Language House Spanish Cluster

Spanish Cluster Alumni

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Messages from Spanish Cluster Alumni

Javier Pentzke
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2019)

Upon graduating with my Master’s degree and leaving both the LH and UMD in May, I traveled to Southeast Asia for 3 weeks by myself. Since it was my first time in Asia, I was thrilled to discover new countries and cultures and during my time there i visited many places and spent time with many fellow travelers. Upon returning home, I took it easy and had a very relaxed month of July while I slowly began to prepare myself emotionally for what was to come with my new job as a teacher. I am a first grade teacher at Washington Grove Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland. The school follows a dual-language immersion model so im teaching first grade all in Spanish. Its been 9 weeks since i started and i can easily say that I absolutely love my job because it involves two of my great passions: teaching young kids and the Spanish language. Of course, as a new teacher there have been many challenges but i face them with a positive attitude and im constantly learning new things on a weekly basis. I definitely miss the Language House and its wonderful people and I look forward to staying connected and coming back to visit whenever possible. (10-27-19)

                                                  Angkor Wat, Cambodia:


Sarah Eppley
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2018)

This past May, I started a new career as a novice cook, at the Cosmos Club in DC. Many of my coworkers are Latinx, so my Spanish has been getting some daily use in the kitchen! It's always a nice feeling to be able to communicate with people in their native language. In October 2019, I also visited the Basque Country in Spain on a study tour of the famous Mondragon network of cooperatives (see photo). In addition to cooking and learning languages, developing cooperative businesses is a big passion in my life. Very interesting to experience the intermingling of Spanish and Basque language and culture during that trip! Thank you, Language House, for inspiring me to keep traveling and learning languages my whole life long. (10-23-19)

Evelyn Sobel
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2014)

Evelyn Sobel is almost done with her third semester teaching English in Ecuador. After working hard all semester, she is going to celebrate by going to the Galapagos! She plans to stay in Ecuador for another year. around the country. Specifically, Evelyn will be part of a team of ten teachers who will be founding a new KIPP high school in the city. Below is a photo of one of her classes from last semester where her students bought her a cake for her birthday. It is tradition to shove the birthday girl's face into the birthdya cake! (11-13-15)

Òscar O. Santos-Sopena, Ph.D.

(Spanish Cluster, Mentor)

Oscar joined the Department of English, Philosophy, and Modern Languages in 2013 as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Santos-Sopena teaches a diverse variety of Cultural Studies courses. He teaches seminars about film, art, music, history, composition, and literature for Spanish as a Second Language and Heritage Speakers as well. (11-16-2015)


Sonaly Patel
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2012)

Sonaly Patel is currently a fellow of the IDEX Fellowship in Social Enterprise. Through this fellowship, she is living in Mumbai, India and working on an initiative to empower physically handicapped individuals to start and run their own small businesses in rural India. (08-13-12)


Tiara Darnell
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2011)

I am currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco working in the field of Youth Development. I arrived in country in late March, went through 2 months of intensive Darija (Moroccan Arabic) training, and swore in officially as a volunteer on 23 May. I spent most of the summer getting integrated and adjusted to the site where I live, Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate is in southern Morocco on the edge of the Sahara desert and at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It is known as the "Gateway to the Sahara" and as the "Hollywood of Africa" because of the numerous films that have been produced here such as Babel, and Gladiator, and currently HBO's Game of Thrones. It really is a dynamic city with warm people and I love it. In terms of work I will be teaching English, Art, and Geography at the youth center I am assigned to. I also plant to do some activities at the school for the deaf here too. I will end my service in May 2014. After that I plan to do some more traveling and eventually graduate school for urban geography studies. (10-31-12)


Marc McCarthy
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2010)

Life has been a whirlwind. Jenn and I are living in Rockville, MD and have a baby, Damian, who will turn 2 years old in April (family picture attached). He is great fun and keeps us very busy. I'm working in the commercial real estate business, investing in and managing self storage facilities and office space. It's a family business. For fun, I'm still playing piano and I also started learning Shotokan and Goju-ryu with a teacher from Madagascar who lived at our previous apartment complex. I fondly remember learning Tai Chi from you and hope to return to practicing Tai Chi someday. (31-03-16)


Matthew Johnson
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2008)

Matthew Johnson is now, after working several years, studying in Turkey for a Master's Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies Program at Hacettepe University in Ankara. He recently was on Turkish TV. If you know Matthew, check it out at (11-26-12)

He recently moved to Ashbury Park, NJ in August and now teaches humanities at the Voyagers' Community School in Eatontown. He is also the faculty adviser for the Model UN and the Student Judiciary Committee, utilizing the skills/knowledge I learned while in the conflict resolution field. (11-13-15)


Jacqueline Foelster
(RA, Spanish Cluster, graduated 2008)

Jascqie received a Fulbright grant and is currently researching in Cambodia. Her plan is to gauge Khmer civil society investment in social enterprises on a macro-level. The focal activities of her research consists of working directly with a social business, one in Phnom Penh and the other in one of Cambodia?s rural provinces, and compiling her experiences, observations and data to create individual case studies for each entity. (03-16-10)



Nick Burka
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2008)

Nick Burka: I've been working as an English Teaching Assistant at a small Primary > School in Ciudad Real, Spain. I work most closely with the > pre-kindergarten classes and kids in 1st and 2nd grade, but the school > of only roughly 150 students and staff all know me and never miss the > opportunity to say "hello!", "'good morning!" or just simply "nick!" > everytime they pass me in the halls. While in Spain I'm keeping an > online journal of my experiences and travels along with three other > Maryland residents (and two past Language House alumni, Laura Brewer > and Sarah Goldberg) and it can be found at > It's a good read that > promises not to disappoint! (11-02-08)



