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learning language and the culture

September 2012

Coincidence or fate, new Spanish professor happy to be at Avila

Teresa Lorenz, new assistant professor of Spanish in Avila’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, becomes a bit sheepish when telling the story. It’s almost as if she thinks she’ll come across as crazy, or no one will believe her. Yet, the facts are the facts.

In the summer of 2011, Lorenz took 27 students on a six-week study to Segovia, Spain. She had been to Spain before – in 2000, where she studied as an undergraduate and in 2006 while working on her Ph.D. – but had never had the opportunity to visit the city of Ávila, home to St. Teresa of Avila. It was a place where she’d always felt a connection. After all, though her parents denied any linkage, Teresa did share her name with the saint, she and her family were Catholic, and for some unknown reason, her parents had left the more-traditional ‘h’ out of her first name. She thought, on this trip, perhaps she’d be able to make that pilgrimage.

At the same time, Lorenz was feeling anxiety over her future. Rather than stay back in Tucson, where she had just graduated from the University of Arizona, and look for a job, she had taken this trip to Spain. The job market in the U.S. was bleak, and she wasn’t sure what awaited her once she returned home.

When an opportunity arose to take a weekend trip to Ávila, Lorenz decided she was going to take full advantage.

“At first, I wasn’t even sure I could go,” she said. “I was asked to stay back (in Segovia) with one of our students who fell sick that weekend. But someone else generously agreed to stay with her, and I was finally able to go.

“We went on a tour to where St. Teresa of Avila was baptized, and nervous about the job market at the time, I said a little prayer in front of her baptismal font asking to find a job.”

It didn’t take long upon her return to the U.S. to have her prayers answered.

“I came back in the fall of 2011, and this job posting came up,” Lorenz said.

Avila University was looking to re-institute its foreign language program and was looking to kick-start things by hiring a Spanish professor. Lorenz, who’s fluent in Spanish and well-versed in Portuguese and French, was looking for a place to start her professional career.

It was a perfect fit.

“I never knew much about the Midwest,” she said. “But, here I am. It’s different, but I’m loving my experience here. Everyone has been so helpful and nice.”

Lorenz, who teaches two classes in Spanish I and one in Spanish II, said Avila reminds her of Gannon University in Erie, Pa., where she attended as an undergrad. She grew up in Oil City, Pa., a tiny burg on the western end of the state, between Pittsburgh and Lake Erie. She said she started learning Spanish in high school.

“My teacher in high school motivated me to learn Spanish, so I wanted to motivate others,” she said.

Lorenz said she decided to go to the University of Arizona for her graduate work because it was a place where she knew she could use her Spanish all the time. That led to her appointment on the trip to Spain, to Ávila and her little prayer that, well, ended up with her at a university named for St. Teresa of Avila.

For Lorenz, learning a foreign language goes far beyond being able to speak to people in their lands. That’s the part of Spanish that she wants to teach her students at Avila.

“I think it’s a great way to connect with other cultures,” she said. “I feel that, often, we don’t know how to do that. Along with learning a language, you also learn the culture. That’s highly beneficial.” AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434