2023 RGSLL Newsletter

Department of Romance, German and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences seal - a student sitting in a square in Madrid.

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Kudos
Alumni Class Notes

Message From the Chair

Masha Belenky
Masha Belenky

Dear friends,

I am happy to share with you highlights from the past year and give you a brief preview of our activities this coming year.

It was an exciting year at RGSLL in 2022. We saw the publication of several new books reflecting a broad range of research from our faculty. These include Professors Manuel Cuellar’s first monograph, Choreographing Mexico: Festive Performances and Dancing Histories of a Nation (Texas UP); Abdourahman Waberi’s new novel, Dis-moi pour qui j’existe? as well as his new collection of poems; and Richard Robin and Galina Shatalina’s new edition of their award-winning Russian textbook, Golosa.

RGSLL faculty organized several exciting events this past year, including hosting a prominent French journalist, filmmaker and racial justice activist Rokhaya Diallo, Manuel Cuellar’s book launch and a conversation between Abdourahman Waberi and Professor Valerie Orlando from the University of Maryland. We have many events planned for this semester. Please join us for these in-person events if you are in D.C.!

As always, we are grateful to you for your generosity, support and engagement. Thanks to all of you who made donations to the department, participated in workshops, gave guest lectures and stayed involved in so many ways. We would love to hear from you! Please stay connected and share your news with our RGSLL community.

With warm wishes,

Masha Belenky
Department Chair

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Department Spotlights

Meet Heather Bamford

Heather Bamford
Heather Bamford

RGSLL Deputy Department Chair Heather Bamford is an associate professor of Spanish literature. Her research focuses on the medieval and early modern periods. She teaches classes about their legacy in Spain and the United States. She expresses her admiration for her students' willingness to follow her down strange tunnels into the past. In fall 2022, 18 of her students signed up to read the entire Quijote. They probably read quite a bit less than that, she noted, but the vitality and philosophical depth of the discussions and the creativity and personal interests with which they engaged the text and course assignments were inspiring.

She recently submitted a proposal for a monograph tentatively titled Unprinted: Reading and Meaning in Early Modern Spain. Early modern Spain, which came on the heels of multiconfessional medieval Iberia, is a counterargument to the most fundamental concepts of book history, including manuscript culture, print culture, reading practices and material text. Through a critique of these poorly theorized terms derived from work on England and France, she argues that we don’t know what we mean when we say early modern “reading.” Some of the materials she examines are the personal notebooks of Spanish humanists, talisman recipes in Aljamiado (Spanish in Arabic script) used and circulated by clandestine Muslims and forgeries written in a variety of invented scripts and alphabets.

When she is not at GW, she likes to spend time with her husband, sons (ages 7 and 9), her dog Ruby and the horses that live at Rolling Acres Farm in Brookville, Maryland.

Farewell to Our Friend and Colleague, Richard Robin

Richard Robin
Richard Robin

Professor of Russian and International Affairs and Director of Russian Language Richard Robin will retire at the end of the spring 2023 semester.

Professor Robin began his career at GW in 1981, first as an instructor and, starting in 1984, as tenure-track assistant professor of Russian. In the ensuing 40 years, his contributions have made their mark on the development of Russian pedagogical practice both at GW and on a national scale through a series of innovations in proficiency-oriented instruction, the use of technology in teaching and assessment practices.

He was promoted to associate professor in 1993, and to full professor in 2010. He served as chair of the German and Slavic Department in 1995-1999 and in 2001-2005; and as chair of RGSLL in 2014-2017. He has been the Russian language program director since 1994.

Professor Robin’s scholarly activities are in the areas of Russian language textbook development and oral proficiency assessment. He is the author or co-author of nine textbooks (across 19 editions cumulatively, six co-authored; lead author on three); nine refereed articles; eight chapters in scholarly editions; one co-edited volume; one book translation; 66 conference presentations and over 1,000 items that appear on nationally distributed language tests.

Professor Robin’s work has been recognized both at GW and in his field. He is a Bender awardee for teaching with technology. He holds the prize from the profession’s flagship society, the American Association of Teachers of Russian and East European Languages (AATSEEL) for pedagogical materials and AATSEEL’s college teacher of the year award. He is also a recipient of the Merlot Award for innovative web-based pedagogy.

Professor Robin’s major contribution is Golosa, a textbook for beginning Russian. Now in its sixth edition, Golosa has been overwhelmingly the best-selling college Russian textbook for five editions spanning a period of 25 years—a world record for endurance for a foreign-language textbook. By the second edition, Professor Robin introduced technical innovations that later became standard practice but were rare or unheard of in the 1990s: web-based audio and video supplements and web-based written exercises. Professor Robin brought in technology to shoot, edit and scaffold all the video in the book and change the content from edition to edition as needed—including work now underway for Book 2 of the sixth edition.

He is also the author or co-author of several other textbooks, including Political Russian, On the Air (1999), CIBER Business Russian (2015) and Russian for Russians (2002).

