Students enrolled in Middlebury College's "Spanish In The US" senior seminar last fall were handed a syllabus that tasked them with two main goals: researching extensive empirical data and using their new knowledge outside the classroom walls to combat racial stereotypes.
According to Middlebury professor Brandon Baird, who taught the seminar, the goal of the class research project was to better arm students to go beyond their college studies and promote community outreach.
"One of the main reasons behind this class is: What does their Spanish education mean for them after graduation?" Baird said. "How are they going to take this education beyond the classroom?"
After the students completed extensive research focused on Latinx populations and Spanish speakers in Vermont and the country, the class honed in on several myths and tropes often used to disparage them.
To then help dispel those misconceptions, the students used the data to create informational posters which they hung up on campus and in the Middlebury community. They also used the data they gathered to write and record public service announcements, which aired on the campus radio station.
Maren Walsh, a Spanish major who completed the seminar, said the challenge lay in crafting just the right message that would have impact when seen or heard by others.
"It was interesting to a lot of us students that even though we study Spanish and we're trying to pay attention as much as we can, there are a lot of things that we didn't know," Walsh said.
Baird said since the course's completion, several students have discussed continuing their work and making their individual research projects from the class accessible to those in Addison County.
Listen above to an extended conversation with Baird and Walsh.