Sylvia Rasi Gregorutti, also known as Professoressa Gregorutti to her students, has been teaching at PUC since 1993. She was chair for about 20 years and is now the associate chair of the Department of Communication and World Languages, since their departments merged in 2019.
One of her favorite things about teaching is seeing students study abroad and hearing about their unforgettable experiences. She loves being involved in ACA (Adventist College Abroad) and seeing how it changes students’ lives. Sylvia generously answered some questions for us to learn more about the Department of World Languages.
What makes your department unique compared to other departments at PUC?
World Languages has collaborative relationships with many departments on campus, and most of our students are double majors or are working on an Allied Health degree or some type of pre-professional program. We strongly encourage getting the most out of the college experience and our majors are easy to combine with many others. The one thing that makes us unique among departments: Nearly 100% of our World Languages majors spend a year of their college experience studying in another country. Top choices are Spain, Italy, France, Argentina, Austria, Lebanon, and other countries have also been hosts to PUC students. There are actually students who are heading abroad even as I type this. I’m praying for their safe travels. After personally sending about a thousand students abroad, I can confidently say ACA is hands down the best year out of their college experience. Also, it’s ACA for * ALL * In other words, you don’t have to be a major in World Languages to go abroad — though we do make it really appealing to major in one of our degrees! The year abroad is transformative to so many – it confirms your career choice or helps you see who you are and choose better. It’s also one of the greatest regrets of those who didn’t make time for it during their college years.
What makes your department unique compared to the same program at other colleges and universities?
This one’s easy! Compared to our sister institutions, at PUC’s World Languages Dept., you can complete a major in Language & Culture Studies with an emphasis in Italian, German, Arabic, French, or Portuguese in addition to the more common Spanish. One of the courses we offer in the L&C major is Language, Culture, and Humanitarian Issues — great for students aiming for international humanitarian work. We also offer a major in Spanish Studies that’s especially relevant to future educators. Compared to larger institutions, we provide abundant one-on-one time. We have a comfortable student lounge next to our offices and classrooms where we get together to talk and sometimes worship together. In true World Languages style, our lounge is open to all.
What is something new students can look forward to about joining your department?
World Languages is a very welcoming department. We actively celebrate variety. Diversity is in our very DNA – we not only accept it, we revel in it and encourage its proliferation! New students to our department can expect to be embraced, seen, and heard. We agree with French philosopher Chateaubriand who observed that each person “carries within himself a world.” We’re eager to benefit from the ‘worlds” our students bring to our campus. Our aim is to enrich them with knowledge of other languages and cultures, and different ways of seeing the world. Critical thinking expands by quantum leaps when you understand different ways of solving human problems and needs: What to eat, what to wear, what shelter to build, how to interact, and what to value – the solutions vary around the world.
What is your favorite thing about teaching in your department?
There are so many things I enjoy, but I think my favorite thing about teaching is seeing students decide to go abroad for a year. And then, when they return, it’s fabulous to talk with them in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese – to hear about their unforgettable experiences, and to see how they have become better versions of themselves, more open to the world, more empathetic, and sure of what they want to do with their lives. That is the single most transformative activity I get to be involved in, and it’s incredibly rewarding. Lifelong international friendships are made and a lifetime of memories, too. In Spanish, we say, “Nadie te puede quitar lo bailado.” No one can take away what you have danced – and the study abroad experience is just that – something you have for life.
What is your department well known for, and why?
We’re known for our enthusiastic teachers who are native speakers or they have spent time living in the countries whose languages they teach. For students heading abroad, we offer a high-quality orientation prior to departure and support from our home campus during each quarter spent abroad. World Languages is innovative and versatile: In addition to the majors mentioned, we offer introductory Chinese and Korean, and our popular Spanish for Health Care courses, which provides language skills and cultural competence to better serve Spanish-speaking patients, clients, and customers. This year, we’re trying out an intermediate level of this course. We’re also expanding our Spanish for the Professions emphasis to our first beginning Spanish class. Tailoring courses to students’ interests and professional objectives creates greater motivation and makes learning another language more applicable. Our upper-division courses contribute to the rich offerings of our liberal arts college – from my specialty, linguistics, to literature, film, and humanitarian issues. Our aim is to create engaged, competent, and compassionate global citizens.