Thursday, 12 October 2017 17:05

New LCRC Director Has High Hopes for ETSU: 'If we are fighting for inclusion, we must be all-inclusive' Featured

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Felipe De Oliveira Fiuza dreams of an all-inclusive ETSU Language and Culture Resource Center. Felipe De Oliveira Fiuza dreams of an all-inclusive ETSU Language and Culture Resource Center. Photos: Bianca Marais

Felipe De Oliveira Fiuza wants to make the Language and Culture Resource Center at East Tennessee State University more inclusive of international students, not just those with Hispanic heritage.

Fiuza joined the ETSU faculty in August 2017 as director of the LCRC and clinical assistant professor of Spanish. This literature scholar and translator says he is excited about the challenge of uniting the international community with the rich culture of East Tennessee.

“I am what people call a generalist in my field,” said Fiuza, “someone who can work in different areas.”

The LCRC’s website explains the program’s goal: to be a source for translationinterpretationand inclusion within the ETSU community and beyond. The center also 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.

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 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Fiuza jumped at the opportunity to gain expertise in areas other than Spanish Literature. He received his doctorate in Spanish Literature from Purdue in May 2017.

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Fiuza has specialized knowledge of Spanish literature of the Golden Age, including the works of Cervantes; medieval Spanish literature focusing on chivalry; and Latin-American literature, especially authors from Brazil. He has been a language and literature instructor for nearly two decades 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 was hired to work on a project run by two professors at Purdue that shifted the image of the average veterinarian from older, white male to a more diverse profile. 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.

As an assistant Spanish professor, Fiuza looks forward to helping with plans for both a new master's in Spanish and the redesign of the Spanish minor.

In his job at the center, he focuses on working with the Tri-Cities community to recruit people interested in learning languages at ETSU.

“If we are fighting for inclusion, we must be all-inclusive.”

                     – Felipe De Oliveira 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 go to college.

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 an ETSU student from Ecuador. Reyes is also the Hispanic Student Day and Corazón Latino Coordinator for the centerCorazón 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.

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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,” he said.

According to the ETSU Office of Institutional Research378 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 believes that stereotypes surrounding 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 Oliveira Fiuza joins his Spanish class in observing 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.

Read 198 times Last modified on Friday, 03 November 2017 19:10