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The Mustang Buzz

Your University, Your News, Your Life

The Mustang Buzz

Your University, Your News, Your Life

The Mustang Buzz

Professor Maryjane Dunn – A Lifetime of Spanish Passion 

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Meghan McClain
Professor Maryjane Dunn

In the halls of Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU), one professor stands out among the academic milieu – Professor Maryjane Dunn, Spanish professor and advocate for Spanish speakers, the language, and the cultural richness that comes with speaking Spanish. With a career spanning four decades, Professor Dunn’s journey into the world of Spanish academia is as vibrant as the language she teaches and the culture she celebrates.  

 Dunn wanted to teach and learn Spanish, she said, “I began studying Spanish in high school, because I wanted to be an international journalist and Central and South America were in the news big time.” However, fate had other plans.  

Despite initially setting her sights on journalism, she found her true calling in Spanish studies which eventually led to embark on a lifelong journey as an educator teaching Spanish. “My mentor asked me what I wanted to do in life,” she recalls. “Be a student forever” She responded, and he said, “Great! All you have to do is become a professor. You’ll be surrounded by students forever and will continue studying and learning in order to teach them.”  

For Professor Dunn, teaching Spanish is not just about conjugating verbs or memorizing vocabulary; it’s about fostering a deeper understanding of language and culture. “I would like to encourage more students to take at least a little Spanish,” she expresses. “It will help them in any job or profession anywhere in the U.S. and it will open their eyes to new ways of thinking about others.” 

When asked about teaching Spanish to those who already speak Spanish, she states. “There is nothing wrong with the Spanish a heritage language speaker but by studying Spanish in a formal setting heritage speakers will improve their writing and reading ability, refine their grammar, polish their pronunciation.” She asserts, “Freshmen who have spoken English all their lives still need help and guidance in improving their more formal / professional English, so why wouldn’t this be good for heritage Spanish speaking students who have not had any Spanish classes?” 

Professor Dunn then spoke about her recommendations for learning Spanish at SMSU, to emphasize the benefits of classroom instruction she said, “I think everyone can benefit from learning to speak at least a little Spanish, while there are free online programs like Duolingo, one has to be very disciplined personally to make these effective.” 

As for the future of the Spanish department, Professor Maryjane wants to expand it and give it more diversification. “I would like to expand the numbers and types of classes we offer,” she shares. “But I don’t think of changes as improving the Spanish department. It’s about adapting to the evolving needs of our students.”  

For her, the importance of Spanish extends beyond linguistic ability, and if it is something that should be important to students, she says, “Absolutely, people should care about Spanish. It is the 2nd most spoken language here in the U.S. It’s a beautiful language that opens a whole new world of movies, art, and literature.” To her, it becomes a gateway to a world of culture and connection.  

Professor Dunn’s final comments or opinions on our campus and our Spanish speaking community here. She said, “I’m really enjoying my life here as part of the Mustang family,” she remarks. “I’m hoping that participation in Sobremesa (Spanish table) will grow in the future. It’s open to everyone who wants an opportunity to practice speaking Spanish in a low-intensity, low-stress environment.” 

 Sobremesa, is an event that welcomes all levels of Spanish speakers, from native or heritage speakers to beginning Spanish students who are welcomed to this informal opportunity to meet other Spanish-speakers.  

Dunn continues to inspire and educate, her passion for Spanish serves as a beacon of enlightenment at SMSU. It leaves a mark on the generations of Spanish speakers and students who come to SMSU.  

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About the Contributors
Sebastian Flores
Sebastian Flores, Senior Editor
I’m an English major with an emphasis in literature and pursuing a minor in professional writing and communications. I have been with the Mustang Buzz since January 2023 as senior editor. I enjoy photography, writing, helping others, and spending time with my family. 
Meghan McClain
Meghan McClain, Photographer & Graphics Editor
I’m a graphic design and studio arts major. I’m the President of the Photography Club, Photographer & Graphics Editor of The Mustang Buzz, a member of the American Marketing Association, and participate in intramural volleyball here at SMSU. In my free time, I enjoy spending time outdoors, arts and crafts, and spending time with family and friends.

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