Department of Languages & Philosophy

Featured Graduates

Tessa Christensen | Double-majored in Spanish and Psychology | Class of 2016

Tessa Christensen

I started at SUU studying Psychology with a minor in Spanish, but during my study abroad in Spain in 2015, I fell in love with the culture and the Spanish language. When I returned my senior year (planning to graduate early), I decided to fill the extra semester I had with a double-major in Spanish. Adding Spanish as one of my majors completely defined my senior year in the best way possible. Most of my schedule was filled with advanced Spanish and literature classes which were both exciting and extremely challenging for the level of Spanish I had at the time.

About a year after I graduated, I decided to move to Spain to do the North American Language Assistant Program that Prof. Portaro had told me about while I was at SUU. I wanted to have the experience of living in a foreign country and more than anything I really wanted to continue improving my Spanish. I lived in Cartagena, Murcia my first year and I loved it so much that I signed up for a second year. I am now living in Granada, my favorite city in the world, and the same city I studied abroad almost four years ago. I aid in teaching English in two schools with students from 3 to 12 years old and in the evenings, I give private lessons. I have also signed up for guitar lessons and I recently became a new member of Toastmaster’s International, an organization founded in the U.S. that focuses on improving communication, public speaking, and leadership skills (in Spanish!).

I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to live 5000 miles away from home, navigating life in a foreign culture while speaking a different language every day. But I can honestly say it has changed my life for the better. I am so grateful for SUU and all of the professors in the Spanish department for igniting my passion for this language. I have so many great memories from my time in the Spanish department, but I think what I remember most is the connection I made with the professors and their dedication to my success. Being one of the few students in every class that didn’t have 1.5-2 years of experience living in a Spanish-speaking country posed challenges every day and sometimes really took a toll on my confidence as I battled through verb conjugations and sentence structure. But with the help and support of all of my professors, I was able to stay on track, learn more than I thought possible, and leave the university with an even deeper love and hunger for learning the language. Now, as I start my career search, one of the top things I will be looking for is how I can continue using Spanish to benefit and communicate with others.

Granada Club
This photo features my Toastmaster’s Granada Club at the regional competition we recently hosted. One of my favorite parts of living abroad is constantly meeting new people so different from myself. In this club alone we have members, young and old, from the U.S., Perú, Poland, France, England, and of course Spain, all coming together to connect through one common language and a common set of goals.

Colby Presley | Majored in Spanish, Political Science, and Biology with a minor in Chemistry | Class of 2017

Colby Presley

Colby grew up in Southern California and knew that he wanted to make Spanish a part his life, having grown up in a majority Latino community. When he graduated high school, Colby started at SUU with the idea of becoming a Spanish teacher but slowly fell in love with biomedical sciences. Upon completion of his degrees, Colby enrolled in medical school in Denver, Colorado.

How have you used Spanish in the medical and science field?

In medicine, you work with a large variety of other doctors, nurses, techs, and patients. I can’t count the number of times that I have found myself switching to Spanish speaking in order to communicate with patients. I have been able to console and explain medications, diagnoses, and treatment options because of my degree in Spanish. I am chosen more often over my monolingual colleagues to work in clinic and on projects because they know I have the ability to work with a larger variety of patients because of my Spanish.

Spanish also teaches you about human connection and how humans interact with each other. You are learning and language but you are also learning a new culture. I find myself able to quickly adjust to the background or culture of patients because my time in SUU’s Spanish program opened my mind to the experiences of others.

The photo I selected is with Dr. Alba Gomez, the Chair for the Department of Dermatology at the Hospital Universitario en Alcalá de Henares (As an undergraduate I was the recipient of a Sigma Delta Pi Study Abroad Scholarship in Alcalá de Henares, Spain at the Instituto Franklin-Universidad de Alcalá de Henares (UAH)). I get to return next year to rotate with her for a month. Pretty neat what these study abroads can do for one's future!

Any favorite memories of your time as a Spanish major at SUU?

I have a classroom memory and a study abroad memory.

My classroom memory is when the “subjunctive tense” clicked. Subjunctive tense Spanish is very difficult to master, and I went to my professor many times to try and understand it. One day in class, we were practicing conversations and how to use sass and I used the subjunctive correctly while just having normal conversation. My professor leaned over and said “Colby, you got it!” and I jumped up said “¡O sea, soy inteligente!” It just took sass, extra practice, and it clicked. I learned that if I could tie anything in Spanish to me personally, that it clicked even faster.

I studied abroad as well, and I relied on my roommate in Spain to speak Spanish for us because I did not feel confident speaking. We went out one evening with native Spaniards and this really attractive Spanish girl came to speak to me. I looked back to look at my roommate to help me and he had disappeared! I was so nervous to speak but now the moment had arrived, I had to speak and do it on my own. I took that leap of courage and actually had a conversation for over an hour, understanding and speaking well. It was the moment I realized I was able and could speak Spanish.


