Success Stories

We offer programs designed to help students acquire advanced training in Spanish at the Bachelor'sM.A. and Ph.D. levels as well as minors in Spanish and Portuguese for undergraduate students in other disciplines. Spanish and Portuguese degrees are useful in such diverse careers as advertising, marketing, journalism, health services, government, social welfare, and public administration, among others. Below you will find several stories from our alumni highlighting their work following graduation:

Lydia Leon in front of a sign reading "centro hispano"
Lydia León

Nancy Jorn with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and I, as witnesses of these recent demographic changes, formed the Latino Community Coalition. Along with other community members, we learned about these changes and took action in order to facilitate welcoming attitudes in our community and address issues our Latino immigrant neighbors experience. One outcome of our work was the creation of the Centro Hispano Resource Center. Through the collaboration of Success By Six of Douglas County, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, and the Health Department, we opened the center in August 2006 to continue the work of the Coalition.

At the Centro Hispano, we provide a safe, welcoming, comfortable environment for Spanish speakers and other Latinos in our community. All staff and volunteers that have direct contact with families are bilingual in English and Spanish. In this way, families can communicate their experiences and we can provide orientation and support in addressing issues they face.

My passion for working with the Latino immigrant community arose from my interest in the Spanish language. Learning Spanish was crucial to my entering and continuing in this field of work because through studying Spanish I also learned about Latin American cultures and immigration to the United States. Language opened the doors to a new world and eventually to new realities of Spanish speakers here in the United States. When a person is able to give voice to their experience, they often take a giant step in being able to achieve their goal. We offer Latino immigrants this opportunity at the Centro Hispano.

Mitchell Voth and kids taking a selfie
Mitchell Voth

My education as an undergraduate of Spanish didn’t feel complete upon graduation—I wasn’t satisfied. I knew so much more existed for me to learn and experience in the vast realm that we call “Spanish.” No, a diploma wasn’t good enough, and I wanted more. Of all the things I learned as a Spanish major at KU, complacency was not one of them.

This is possibly the best thing that one can obtain from the course of an education: the desire to know more. The Spanish major advanced my ability to evaluate Spanish-American colonial literature and contextualize Mexican theatrical works, but I wanted to develop a personal identity with a Hispanic culture that went beyond the classroom. In fact, I felt I owed it to my Spanish education and to myself to dive into one of the many Hispanic cultures about which I had been taught.

That sense of responsibility has led me to dive into the culture of Roatán, Honduras, and I am making my splash as a 3rd grade teacher at Children’s Palace Bilingual School. Roatán is a small island, but an interesting mix of languages and cultures thrives within these 90 square miles. I live in Los Fuertes, a densely Hispanic area. As a suburbian kid, I could consider Los Fuertes to be a rundown place with its shacks and street dogs. But as a suburbian kid, I value the potential for self-redefinition in a place like this and appreciate the reality it holds.

My work as a 3rd grade bilingual teacher yields a differ-ent type of reality. In fact, it is surreal. I studied Spanish and Journalism—not Elementary Education. I learn how to teach as my students learn what I teach. It’s scary. I can’t help but feel inept at times. However, this sense of insecurity is what I wanted—the opposite of complacency. And every day that I improve my teaching, I also increase my intimacy with the Spanish language and one of its many cultures. I can’t complain, and I’m striving so that my future students can’t complain either.

John Schwaller in front of a bookshelf
John F. Schwaller

State University of New York at Potsdam. His career in higher education spans more than 30 years. He served as the vice chancellor for academic affairs and dean, and professor of history and languages from 2001-2006 at University of Minnesota, Morris. From 1995-2001, he was associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs at the University of Montana, Missoula. Previously, Dr. Schwaller was the director of the Academy of American Franciscan History at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California. Dr. Schwaller began his teaching career at the Schmidt College of Arts and Humanities at Florida Atlantic University, where he also held a number of important administrative positions over a fourteen-year period.

A nationally-recognized scholar of early colonial Latin America, and of Nahuatl and the Nahua (the Aztec language and people) Dr. Schwaller is the author of five books and the editor of three others. Additionally, Dr. Schwaller is the author of some 50 articles in leading scholarly journals and has more than 100 professional papers and presentations to his credit. He sits on the Editorial Board of two scholarly journals, The Americas and Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl.

President Schwaller earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Grinnell College in 1969 and a Doctorate in Colonial Latin America History from Indiana University in 1978. In 2009 he was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Grinnell College in recognition of his accomplishments in higher education.

Dana Meredith in front of a city horizon
Dana Meredith

As a double major in Spanish and journalism, I was asked by countless people throughout my college career if I wanted to work for a Spanish newspaper. It wasn't an odd question, but it was, in retrospect, a bit narrow-minded. As I'm continuing to discover, a degree in Spanish can be applied to many careers in many ways beyond the obvious.

In my new position as a copy editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, I likely won't be using Spanish daily. I probably won't even be using it weekly. But I don't consider it a waste to have spent four years pursuing a degree in Spanish.