Professor Robin will be greatly missed at RGSLL!

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Department Kudos



  • Masha Belenky continues to serve as co-editor of Dix-Neuf: The Journal of the Society of Dix-Neuvièmistes, and as a member of MLA's Forum on Nineteenth-Century French Literature. She also serves as co-convener of NCFS Unbound, a monthly virtual seminar featuring new books in 19th-century French studies
  • Yvonne Captain accepted a visiting researcher position at the Department of African American Studies at Georgetown University and participated in the “Individualism and Intersectionality” Colloquium at the Institute for Humane Studies, George Mason University.
  • Manuel R. Cuellar published his monograph Choreographing Mexico: Festive Performances and Dancing Histories of a Nation with the University of Texas Press and organized a book launch and symposium at the Mexican Cultural Institute in September 2022, sponsored by the GW Cisneros Institute, the Mexican Embassy, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and RGSLL. In October, he also presented his research on dance at the “Dance and Identity Symposium: Folklórico in Chicanx Communities” at Trinity University in San Antonio and at the Dance Studies Association Conference in Vancouver. Dr. Cuellar is the 2022-2023 recipient of a D.C. Arts and Humanities Fellowship.
  • Maria Jose de la Fuente published two books in 2022: Puntos de Encuentro: a Cross-cultural Approach to Advanced Spanish (3rd. Ed.) and Education for Sustainable Development in Foreign Language Learning (New York, Routledge).
  • Margaret Gonglewski co-edited volume 22 of the Global Business Languages journal, after spearheading the journal’s move from Purdue to GW. She gave two presentations at the International Symposium of Languages for Specific Purposes at the University of Chicago, including “Student Perceptions of Their Learning in a Green Business Unit within a Business German Course.” She continues her work as faculty director of Business Language Programs of the GW Center for International Business Education, which was awarded renewed grant funding by the U.S. Department of Education for the next four years. 



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Alumni Class Notes

  • Kyra Armstrong, BA ’20, is in her last year of a Theatre Producing MFA at Columbia University where she worked as the program coordinator on the accessible ticket initiative for the Broadway production of Death of a Salesman. 
  • David Boxer, BA ’07, is the macroeconomic and commercial officer on the Mexico Desk since 2021. He contributed to the relaunch of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue and the North American Leaders' Summits.
  • Sarah Corso, BA ’22, is a language assistant through the Teaching Assistant Program in France at a lycée in Guyancourt, France, near Versailles. She also participates in the Sciences Po preparation courses at the school as a professor for the English course and as an auditor for the history course.
  • Tara Galloway, BA “17 is currently a graduate student at Syracuse University studying Public Diplomacy and Global Communications with a certificate of advanced study in the EU and Europe. She also works part time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
  • Charlotte Hanby, BA ’22, won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship award and is spending the year in Lüneburg, Germany.
  • Will Hoadley-Brill, BA ’21, MA ’22, published an article in the Spanish and Portuguese Review 8 (2022) this fall on inclusive Spanish and the linguistic prescriptivism of the Real Academia Española. . 
  • Elaine Hruschka, BA ’61, returned to GW 20 years r for an MBA, while holding down two jobs. During her 24 years in finance, from banking to venture capital, she created a jewelry business and managed to visit more than 80 countries.
  • Sophia McDaniel, BA ‘21 is currently living in Clermont-Ferrand for a second year, as part of the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). She is enjoying working with local middle schoolers to develop their English skills, as well as traveling Europe with friends. Sophia hopes to return to France in the Fall to pursue a history Master’s in Paris. 
  • Bjorn Netland, BA ’71, MA ’73, is a retired university professor and high school teacher (English, German, French, Latin, Spanish). He has lived almost 40 years on five acres on the shore of Port Gamble Bay in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Brian O'Dwyer, BA ’66, was appointed by Governor Kathy Hochul as chair of the New York State Racing and Gaming Commission and by President Biden as a member of the Commission on Presidential Scholars.
  • Stephen Ryan, BA ’07, is a systems engineering director focused on advanced national security satellite design and development at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, Calif, where he lives with his wife Laura, daughter Katherine and dog Winston.
  • Simon Saliby, BA ’22, was one of 400 students across disciplines who presented a variety of academic projects at the 2022 Research Showcase.
  • Joshua Schutze, BA ’11, is a certified public accountant and occasionally uses the two languages he majored in—Chinese and German.
  • Mikaela Smith, BA ’22, is in law school at the University of Minnesota. She is involved in several organizations and represents her class in the Sports Law Association. She is taking advantage of moving back to Minnesota to get back into winter sports like nordic skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating!
  • Carolina Toscano, BA ’02, completed her doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Washington. She teaches part time at Saint Louis University (Madrid Campus). Her research focuses on maternal feminist theory and migration.
  • Jake Tsubota, BA ’22, won a Fulbright research award and is spending the year in Germany.

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