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Graduate Students

Our graduate students come to UMass from all over the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking world, including the US and Canada. They are an amazingly diverse and energetic cohort that collaborate with our faculty in many of the initiatives that take place in the Spanish and Portuguese program. Our doctoral students typically hold TOships / TAships for most, if not all, of their time in our Ph.D. program, and have the opportunity to grow as effective instructors of languages, literatures, and cultures. They regularly present their work at national and international academic conferences in their fields. We are also proud of their competitiveness as candidates to fellowships and grants from the Graduate School as well as from external funding sources (including the Fulbright Program and the National Science Foundation). Articles stemming from their research in Iberian Studies, Hispanic Linguistics, Latin American and Latino/a Studies, Portuguese and Brazilian studies, Catalan studies, and Translation are accepted for publication in peer-reviewed venues prior to graduation.

Robinson Francisco Alvarado-Vargas

Eva Álvarez Vázquez

Eva Álvarez Vázquez earned her B.A. in English Studies from the Universidad de Oviedo and her M.A. in European Literature and Second Language Teaching from the Universidad de Huelva. She is currently a PhD student and Teaching Associate in the Spanish and Portuguese Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is also pursuing a Graduate certificate in Film Studies. Her research focuses on Iberian cinemas and she is interested in contemporary Iberian cultural studies from a gender studies perspective.

Alexandre Alves Santos

Alexandre Alves Santos received his B.A. in English Language and Linguistics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) in Brazil. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Hispanic Linguistics at UMass Amherst. Alexandre is interested in second-language acquisition, language processing, and heritage language development. His research focuses on the morphosyntactic acquisition of Portuguese as a heritage language and the correlations between specific language forms and the age of onset. He has presented his work at academic conferences on second-language processing, second-language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and second-language intonation.

Marco T. Bittencourt

Marco T. Bittencourt has been an instructor of TESOL since 1995. He holds a B.Sc. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the Catholic University of Brasilia (Brasilia, Brazil). He holds a Master’s in Linguistics from the University of Brasilia (Brasilia, Brazil). In September 2017 Marco joined the doctoral program in Hispanic Linguistics at UMass. His major area of research is second-language acquisition of heritage speakers of Portuguese. He also works on sociolinguistics, specifically on variation theory of syntactic phenomena in heritage speakers of Portuguese. He has been an Adjunct Faculty of Portuguese and Instructor of Spanish at Texas A&M International University. He has also worked in English-teaching programs, as a Language Specialist of TESOL, at Texas A&M International University, University of Houston-Downtown, and Lone Star College in Houston.

Aitor Bouso Gavín

Aitor Bouso Gavín holds a B.A. in English Literary and Linguistic Studies from the Universidade da Coruña. In 2018, he earned an M.A. in Advanced English Studies, with a focus on Literary Studies, from a joint program between A Coruña, Santiago, and Vigo universities. From 2018 to 2019, he was a Foreign Language Assistant in the Spanish Department at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is currently a Ph.D. student and Teaching Associate in the Spanish and Portuguese Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research interests include Chicanx and Latinx Literary and Cultural Studies; US Latinx Art; Multiethnic and American Literature; Performance Studies; Phenomenology; Body Studies and Somatic Theory. His dissertation examines the concept of the wound from a phenomenological perspective in the works of prominent Latinx authors and visual artists. Aside from that, Aitor is a translator and works as student assistant for the Translation Center at UMass Amherst. He is a native speaker of Galician and Spanish with knowledge of Portuguese and Italian.

Maria Marta Ceron

Hee Joong Choi

Hee Joong Choi is from Seoul, Republic of Korea. He holds a B.A. in Hispanic Language and Literature from Seoul National University (SNU, 2013), where he also graduated with a Linguistics minor. After three years of serving in ROK Navy as a Spanish Instructor and as a Spanish/Korean interpreter in high-level Navy talks, he continued to pursue his studies in Hispanic Linguistics in SNU. In 2019, he earned a M.A. with the thesis focusing on the syntactic derivation of Spanish Split Questions. As a Ph.D. student, Hee Joong has been putting his effort to refine his research in two ways: 1) to broaden the spectrum of meaning in questions from semantic and pragmatic perspectives, and 2) to develop experimental methods that could support his theoretical speculations. His secondary areas of interest include Korean as a Foreign Language (KFL), Portuguese Linguistics, and Intonational Grammar. In Spring of 2021, he completed the Korean Language Teachers Training Program at the Language Education Institute of SNU.

