Message from the Department Head

February 2019

Welcome to the first edition of our departmental newsletter! We are excited to share the activities of the faculty, students, and alumni of the Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies.


As Department Head, one of my primary goals has been to foster a culture where thinking, teaching and learning are highly valued, and where the research of our faculty is given the attention it deserves.


The articles in this inaugural newsletter contain profiles of both graduate and undergraduate students, and showcase a small portion of the many teaching initiatives and research projects that have taken place during the past year.

The year that recently ended was marked by some important welcomes and farewells. Dr. Rita De Grandis, after a long and productive career at UBC, retired at the end of August. We also said goodbye to Dr. Samuel Navarro, who taught at FHIS for 11 years. We wish them both well in their new endeavors.

The Department welcomed Dr. Patrick Moran as our new Assistant Professor of French Medieval Studies, while Sylvia Bascou-Vallarino and Iris Escuer Riera, after many years of teaching with us, were appointed Lecturer of French and Lecturer of Spanish, respectively. Last, but not least, Celine Diaz joined the Department as our Communications Coordinator. The creation of this newsletter is largely due to her incredible work.

2018 was also very special for FHIS for another reason. 20 years ago, in 1998, the Department of French and the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies merged to become the Department of FHIS as we know it today. Since then, hundreds of students graduated, courses and programs were added, conferences, talks and events were organized, and our alumni went on to pursue their professional lives, carrying with them much more than the memories and experiences they took away from their years of hard work at UBC.

As we look at the year ahead, the Department of FHIS is about to undergo what could well be the most significant transformation of its existence. Just as we are about to welcome our largest contingent of new colleagues in the last decade, we are working very hard on curriculum renewal and on the development of new courses and programs. Following our first successful year as host of the Latin American Studies program, our Department is hoping that, under the leadership of new Chair Dr. Alessandra Santos, this program will continue to grow and attract students interested in its unique interdisciplinary perspective.

The Department is also getting ready for major renovations that will require us to leave Buchanan Tower for one year, while the 7th and 8th floors receive a most welcome makeover. While we recognize that these renovations will be disruptive in many ways, we are also very excited about the new space that we will return to in 2020—new wall colours, a new lounge, a new main office, a larger seminar room, new furniture for the Learning Centre, a new study space for graduate students, and more! The new amenities, added to our unbeatable view of English Bay and the mountains, surely promise to make FHIS one of the best places to work on campus.

Looking at the promises ahead, it would be hard not to feel optimistic and confident about the many possibilities that our unit has yet to explore. In addition to serving 96 majors, 56 minors, and 45 graduate students in 2018-19, enrolment in our Spanish courses has reached a 10-year high, while French came very close to the same achievement, reaching a 5-year high.

Under the guidance of Dr. Kim Beauchesne, our graduate program continues to be strong. Our students are active in research, publishing papers, presenting at conferences, and winning awards. A total of ten graduate degrees (nine MAs and one PhD) were awarded in 2018, and more defences are in preparation for this spring.

With this newsletter, we want to celebrate the past, present and future successes of our Department. We appreciate your input and welcome your ideas for stories and profiles. Do you have any suggestions? Are you an alumnus and have stories to share? Let us know! We would love to hear from you.

We remain most grateful for your enduring commitment to building a community of teachers, researchers and learners and for all the ways you support the Department.



Joël Castonguay-Bélanger
Department Head