The study of other languages and cultures has always been one of the most rewarding human activities – one that is replete with intrinsic interest, practical value and insights into one’s own culture and behavior. But in today’s increasingly global environment, intercultural and interdisciplinary communication and knowledge have unprecedented cultural as well as commercial value.
In an important step to provide access to its language programs, ASU is offering the B.A. in Spanish entirely online. Spoken in 21 countries with over 500 million speakers worldwide, Spanish is the second most studied language in the world. And in our globalized business environment along with the fact that Hispanics will account for 29 percent of the U.S. population by 2050 according to the Pew Hispanic Center, it has even broader cultural and commercial significance. Take, for example, that two-thirds of executives speak two languages and the average pay, per hour, of bilingual professionals is nearly 15 percent higher than of their single-language counterparts. Simply, it pays to know and speak Spanish.
For ASU alumna Elizabeth Acosta-Cadena, having been born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, she was already familiar with Spanish and its value. Though her journey to ASU would not be easy or typical.
She immigrated to the United States at age 14 and settled with her family in Tucson, Arizona. Upon graduating from high school, she wanted to get a college degree and spent three semesters at a local community college before shifting focus to being a full-time mom to her newborn son. When her son turned two, she went back to school, obtaining a certificate as a dental assistant, graduating at the top of her class. “I loved working as a dental assistant,” says Acosta-Cadena. “But I always wanted more.”
So, when her second child turned two, she decided to return to school. She enrolled at the University of Arizona and, after three semesters, she moved to Phoenix to attend Arizona State University.
Acosta-Cadena didn’t take transferring lightly, but says she “fell in love with the university and its professors,” especially those in the Spanish Department. “ASU Spanish professors are such passionate teachers that, after taking my very first literature class, I immediately declared Spanish literature as my major,” she says.
Students in ASU’s B.A. in Spanish program gain oral, reading, speaking and written proficiency in the language. The program is offered by ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures and offers two study tracks: 1) literature and culture or 2) Spanish linguistics.
The literature and culture track provides an in-depth understanding of the themes of Spanish and Latin American culture and literature and contemporary issues throughout the Spanish-speaking world.
The Spanish linguistics track provides an in-depth understanding of the Spanish language and includes courses in translation (English/Spanish).
Acosta-Cadena has set her own sights on becoming a Spanish literature professor. “Transferring to ASU has been one of the best decisions I ever made,” she says. “I consider myself so fortunate because I have had the opportunity to be mentored by such wonderful professors who are so passionate about the subject matter and were always willing to support me and help me develop. Furthermore, they are wonderful people who want their students to succeed. Every one of my Spanish professors has helped me either personally or professionally.”
And that help was sometimes badly needed. “It is hard to be a full-time mom with small children and, at the same time, a full-time student,” says Acosta-Cadena. But, she insists, it is worth the sleepless nights. “Earning a bachelors degree has shown my kids the importance of education. They understand that anything is possible, because they have witnessed the hard work and effort it takes to move forward and succeed in life.”
For the 31-year old Acosta-Cadena, completing her degree came with great satisfaction. “I cannot express how fortunate I feel to be an ASU alumna and especially a graduate student of the ASU Spanish program,” she says. “Even more so I am extremely proud to be a Sun Devil.”