Virginia Correia

Virginia Correia received a B.A. in Economics from Framingham State University. After working for ten years in the financial industry, she changed career paths into academia. She received her M.A. in Spanish from San Diego State University and in the fall of 2018 entered the Spanish and Portuguese doctoral program at UMass Amherst, where she is studying Golden Age drama. In addition to Spanish, she is also fluent in Portuguese and has translated Portuguese articles into English for the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies (De Gruyter, 2017).

Gloria-Maria Cuesta-Gonzalez

Flavia Cunha

Olivia DiMarzo

Fiona Dixon

Fiona Dixon is a Ph.D. student in Hispanic sociolinguistics and phonetics. Her dissertation examines language attitudes and phonetic accommodation of Dominican immigrants in Madrid. To date, her work focuses on dialects in contact, synchronic linguistic variation, phonetic accommodation, and diaspora/minority communities. She is currently interested in continuing work with minority communities, exploring the effects of migration on intonation, and linguistic variation within creole continua.

Sandra Galván

Sandra Galván is originally from Barcelona (Spain). She graduated with a B.A. in History from the Universitat de Girona. After obtaining an M.A. in both Cultural Heritage and Education and Culture from the Universitat de Girona, she joined the Spanish and Portuguese doctoral program in 2015. Sandra is interested in Spanish and Catalan Cinema, with an emphasis on gender studies, space studies, and videographic criticism. Sandra is also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Film Studies.

Eduardo García-Fernández

Eduardo García-Fernández graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Philology and a second B.A. in English Philology from the Universidad de Oviedo. He joined the Spanish and Portuguese program at UMass in 2013. After obtaining an M.A. in Hispanic Linguistics, Eduardo entered the Ph.D. program in 2015. His main research interests are the phonetics and phonology of Spanish and Asturian, with a focus on prosody and intonational meaning. Eduardo’s dissertation investigates the patterns of association between intonational form and pragmatic meaning in Asturian vocatives.

Karla Giorgio

Karla Giorgio received an A.A. in Graphic Design from the Institute Toulouse Lautrec of Lima, an A.A. in Commercial Art from STCC, and a B.A. with a double major in Art History and Latin America Studies from Smith College. In 2017 she obtained an M.A. in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures from UMass, where she is currently a doctoral student in Latin American studies with an emphasis on contemporary Peruvian literature, the negotiations of national identity, and the different expressions of portable art. She has published the interview “Rostros del arte Kichwa: Eriberto Gualinga y sus documentales de la selva” in LatinoRebels. In addition to teaching at UMass, Karla has also been an instructor at Western New England University and will be teaching a course at Clark University this Spring.

Beatriz Gómez Vega

Odalis P. Hidalgo

Odalis P. Hidalgo was born in Perú, and has lived in the United States for 19 years. In 2007 she graduated with a B.A. in Spanish and French, and a concentration in translation, from Montclair State University. She then went on to obtain an M.A. in Spanish with a focus on Latin American studies also from Montclair State in 2010. Odalis is currently working on her doctoral dissertation, which examines the work of Peruvian author Manuel González Prada (1844-1918). She is also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Film Studies, through which she is investigating racial and social inequalities. She is currently teaching Spanish in a private immersion school in Greenfield, MA.

Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson holds a Master's degree in Spanish literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While pursuing his PhD at UMass, Joe works full-time as a Spanish teacher at Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown, Massachusetts. His research interests include film study, Southern Cone colonial literature, and the use of film as a primary tool in second-language instruction. He has traveled extensively in Latin America, and has led student trips to Ecuador and Argentina. Joe also holds a Bachelor's degree in German, and served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador.

Irina Lifszyc

Irina Lifszyc is originally from Rosario, Argentina. She graduated with a B.A. in Translation Studies and obtained an M.A. in Spanish from Ohio University. She is interested in Spanish language variation and historical linguistics. She is currently studying different sociolinguistic aspects of Spanish in Argentina.

Wílmar López-Barrios

Wílmar López-Barrios holds a B.A. in Spanish and English studies from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Colombia, and a M.A. in Linguistics from the Instituto Caro y Cuervo. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the Hispanic Linguistics track. His research encompasses both phonetics and phonology as he investigates sounds and melodies of human languages. Specifically, He focuses on prosody, and uses experimental techniques to disclose form-function mappings in tonal and intonational contours. Ever since he began exploring intonational variation of bilingual Creole speakers, he has been doing fieldwork in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia, with Palenquero Creole speakers. His second area of specialization is dialectology, which he combines with spatial autocorrelation and functional principal component analyses.

