Language students leave with employable skills

Laura Compton didn’t know what she was going to do with her Spanish degree, but she knew she didn’t want to be bored.p18-Laura-Compton-(4c300)

“At first, I had a range of ideas for my bachelor’s. I changed a million times,” Compton said. “Out of all the classes I was taking, the only one I enjoyed was Spanish. So I changed my major and stuck with it.”

After going to Puerto Rico on her own and taking a few classes, Compton loved that country and decided to move there after graduating from SDSU in 2008.

She began working at a Hilton Resort where she met the manager of an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location connected to the hotel. When there was a job opening with Enterprise, she went for it.

“At the time, I honestly didn’t know how (my degree) was going to help me,” Compton said. “But now that I’m doing something I like to do, I have to be fully bilingual in my position.”

Compton works at Enterprise Holdings as a business rental sales executive. In this position, she helps run corporate sales for all of Puerto Rico. She works with people from all over Latin America who are in need of transportation and sets them up with rental programs.

“If it wasn’t for the Spanish I learned at SDSU, I couldn’t be doing this,” Compton said. “It helped with my communications 100 percent.”

To earn her Spanish degree, Compton went through the Department of Modern Languages and Global Studies, where Christi Garst-Santos is an assistant professor and coordinator of Spanish.

Garst-Santos, who acted as Compton’s professor and faculty advisor, said Compton was a great student with a good sense of humor and was dedicated and enthusiastic about her classes.

“She was fearless in the classroom,” Garst-Santos said.

She said Compton’s current position displays the wide diversity of options for students who study a language other than English.

The Department of Modern Languages and Global Studies prepares students to communicate effectively, think critically and act responsibly in a diverse and multicultural world, Garst-Santos said.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that studying a second language is more than just grammar, speaking and writing,” Garst-Santos said. “Language and global studies provides students with the interpersonal, cultural and critical thinking skills that employers desire in the global job market—whether you stay in South Dakota or leave to work in a foreign country.”

The department has approximately 175 students pursuing majors and hundreds of others pursuing minors. This includes Makenzie Huber, a sophomore journalism major with minors in both global studies and Spanish.

Huber came to State knowing that a Spanish minor would be practical to coordinate with her major field of study.

“Being able to speak Spanish is becoming an important tool and ability for people in the journalism field, and I felt that in order to stay competitive I needed to learn Spanish,” Huber said.

She plans to become a public affairs journalist after graduating from SDSU and use what she’s learned through the Department of Modern Languages and Global Studies to communicate with people for her stories.

“Learning a foreign language challenges you to learn something that is difficult and makes you think differently than you otherwise would,” Huber said. “It also connects you to other people in the world through the language that is such a huge part of any culture.”

Through the critical thinking and crosscultural communication skills provided by the department, students take an interdisciplinary approach to different projects and collaborations.

“Most of our majors are double majors, which means that their language and cultural skills give them the ability to collaborate with people across disciplines and to think about their other major in unique and creative ways,” Garst-Santos said.

Graduates from this program include a bilingual journalist, a loan manager and a state department worker.

Alumnus Justin Geraets works as a tour director and guide for EF Tour America, and Alisha Janes is the mathematics director at the urban, multicultural Morrey Middle School in Denver.

Compton said the modern languages program helped her more than she ever expected.

“I think that with the modern languages program —no matter what language you study — you’re going to use it,” Compton said. “You can create the opportunity with what you study. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my degree; I just knew that I loved it.”

Hannah Koeller

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