Zachary Glassett | Spanish Major | Class of 2016

Zachary Galssett

I have many memories of my time at SUU, like first going with my Spanish professor and a group of students to meet Rosa Montero when she visited BYU for the release of one of her novels in 2015. Deciding to go meet her and ask her questions fed the seeds that led to my masters thesis, and it’s all based on what I learned from meeting with her. Another one is my study abroad trip to Costa Rica. I loved getting to see a country for the first time and experiencing the culture. I also really loved the professors as a whole. They were all great with/to me in whatever I may have asked of them, and they still play a part – to some extent – in my new adventures, answering questions and giving advice whenever I solicit it. That was perhaps my favorite part of the program: the fact that it’s been three years since I graduated and I still get 1-on-1, small classroom attention from professors that you can’t get at other institutions. The professors and faculty really do connect with their students at SUU, and that doesn’t end when the students leave.

After graduating from SUU, I completed my MA in Hispanic Literatures at Brigham Young University. My thesis, titled The Woman as…: The Feminine Quest in Lágrimas en la lluvia and El peso del corazón by Rosa Montero, explores archetypes of the feminine quest in contemporary works of science fiction. Currently I’m in his first year as a PhD Student at the University of Kansas, studying representations of the United States in film from Latin America and Spain. My plan is to graduate in the next few years and to begin the job search to teach Spanish at the university level.

I currently use Spanish in my doctorate work and in some translation work that I also do. I’m working (very slowly) on a novel and short stories (in both English and Spanish) in the little free time I have. I also use Spanish with my friends and family on a nearly daily basis. I use Spanish for my job, working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at KU. I have taught 2 sections of Span 111 (Span 1020 at SUU) and love working with students. I enjoy teaching the language and helping students see parts of the culture. I am currently working with the program coordinator to help develop materials for the Foundational Spanish Courses at KU. To me, Spanish provides a point of connection to my Latino heritage and to the world. Speaking Spanish also allows you to more completely understand and immerse yourself in a culture, which means great food, great friends, and great books. On a lighter note, I can enjoy 2x the number of memes and dad jokes.


Lizzy Anderson | Double-majored in Spanish and Theater Arts Education | Class of 2015

Lizzy Anderson

After graduation, she found a job teaching Spanish full-time at Hunter High School in West Valley, Utah. She is currently teaching Spanish 2-4 and AP courses. In addition, she has begun the process of applying to graduate programs to earn a Master's degree in Spanish.

Describe your job and how you use your Spanish degree:

"I LOVE teaching! Watching heritage speakers and new learners alike grow in their understanding and get excited about Spanish is so much fun. Other than using Spanish everyday in my job, I am using my Spanish through travel. So far I’ve visited (eaten ice cream in) Spain, México, and Perú."

Any favorite memories of your time as a Spanish major at SUU?

"Two favorite memories—Studying abroad and sitting under a bridge in Granada, Spain at sunset. During this study abroad, there was a man with an accordion on the bridge and right before we all headed back to our host families, he started to play “La vie en rose,” which is an odd choice for a Spanish memory. But at that moment I was so happy to be immersed in a completely new culture and to share it with friends I love. Spanish is what brought it all together. I also loved being a department tutor! It’s where I really started to learn how to be a teacher. It was awesome to watch people’s progress in the conversation tables. As a tutor, it was always my goal that they felt good about their abilities and they recognized that learning language is a process."


Abigail Wyatt | SUU to Marketing Strategist

Abigail Wyatt

Abigail Wyatt began her college career at a two year community college. When it came time to transfer schools, she wanted a small campus with engaged faculty, which she found at Southern Utah University.

With a passion for Latin American culture, Abigail decided to study Spanish and minor in communication. She was heavily involved with the program and helped organize multiple events including the International Film Festival.

“I got really involved and met a lot of wonderful people,” said Abigail. “Honestly, that's how I fell in love with SUU. Everyone, especially the professors, genuinely care about you and want to see you succeed.”

Along with her studies and passion for event planning, Abigail found herself working in the Marketing Communication office. She worked as a marketing content curator writing articles and blogs, learning about social media, analyzing data and organizing the Outdoor Nation Campus Challenge.

“I worked mostly with Nikki Koontz, director of Marketing Communication,” said Abigail. “She was a wonderful mentor who saw my potential and helped me find my true passion.”

With multiple skills under her belt, Abigail found a job in marketing right after graduation with a new cancer diagnostic research company LUMEA. She is now the marketing strategist and oversees the company’s marketing content, social media strategy, training manuals, and graphic design.

“Honestly, my favorite thing about my job is that no day is the same,” said Abigail. “It's a startup company, so I have to be a Jill-Of-All-Trades. I've been learning so many new skills that will be a huge advantage for me going into the future, and I know I'll never get bored at my job since every day brings a new adventure and a new problem to solve.”

The classroom work, hands-on projects and real-world experience Abigail mastered at SUU prepared her for the work she does today.

“I was always passionate about learning, but that passion grew at SUU. I love my career and am excited to continue being a lifelong learner.”