Gina Malagold

Gina Malagold is a Ph.D. candidate in the Spanish and Portuguese Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she is also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies. She holds a B.A. in Spanish Language, Literature, and Culture (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, 2011) and an M.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013.) She has received national and international fellowships and grants, including a Fulbright Scholarship (Argentina, 2012), a Ronald E. McNair Scholarship, U.S. Department State Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (Italy), and a Brandeis University Research Fellowship. She has lectured on language, literature, and culture studies at the Institute of Olga Cossettini (Argentina), Westfield State University (Massachusetts), University of Granada (Spain), and is currently a Visiting Researcher and Lecturer at Georgetown University (2018-2019.) Her work and research interests revolve around themes of Jews in the diaspora, US-Mexico cross-border networks, translation and interpretation, and racial and ethnic formations. Her dissertation project focuses on the life and work of transnational Mexican-Jewish anthropologist Anita Brenner. 

Claudia Matachana

Claudia Matachana is originally from Asturias (Spain). She graduated with a B.A. in Spanish Philology from the Universidad de Oviedo and obtained an M.A. in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language also from the Universidad de Oviedo. Claudia came to UMass as an exchange student in the fall of 2018. She is interested in first language acquisition, phonology, and language variation.

Isaac McAlister

Isaac McAlister is from Hartford, CT. He graduated with a B.A. in French Language and Culture and Anthropology from Guilford College in 2010 and earned a M.A. in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2016. He began a Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics in Fall 2016 at UMass Amherst. Isaac’s research interests include language acquisition, multilingualism, first- and second-language semantic/pragmatic and morphosyntactic development, language-based discrimination, and Romance dialectology. Isaac’s ongoing doctoral research focuses on the development of temporal and aspectual knowledge in L2 and heritage Spanish and Portuguese.

Paola Medina González

Paola Medina González is from Asturias, Spain. She holds a B.A. in Spanish Philology from the Universidad de Oviedo. She earned a M. A. in Spanish Language and Linguistics. In 2018, she obtained a M.A. in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language. Her masters` thesis focused on sociolinguistics, speech accommodation and the representation of Spanish language varieties in textbooks. From 2018 to 2019, Paola was a Foreign Language Assistant in the Spanish department at the Tiffin Girls` School in London, United Kingdom. Her research interests include sociolinguistics, language variation and dialectology.

Irene Melé-Ballesteros

Irene Melé-Ballesteros received a B.A. in English Philology from the Universitat de Barcelona and an M.A. in International Relations, Security and Development from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She joined the Spanish and Portuguese doctoral program in 2010, in which she has also obtained an M.A. in Hispanic literatures and cultures. Irene is interested in contemporary Iberian theatre and cinema, with a focus on feminist film theory, performance studies, and affect theory from a gender perspective. She has given papers at academic conferences on topics including the works of Angélica Liddell and female spectatorship. She has edited a special issue of Ámbitos feministas devoted to “Feminism and Gynocinema,” and has published articles on Elena Jordi’s pioneering pop culture in Barcelona and the relationship between Lluïsa Cunillé’s theater and the Spanish transition to democracy. Irene’s dissertation studies Spanish and Catalan women’s fiction in film and theatre, analyzing how different levels of fictionality translate across genres and navigate intersectionality in a multi-layered-media representation paradigm. 

Maíra Mendes Galvao

Maíra Mendes-Galvão was born in Brasília, Brasil in 1981. She holds a BA in Graphic Design from the University of Brasília (UnB), but changed paths and began circa 2004 a career as a professional translator and copyeditor. After a later stint back in academia, when she studied Philosophy of Language and Logic, with a special interest in theories of meaning, logic, and metaphor, she decided to forge ahead in the editorial industry instead. In addition to commercial translation, she took on literary projects and translated authors such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Boris Fishman, Monique Wittig and Mina Loy into Brazilian Portuguese. Now back to academia, she got an MA by the University of São Paulo (USP) with a Master thesis about translation as a theoretical practice and is working toward a PhD in the track Translation in the Hispanic and Lusophone World at UMass Amherst. She is also a poet and has published one chapbook and one full-length book. As a poet and performer (she composes ambient music/audio interventions for her poem readings), she is active in the Brazilian scene of contemporary poetry and frequently publishes poems in online and print journals. Some of her work both in poetry and translation has appeared in anthologies from Brazil and Mexico as well. Some of her other academic interests are: English language literature, Latin American literature, semantics, cognitive science and anthropology.

Isaura de Los Santos Mendoza

Isaura de Los Santos Mendoza is a first-year Ph.D. student at UMass Amherst focusing on literacy and language revitalization. She is a native speaker of Chatino, an indigenous language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico. She has been documenting and promoting the Chatino languages since 2011. She has taught Chatino reading and writing to children, and has developed pedagogical materials for acquiring literacy in the Chatino language, including children’s books. In her research she compares the two writing systems for this tonal language, evaluating the importance of tonal marking in the literacy process.

