Hortensia Gutierrez graduated from LTS in 2014 with an MA project titled Teaching Forms of Address in Chilean Spanish to U.S. College Students. She worked at the American English Institute (AEI) for a few years before applying for her PhD studies in Spanish Linguistics.
Tell us about your good news about the next 5 years!
I am about to start a PhD in Spanish Linguistics at Georgetown University and I am very excited to start this new path in my professional life! During 2016 I had many experiences that pushed me to take this important step. I applied to six programs around the country and I was accepted to four of them with full funding for five years: University of Arizona, Indiana University, State University of New York Albany, and Georgetown University. My final decision to go to Georgetown was based on the faculty, the professional opportunities (outside the regular ones that any PhD program offers), and the solid instruction in all the areas of linguistics. In addition, I had two emotional factors to include: the fact that our beloved Keli Yerian is an former student of GU and the professional life of my husband.
Why did you decide to go on to a PhD? How did your experiences in LTS and otherwise lead you to this path?
I grew up in an academic environment that shaped my way of seeing life, learning to love questions and showing others my findings. At first, I became a high school teacher and I taught physics for more than 4 years in Chile, but it wasn’t until I came to the US that I found my true passion for linguistics: I liked physics, but I love teaching languages. For that reason, I decided to study in the LTS program and it changed my life. I believe that the first moment I thought about continuing my studies was when I started to work on my MA project. I was so passionate about the social and political aspects of language that I decided that I wanted to go deeper. I know that in the next five years I will find what I am looking for and more, and that makes me really happy.
What will be your areas of focus during your PhD?
During my M.A., I wanted to study the suppression of certain Spanish variation features in the traditional classroom, caused by linguistic ideologies in Latin America. Now, for my doctoral studies I would like to explore the dynamics of linguistic ideologies in areas of language contact. For example, I am interested in what happens when Mapudungun, a language spoken by the Mapuche community, is in contact with Chilean Spanish. This contact reveals elements that I would like to explore, such as bilingualism, heritage learners of Mapudungun, language revitalization, and the teaching of Mapudungun to the general population, among others. My ultimate professional goal is linked to my personal core value that pushed me to study Education in the first place: to use my research and work in academia to empower communities, encouraging people to understand and protect their identity.
Is there any advice you would give to current or future LTS graduate students?
People have different goals in life and different ways of reaching them, but I believe there is one fundamental element that is important to achieve them, and that is the passion for what you are doing. So if you want to teach languages or research languages, remember to always give your best.