinarian skills.”
Fiuza worked with other professors at Purdue to shift the image of the average veterinarian from older, white male to a more diverse prospect. Fiuza accepted his position at ETSU to work with similar programs to create a sense of normality surrounding diversity in the professional world.
“We have great ideas and great plans about the future of the LCRC,” said Fiuza, referring to his current project of redesigning the Spanish minor at ETSU.
As an assistant Spanish professor, Fiuza will play a role in ETSU’s Spanish faculty.
“It is my personal wish to create a master’s in Spanish,” he added.
In his job at the center, he is currently focused on working with the Tri-Cities community to recruit more people interested in learning a wide variety of languages at ETSU.
“If we are fighting for inclusion, we must be all-inclusive.”
– Felipe De Oliviera Fiuza
One project Fiuza wants to improve is the Expanding College Access to English Language Learners (XCELL) Mentor Program, which offers regional high schools information on how their Hispanic students can gain a higher education.
The Hispanic Student Day is an important ETSU event to Fiuza, but he plans on expanding it to International Student Day.
Denise Chavez Reyes is a Columbian international student at ETSU. Reyes is also the Hispanic Student Day and Corazón Latino Coordinator for the center. Corazón Latino is a student-led festival held in Johnson City, Tennessee, every year to celebrate Latino culture.
As an international student herself, Reyes feels included in the ETSU family. She believes that the Johnson City community has taken to events like Hispanic Student Day and Corazón Latino in a positive way.
Fiuza plans on connecting students from many countries, not just those of Latin American heritage, so they feel more included in the American college experience.
“We realize that there are other cultures in the area who also can be pushed toward college, not only the Hispanic community,” said Fiuza.
According to the ETSU Office of Institutional Research, 378 nonresident aliens were enrolled at the university in 2012. In 2015, that number had increased to 600.
ETSU’s international student community has nearly doubled since the fall semester of 2012, making Fiuza’s dreams seem achievable.
The number of international students in the United States has increased drastically, according to the Migration Policy Institute, which uses data provided by the Institute for International Education and the United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement.
With a 10 percent increase between the 2013-14 academic year to the 2014-15 academic year, the Migration Policy Institute called this the highest growth rate in over three decades.
In 2015, the Office of Institutional Research determined that China and Saudi-Arabia have the most international students at ETSU, with a total of 127 Chinese and 177 Saudi-Arabian students, all of whom were categorized as non-resident aliens.
ETSU alumnus Timothy Dougherty graduated in May 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He feels strongly about diversifying the campus and feels the LCRC would be ETSU’s best chance of doing so.
“I always had more Chinese friends than Hispanic friends when I was a student at ETSU,” said Dougherty, “yet I don’t think the college offered classes on Chinese language or culture to educate us Americans about how to communicate with our foreign friends.”
French, German, Spanish and Japanese are the only language courses offered at ETSU. China studies is offered, but the university has no Arabic-related courses.
Fiuza plans to change Hispanic Student Day to International Student Day because ETSU is home to many international students, not just students of Hispanic heritage.
Although Hispanics form the biggest limb of ETSU’s international community, Fiuza wants to eliminate the notion that they are the only international students on campus.
Fiuza believes that stereotypes around foreigners will only end with help of programs, initiatives and classes that aim to educate people on how diverse and rich other cultures are.
“If we are fighting for inclusion,” said Fiuza, “we must be all-inclusive.”
Above, right: Felipe De Oliviera Fiuza joins his Spanish class in obersving a student presentation. Below, left: Fiuza enjoys his open-door policy in his office in the Campus Center Building overlooking the Pride Walk at ETSU.