Daniela Narváez

Daniela Narváez is originally from Quito, Ecuador. She graduated with a B.A. in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE). Daniela is a member of the interdisciplinary linguistic research project Oralidad Modernidad that since 2009 aims to study indigenous languages in Ecuador. Daniela entered the Ph.D. program in the fall of 2017. She is interested in sociolinguistics, with an emphasis on language contact (especially between Kichwa and Spanish in Ecuador), dialectology, language identity, and language attitudes. Her current research focuses on morphosyntactic and intonational aspects of Andean Ecuadorian Spanish. She also works with minority groups from Cañar, in New Jersey and Northampton, and researches their linguistic diaspora.

Abril Navarro

Abril Navarro grew up in the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico. She obtained a double degree in Linguistics and Spanish as an undergraduate, and a M.A. degree in Linguistics, from UMass Amherst. Her research has focused mostly on theoretical syntax, more specifically on the ergativity of Maya Yucatec. Abril entered the Ph.D. program in Hispanic Linguistics in 2015. She is interested in developing assessment tools for non-native speakers, linguistic attitudes towards speakers of indigenous languages, and language policy issues, including raising awareness against linguistic discrimination, and common misconceptions of heritage language speakers.

Paulina Ochoa Figueroa

Paulina Ochoa Figueroa is originally from Michoacán (Mexico). She received a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Culture from Manhattan College. Paulina joined the Spanish and Portuguese Ph.D. program as a graduate student in 2017. She is finishing her doctoral coursework. Her research interests include translation studies, travel writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and Latin@x Literature. She has presented papers at academic conferences on travel and translation, and on Pruebas de Nueva York by the Spanish author José Moreno Villa. Paulina intends to pursue a graduate certificate on Translation and Interpreting Studies. She teaches basic- and intermediate-level Spanish, and medical interpreting. She is also a freelance translator and interpreter.

Elisabet Pallàs

Elisabet Pallàs is a doctoral candidate in Hispanic Literatures and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She holds a B.A. in Humanities from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) as well as two master’s degrees in Publishing (from the Universitat de Barcelona, 2013) and Peninsular literatures and cultures (from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2015). Interested in visual cultures, her current work focuses on contemporary Iberian theatre and film. Her dissertation, tentatively entitled “Expropriating Affect: Displacement and Reoccupation in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella District (1975-2010)” delves into the analysis of theater and film documentaries that illustrate the population’s forced displacement from Barcelona’s oldest district, Ciutat Vella. Grounded on a theoretical perspective that combines sociology and city studies, Elisabet’s project reflects on states’ mechanisms to enforce and legitimize territorial, cultural, and corporeal expropriations by deploying tactics that include, among other strategies, the criminalization of poverty and the passing of local laws restricting the use of public spaces.

Tanya Pérez-Brennan

Tanya is Colombian-American and spent part of her childhood in Brazil. She received her BA in Latin American Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston, an MS in Journalism from Columbia University, and an MFA in Creative Writing & Literature from Bennington College. She has worked extensively as a journalist covering the Latino and Brazilian communities in the U.S., along with immigration policy and Latin American/Latino music and art. She has also worked as a certified Spanish interpreter for the Massachusetts Trial Court, a medical interpreter, a freelance translator, and an adjunct professor teaching interpreting, translation, and Spanish at Regis College, Babson College, and Harvard University. Her research interests include collective trauma and cultural trauma in Colombian and Brazilian literature, Latin American female authors, and Latino/Latinx writers in the United States.

Nicholas Pezzote

Christian Puma Ninacuri

Christian Puma Ninacuri is originally from Ambato (Ecuador). He graduated with a B.A. in Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE). Christian entered the Ph.D. program in the fall of 2017 and is interested in sociolinguistics, with an emphasis on language contact (especially between Kichwa and Spanish in Ecuador), dialectology, and language identity. Christian is also a member of the interdisciplinary linguistic research project Oralidad Modernidad that aims to study indigenous languages in Ecuador.

Aida Roldán

Aida Roldán obtained a B.A. in English Philology and an M.A. in Construction and Representation of Cultural Identities from the Universitat de Barcelona, where she focused on ethnic, gender, and cultural studies. Aida entered the Spanish and Portuguese doctoral program in the fall of 2013. She is interested in U.S. Latino literatures and cultures, gender studies, and mass/pop culture. Currently she combines her academic interests and writing with a career in teaching. Aida has worked for a variety of institutions of higher learning, such as Universitat de Barcelona, University of Massachusetts, Universidad de Oviedo, and University of Missouri.