As an editor, you need to understand the cultural landscape of the world you live. Otherwise, it would be exceedingly difficult to spot misrepresentation, factual errors and other gaffes in the articles you read. The cultural landscape in our country continues to diversify, and globalism is bringing the world closer together than ever before. By obtaining my Spanish degree, I'm not only knowledgeable about some of the viewpoints and experiences increasingly making contact with this country, I'm also equipped with the skills I need to learn more about those perspectives, whether that be from academic research or personal interaction.

Of course, I'm also still in love with Spanish and Latino culture itself, and I intend to incorporate it into my personal life, from the books I read to the music I listen to and the movies I watch. I also haven't ruled out going to graduate school to study women's rights and gender in Mexico, a topic I kept coming back to as an undergraduate.

While my career path is still a bit uncertain, I am certain that my decision to study Spanish in college will only help me.

Chester Klotz standing in a large field
Chester Klotz

I am the lead attorney for Solana, a recently completed $1.8 billion solar thermal power plant outside Gila Bend, Arizona, constructed by Abengoa, a Spanish multinational. I followed all legal and insurance issues related to the project, including negotiations of subcontracts and litigation.

My liberal arts and sciences background, which included extensive study abroad and Spanish language training, has proven invaluable in my current position.  My work environment is fast-paced, multi-lingual and multi-cultural.  Without the cultural and language training I received during my liberal arts curriculum at KU, my ability to communicate and operate in this environment would be severely limited.

Language study is truly unique because it serves as an intellectual pursuit in and of itself and simultaneously as a gateway to new cultures, business opportunities, and friendships.  I would advise any Spanish and Portuguese majors to use their language knowledge to springboard to these opportunities.  Language acquisition is really only the tip of the iceberg.

Meir posing in front of a forest. A monkey is on a tree in the background
Kristen Meier

Normally the first comment I get when I tell someone I am a Spanish and Biology major is “Huh, what led to that combo?” or “What are you going to do with that?!” It isn’t until I explain that I plan to become a doctor that they suddenly think it is a brilliant idea. For me, it always seemed like a no-brainer.

I have been interested in science and medicine for as long as I can remember and began my Spanish education freshman year of high school. Choosing between the two was something that I was incapable of doing, but luckily both of them were able to blend together fairly well, especially out in the real world. Early on I was afraid Spanish would become just another class that I eventually forgot about because I never had the opportunity to use it unless traveling abroad; however, this was anything but the case.

During the past two years of shadowing in clinics and hospitals I have been amazed and frankly extremely excited about the number of opportunities in which I have been able to use my Spanish. The very first day I was shadowing in an orthopedic clinic, our first patient spoke almost no English, so with the help of the orthopedic surgeon we were able to figure out what had happened and translate a treatment plan. Although my medical Spanish vocabulary was pretty sparse, I was still pumped! Another time I was just finishing up a day of shadowing at my hometown hospital when I was called into the emergency room to serve as an interpreter. A construction worker had badly injured his hand, and like the other patient, he spoke almost no English. As I was leaving, one of the nurses came up to thank me. She told me that she was with the patient the entire time, but when I came in and started speaking Spanish with him, his blood pressure and pulse immediately began to return to normal and he even smiled though he was obviously in a lot of pain. To this day, I can’t tell you how powerful that was to me, but it really was the moment that made it all worth it. Even in my own small town I was able to use Spanish in order to help people.

When people ask me what I want to specialize in, I am honest and tell them there are too many intriguing specialties to know for sure at the moment. At some point I would love to work with Doctors Without Borders, but the time and place are still up in the air. There are so many factors that I cannot predict and I think it is important to keep an open mind, but the one thing I do know is wherever I end up, Spanish will undoubtedly play an integral part in my future as a doctor.

Photo of Richard Paegelow
Richard S. Paegelow

Richard S. Paegelow owns and manages Inline Translation Services, Inc. in Glendale, California. The company specializes in the translation of written materials from English to other languages and serves private, public and non-profit clients across the country. (English-to-Spanish translations account for half of the company's volume.) Inline Translation Services started as a private language school in 1983. Mr. Paegelow purchased the business in 1991 and used the school as a base to build a successful translation company. Key clients include the American Cancer Society, Kaiser Permanente, Hilton Hotels, Boston Scientific, Aon Hewitt (a human resource consulting firm), the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), and many others.

Mr. Paegelow received his B.A. from the University of Kansas with majors in Spanish and Latin American Area Studies, and participated in the KU Junior Year Abroad Program in Costa Rica in 1969. Later, he received a Fulbright Scholarship for graduate studies in Quito, Ecuador. He then received an M.A. Degree in Political Science from the University of Kansas, followed by an MBA degree from Columbia University in New York City, with majors in accounting and finance. After the Columbia University, Mr. Paegelow spent one year with the Institute of Engineering of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), where he also taught a core course in financial accounting to MBA students there. Prior to purchasing Inline, Mr. Paegelow worked for fifteen years in general banking, management training, and business consulting, and served as Vice President at First Interstate Bank of California.

In addition to his active involvement at Inline Translation Services, Mr. Paegelow is a voting member of the American Translators Association and a member of KU's International Programs Advisory Board.