McKenna Poulter | Double Major in Communications and Spanish | Class of 2015

Photo of Mckenna Poulter with five children

"Like many college applicants, I took the obligatory two years of a foreign language (Spanish) in high school. I hated it! When I finished, my Spanish teacher encouraged me to continue in college but I told him, no way! However later when I registered as a freshman I needed 4 more credits, so on a whim I enrolled in Spanish. I found I still hated it. It gave me so much anxiety every time I went to class. I was so afraid the teacher would call on me and I would have to look and feel stupid trying to come up with a response. I decided to go ahead and finish the 16 credit requirement for a bachelor of arts. And as I made my way through the lower division classes, something totally unexpected happened: I fell in love. I got to the end of my sophomore year, I had finished all my generals, and as I tried to figure out what to major in (so I could register for the next semester) I realized the only thing I really wanted to study was Spanish! With encouragement from friends in the major and professors, I decided to major in it. Taking so many Spanish classes at a time was very challenging. The homework (especially reading) took me forever to get through. I also felt very timid about speaking. I was scared to make mistakes and I felt intimidated because of the high fluency of so many of my classmates. But I ploughed forward."

"I wanted to study abroad so that I could have an immersion experience, but I couldn't come up with the money. At the end of my senior year I had the opportunity to go to an orphanage in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico. While I was there the nuns told me I could return and stay for as long as I wanted to help them. After I graduated from SUU I was able to go back and live with those wonderful orphans for 2 months! It was one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had. I spent each day talking, cleaning, working, living with these wonderful orphans and nuns. Because of my Spanish I was able to share in their lives for a few short months, and change my own."

"Learning another language is really hard. Now I realize the reason I didn't like it in the beginning is because it pulled me so far out of my comfort zone. It made me feel like a little kid again, and that was really humbling. But what I also have realized is that getting out of my comfort zone, as hard as it was, is what made me grow so much! It's what made my experience so rewarding! I felt liberated with knowledge as I worked to improve each day. I think what I love about Spanish, is that having that knowledge has allowed me to connect. I have been able to meet so many people. I could talk, share, and build relationships, all because I could speak their language. As I went through my major learning about the different cultures it helped me open my eyes. My experience learning Spanish at SUU has helped me see the world through different eyes and think about things with a different perspective. I wouldn't trade it for anything!"

  • Photo of Mckenna Poulter with two nuns
  • Photo of Mckenna Poulter with a group of people
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Graduate Spotlights

Are you an SUU Spanish Alumni? Connect with us and let us know how you are doing! Please e-mail updates and news to Prof. Iliana Portaro (ilianaportaro@suu.edu).

Erin Bratlien / Class of 2012
After graduating from SUU, Erin went back to her home town of Bellingham, WA where she worked as a bilingual customer support representative for Logos Bible Software. In February 2014 she quit her job and bought a one-way ticket to Antigua, Guatemala. She still lives there today, having worked in a restaurant and gotten her TEFL certificate. Now Erin is finishing up a year-long contract teaching English at Intellego Learning Center in Santiago, Sacatepequez Guatemala. "My long-term boyfriend is Guatemalan and my Spanish has improved 100% since I have lived here but all of this has been made possible by the experiences and classes I took at SUU." In the future Erin plans on being a police officer in Washington State.

Christina Meikle | Class of 2014
After earning her degree, Christina was hired as a 3rd grade teacher at Moroni Elementary School in Moroni, Utah. She is following the Alternate Route to Licensure program to complete her teacher certification. Christina’s class will be Dual Immersion Spanish/English in two years.

Nicholle Pitt | Class of 2014
Nicholle currently attends Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, PA. She will be studying abroad in Ireland in the summer of 2015 and doing an internship in the International Criminal Court.

Jesse Hyatt | Class of 2014
After earning his degree (which included a semester abroad in Costa Rica), Jesse took a bilingual job at Wells Fargo Bank in Salt Lake City, Utah. He plans to attend graduate school in the future.

Dayci Patterson | Class of 2014
After earning her degree, Dayci moved to Bellingham, Washington. In September 2015, she embarked on a 6-month trip to South America. She is volunteering in various country in exchange for room and board.

Matthew Mogensen | Class of 2014
Matthew is currently a first-year medical student at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Kristi Bartholomew | Class of 2013
After earning her degree, Kristi taught English in Spain for a year. She is currently teaching high school biology at Copper Hills High in West Jordan, Utah. Kristi is following the Alternate Route to Licensure program to complete her teacher certification. She also plans to attend graduate school and earn a Master’s degree.

Mckenzie Romero | Class of 2012
After earning her degree, Mckenzie obtained a summer internship at the Institute on Political Journalism at Georgetown University. She has interned for Hispanic Link News, a wire service focused on Latino issues. She currently works for Deseret News.

Mette Holden | Double Major in English and Spanish | Class of 2012
After earning her degree, Mette attended Pine Manor College in Boston, MA to pursue an MFA in creative writing.

Jeremy Christiansen | Class of 2011
After earning his degree, Jeremy attended the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.