Michelle Eng
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2007)

I graduated with my Master of Education degree in 2009 and taught English as a second language to university students in China. After I came back from China, I transitioned to accounting and worked at a Latin American focused international nonprofit where I used Spanish on a daily basis and picked up a few phrases of Portugease. I now work as an auditor for an international public accounting  firm and have been exposed to clients who have operations in China, as well as converse with coworkers in Spanish and Chinese. Recently, I had an opportunity to work on an all-Chinese speaking audit team and used that opportunity to improve my Chinese in an immersive environment. I highly recommend finding opportunities all around you to immerse yourself even if it's outside the box. Language House has provided me the foundation and passion to continue using my languages and I'm grateful to Dr. Liu for the opportunity. I'm always looking to connect with students and alum so if you'd like to connect with me, feel free to email me at . (9-22-2106)


Jeff Imwold 
(RA, Spanish Cluster, graduated 2006)

Leaving the Language House was the hardest part of graduating. As I have said many times and continue to say, the Language House was the defining experience of my college career. I miss it immensely not because of the location or the facilities or the apartments or the events, but for the mass of extraordinary and creative indidviduals, all living and learning together in the same place. The students of the Language House are some of the best and brightest that this world has to offer, and as much as I miss seeing them every day, I know that they are making the world a better place in whatever path they have chosen or will choose after their time at UMD. For my small part, I hope that I can touch a few more lives in my bilingual sixth grade classroom in the Bronx through Teach for America. I will forever be thankful for the experiences that the Language House gave me that will help me to shape the leaders of our future.(9-30-07)

Jeff Imwold has joined the KIPP team of schools in New York City. KIPP is a highly successful group of charter schools aimed at closing the achievement gap in low-income communities around the country. Specifically, Jeff will be part of a team of ten teachers who will be founding a new KIPP high school in the city. His primary responsibility will be to write the curriculum for and design the foreign language department. (10-1-08)


Melanie Cathey
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2005)

Since graduation in 2005, I have graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Master's of Education from the University of Maryland. I have been a teacher in a private school as well as a substitute teacher in various settings including schools with a Spanish Immersion program, or a Bilingual Education program. Additionally, I have also been translating to inform Spanish speaking parents about their children's progress, and I have spoken to students in Spanish to help them feel more comfortable in school (if they were not yet fluent in English). I have also picked up another language since graduation in 05.' I have learned American Sign Language, and I have been involved in the Sign Language Choir at my church. My future goals include, visiting a school abroad and teaching. (09-29-09)



Allison Bigelow
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 2003)

Allison Bigelow, Institute/NEH Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of English, earned BAs in English and Spanish from the University of Maryland-College Park in 2003 and received her PhD in 2012 from the Department of English & Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Between college and graduate school, she taught English in a copper mine outside of Mamiña, Chile (I Región), an experience that complements her teaching and research on multilingual colonial literatures and informs her current project, “Mining Empire, Planting Empire: The Colonial Scientific Literatures of the Americas.” This study explains how colonial scientific discourses and practices serve as organizing grammars for settlement. From elaborate taxonomies of “castas de metales” and technologies that purify “metales mulatos” and “negrillos” to theories of setting and sowing upon heathen heaths and cultivating the “Moor-hawks” who inhabit those fenny spaces, Dr. Bigelow’s work roots out the epistemological play of discourse and mines the coloniality of power in seventeenth-century writing. Her research in the United States, Cuba, Bolivia, Peru, and Yucatán has been generously supported by the U.S. Department of State, the John Carter Brown Library, the Huntington Library, and the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. (10-5-12)



Erin Brady Munoz
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 1992)

I attended UMCP from 1988-1992.  I spent my sophomore year living in the Language House at St. Mary's when it first opened.  It was an amazing experience which prepared me well for my junior year, which I spent in Mexico City.  I graduated in 1992 with a degree in Secondary Language Education as a Spanish teacher.  I taught at Prince George's Community College and worked for Delta Airlines as a bilingual customer service agent after college.  I returned to the University of Maryland in 1996 to complete my M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature.  While working on my Master's, I taught Spanish at UMD and worked part-time for VISA International as a bilingual customer service agent.  In 1998 I began teaching Spanish full-time at the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore, MD, where I've been ever since.  I currently serve as the Coordinator of Diversity and Global Programs, while still teaching half-time.  (11-29-12)


Melissa Brown
(Spanish Cluster, graduated 1992)

I received an amazing education from UMD and had a wonderful experience at St. Mary's the first year the dorm was opened.  Language learning and teaching have been the focus of my 20 year teaching career (16 yrs. at Bloomington High School, Bloomington, IL and 4 at Holton-Arms School, Bethesda, Maryland). I have taught Spanish classes from beginning to advanced levels and created and led month-long language intensive experiences all around the Spanish speaking world.  My undergraduate degree in Education/Spanish Instruction, my Master's degree in Latin-American literature and culture, and my National Board Teaching Certification have all guided me back from Illinois to Maryland in order to direct a global education program at Holton-Arms School. 

Cultivating and developing cultural and global competency in order to prepare our students to be agents of positive change in the 21st century is a value that I learned at UMD and at St. Mary's.  I am a proud alumna of St. Mary's and firmly believe in the mission of living and learning communities.  I can affirm that it not only aids in language learning, but also cultivates and nurtures a respect for multiple perspectives. (3-13-13)

Following in her mother’s footsteps, Melissa’s daughter (Kali Brown) represents the second generation of LH alumni starting to be admitted to the program.