Celia Sainz

Celia Sainz is originally from Madrid (Spain). She received a B.A. in Journalism and Media Studies from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Celia entered the Ph.D. program in Iberian studies in the fall of 2017, and is also pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Film Studies. Her research focuses on film and gender in the Iberian Peninsula. She is currently working on her master’s thesis on the poetic cinema of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. Since 2018 she co-curates the Catalan Film Festival and the Latin American Film Festival at UMass. She has been collaborating in the Gynocine Project since 2017.

Giovanny Antonio Salas Torres

Giovanny Salas Torres was born in Socorro, Colombia. He holds an LLB from the Universidad Católica de Colombia and earned an MA in Literature at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, specializing in Latin American literature. His master’s thesis focused on the works of Manuel Mujica Láinez and Pablo Montoya making use of some theoretical approaches from comparative literature, art history and aesthetics to undertake a study of 20th and 21st-Century Latin American literary history. Giovanny is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is researching on Marcel Proust and Hispanic Literatures. At this point, his dissertation aims at reflecting about art in literature and how certain aesthetics —belonging to Proustian writing— allows to elucidate a type of novel in Spanish American literary world.

Camila C. Santiago

Camila C. Santiago completed her B.A. in Portuguese at the Universidade Estadual de Montes Claros (Brazil) in 2009. She is currently an M.A. candidate in Lusophone Literatures and Cultures at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she also works as a Teaching Associate in Portuguese. Her master’s thesis studies the representation of religious women in the work of Portuguese author José Saramago from a feminist point of view. In 2017 Camila presented her paper “Female Representations in José Saramago: A Space for Oppositional Discourses from the Canonical Gospels to the Gospel According to Jesus Christ,” which she later elaborated into a book chapter published in the volume Saramago’s Philosophical Heritage (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018).

Christopher Schafenacker

Christopher Schafenacker grew up in Edmonton (Canada). He received a B.A. with distinction in Philosophy and Spanish Language & Literature from the University of Alberta before embarking on extensive travels through Latin America and Europe. In 2012 he began coursework in the Comparative Literature program at UMass Amherst before finding his true home in the Spanish & Portuguese program. After earning his M.A., he progressed to the Ph.D. where he works on literary exchanges between Spain and North America. Specifically, he writes about the translation history of Federico García Lorca’s Poeta en Nueva York (1940) and the impact this work had on successive generations of North American poets.

Samuel Suárez Murias

Carla Suárez Vega

Carla Suárez Vega holds a B.A. in English Studies from the Universidad de Oviedo, where she also obtained an M.A. in Gender and Diversity and an M.A. in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language. She joined the Spanish and Portuguese doctoral program in the fall of 2015. Carla is interested in contemporary Iberian studies, especially on graphic narratives and film, from a the perspective of gender studies and queer theory. She has given papers at academic conferences on historical memory in graphic novels of the Spanish Civil War, transvestism, performance, and counterculture during the Spanish Transición, and queer urban space in Nazario’s Anarcoma and Rodrigo’s Manuel. Her dissertation focuses on queer culture and the production of queer subjectivities within the counterculture movements of the Spanish transition to democracy.

Katerina Tetzloff

Katerina holds a B.A. and M.A. in Linguistics from York University and Umass Amherst, respectively. She is a Ph.D. student in Hispanic linguistics, and her research focuses both on theoretical and experimental phonology in bilingualism, as well as the phonetics-phonology interface. She is also interested in the clinical applications of linguistics and has worked on studies of language-related dementias.

Maria Camila Vera Arias

Maria Camila Vera Arias holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the Universidad de Antioquia. Since 2011, she has worked as a journalist for several publications in her home country, Colombia. She completed an MFA in Spanish Creative Writing at the University of Iowa in 2016 with a hybrid thesis of poetry and fiction. Her first book, Especies, a short stories collection about Colombian fauna was published in March 2019. Her academic interests include Translation Studies, literary translation, and Latin American women writers and poets.

Laurieny Da Costa Vilela

Simón Andrés Villegas

Simón Andrés Villegas received a B.A. with distinction in Hispanic Philology from the Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia. His main research areas are medieval and Renaissance Iberian literatures as well as textual scholarship. He has published papers in peer-reviewed journals on the poetics of the hero travel and on the representation of memory in the Libro del caballero Zifar (Letras, 2015; Medievalia, 2019), and on the thematic relationship between the Libro de buen amor and Celestina (Lingüística y Literatura, 2013). He is currently studying an anonymous Castilian translation of Catalan poet Ausiàs March, and the work of Castilian poet Isabel de Vega.