First Year Seminar: Words in the Wind

Students Explore Language, Culture, and Contemporary Life

Marist’s First Year Seminar (FYS) strives to introduce freshmen students to the college learning community. With a variety of courses that center around various worldly topics, students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in an area of study he or she would not normally explore.

Marist Students Meet with the Marketing Team at the Miss Universe Organization.Dr. Kevin Gaugler, director of the FYS, brought the themes of his Words in the Wind: Expeditions in Language, Culture, & Contemporary Life class to life by taking the class on an engaging and eventful field trip to New York City. His class explores the power of language and the many roles it takes on in our lives. Comprised of his FYS students and students from his Spanish in a Digital Age class, the group visited the Hispanic Society of America, the headquarters of Univision, and the Miss Universe Organization.

“I wanted to do a trip to New York City that was connected with languages and showed them how the study of various languages leads to a career,” said Gaugler. “I feel too many students feel like there is a direct equivalent between their major and their career; they feel like they’re majoring in a specific job when they choose their major, and that’s not always how it works.”

The class met with the Hispanic Society of America’s Rare Books Collection librarian and were shown a first edition “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes, which is one of six available. This was an amazing opportunity for both classes because it allowed them to understand the many facets of language through Hispanic art, literature, and media.

“I think too often Spanish is something that’s ignored by most Americans and college students; they don’t think learning about language or understanding another language as being something that’s going to beneficial to them,” said Gaugler. “I was hoping that this trip would show them that there are a lot of opportunities if you take the time to be functional and conversational in another language that it could open doors for you.”

Thanks to the help of Shawn McClain ’06, a Marist alumnus who is the VP of Business Development and Marketing at Miss Universe, Gaugler was able to arrange a meeting with Univision’s Integrative Marketing team, which included the VP of Integrative Marketing, Luis de la Parra.

“Shawn was truly great; he does a lot of work with Univision through Miss Universe and was able to organize a meeting with an executive team,” said Gaugler. “He told the students about his job at Miss Universe and connected it back to language, he also discussed how he was a Spanish and Political Science Major. He’s a good example of how there are so many opportunities when it comes to finding a career.”

At Univision, the Integrative Marketing team gave an overview of the company’s approach to the Spanish community and explained the role language plays in the media world.

“There are a lot of ways people at Univision have to factor in language,” said Gaugler. “The team gave them an idea of how to market to a community that is from different countries with different ideas and languages. They showed the class that the topics we talk about in class are a real topic at the discussion table at this big business.”

Gaugler praised de la Parra and the Integrative Marketing team for being so attentive and involved in the trip by saying, “they genuinely enjoyed connecting with the college students.”

“From going to both Univision and the Miss Universe Organization and talking to the heads of the departments showed me that they all came from where we are,” explained Shannon Gildea ’18, an FYS student that went on the trip. “It’s a great thing I took this class and went on this trip because it taught me about skills needed in the workplace and to succeed.”

The trip served to be both beneficial academically and professionally for another FYS student, Karen Marte ’18. Marte, who is bilingual in Spanish and English, kept in contact with members of the team following the trip and acquired an internship with Univision.

“Karen is really a perfect example of how important the FYS is,” explained Gaugler. “She was a student that didn’t realize she had this bilingual skill— this power that was valuable to someone. And for her to figure this out in her first year at Marist is phenomenal and really shows what this course is about. She shows a direction and by the time she is a sophomore, she will be headed towards something great.” 


Written by Emily Belfiore '16

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