Message from the Department Head (Summer 2022)

Dr. Joël Castonguay-Bélanger, Department Head

Dear FHIS community,

I hope this summer issue of the FHIS Newsletter finds you well rested under a nice blue sky, preferably with a good book in your hands.

It has been another strong year of accomplishments for our department. I can’t emphasize enough the crucial role played by all the students, faculty and staff who contributed to a successful—yet still very challenging—return to on-campus activities after many months of remote work. It is wonderful to see the UBC campus bustling with people and activities again. I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to all of our 2021-2022 student volunteers for generously devoting many hours to support the FHIS Learning Centre and Spanish for Community, and for their service as Student Representatives. Their active and generous engagement directly contributed to making our department lively and welcoming again!

During this past year, two of our colleagues have been recognized for their tremendous contributions to UBC and FHIS. Sylvia Bascou-Vallarino was awarded the Killam Teaching Prize for 2021-2022, in recognition of the remarkable impact that she has had in the classroom and beyond during her 21 years of teaching in the Department. María Carbonetti received the 2022 Public Engagement Award for her community-engaged student projects developed in partnership with Mapuche authors and community organizations, and for the local, national, and international impact of her cross-disciplinary outreach projects.

Among other exciting news is the launch of our new Major, Minor and Honours programs in Romance Studies. Under the guidance of Elizabeth Lagresa-González and the various faculty teaching our new RMST courses, this program will allow students to gain an appreciation of Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Catalan, etc., which derive from Latin), including their varied cultures and literatures, through a uniquely interdisciplinary, transnational and cross-cultural perspective.

In May, we received a visit from the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Minister Petipas Taylor visited UBC to announce more than $4.7 million in funding to support French-language post-secondary education in British Columbia. In our department, this additional funding will be used to increase our capacity to assist our students of French, facilitate their access to financial support and bursaries, and offer career advice and improved coordination between French programs. A portion of this funding will also be used to support the growth of the UBC Centre de la Francophonie, and diversify its cultural agenda with theatrical performances, film screenings, workshops, roundtables and talks with writers, artists and members of the Francophone community. Stay tuned to learn more about the new activities and initiatives that the incoming director of the UBC Centre de la Francophonie, Vincent Gélinas-Lemaire, is planning for the upcoming academic year.

This newsletter is also a chance to celebrate the distinguished and successful careers of three long-time colleagues who have recently retired. We bid farewell to Christine Rouget, Robert Miller and Anne Simpson, and thank them for their varied and memorable contributions to our French program over the years.

We also say goodbye to Stéphanie Palisse, who is returning to France to pursue new and exciting projects, and to our Student Programs Assistant, Muirne de Búrca, who is starting a new position in the Faculty of Science at UBC.

On July 1, our department welcomed no fewer than five new colleagues: Irem Ayan joined UBC as Assistant Professor of French Traductology and Translation; María Adelaida Escobar Trujillo started in a new role as Lecturer of Hispanic Studies; Magali Blanc, Isabelle Delage-Béland and Cécile Ollivier-Budisa have all been appointed as Lecturer of French.

July 1 also marked the beginning of a new administrative appointment for Brianne Orr-Álvarez, who succeeds Jon Beasley-Murray in the role of Associate Head of the Spanish program. I would like to thank Jon for all that he has done for the growth of the program during the past three years. I would also like to thank Gaoheng Zhang for his leadership as Associate Head of the Italian program during the past year, and wish him the best and most productive study leave. To support his research during this time, Gaoheng Zhang was awarded a UBC Killam Faculty Research Fellowship from the Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Fund for Advanced Studies, and a Jean Monnet Fellowship based at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute. Following the completion of her own study leave, Daniela Boccassini is returning as Associate Head of Italian.

It is also my great pleasure to welcome Stephanie Spacciante in her new capacity of Language Program Director for Spanish, and Caroline Lebrec, who is starting as Language Program Director for French.

Once again, the FHIS Newsletter offers an excellent overview of some of the many things our faculty, students and staff have accomplished over the past few months. I hope you will take the time to read through it, to learn about the achievements of our faculty and students, and to stay informed of the latest activities, initiatives and opportunities happening in the department.

Like many of my colleagues, I am eager to reconnect with students in person in September. Once again, I would like to thank the faculty and staff of FHIS for their tremendous work, and I am looking forward to working with everyone again during the next academic year, which will also be my last as Department Head.

Please feel free to get in touch. We love to hear from you!

Joël Castonguay-Bélanger
Department Head
French, Hispanic and Italian Studies