Dr. Reyna Vergara understands the power of language.

Erinn Holloway, Dr. Reyna Vergara and Edgar Serrano
Erinn Holloway, Edgar Serrano and Dr. Reyna Vergara

Now Vergara, an assistant professor of Spanish at Mississippi University for Women, wants to pair that power with advocacy to help foreign language students and teachers in the state of Mississippi.

Vergara set that plan in motion last year when she and two of her peers from The W attended the Mississippi Foreign Language Association’s (MFLA) annual conference at the University of Mississippi. When Vergara learned the MFLA was looking for an institution that was willing to serve as host for its 2023 conference, she suggested The W as a possibility.

On Nov. 10-11, Vergara and The W will get an opportunity to showcase everything they have to offer when the MFLA brings foreign language teachers and students from the state together in Columbus for two days of connection, education, advocacy and more.

“I think this is a good way to promote The W to teachers, who in turn have access to students,” Vergara said. “I want them to get the welcoming, personalized feel their students would experience if they came here.”

The conference is open to all foreign language and English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in the state of Mississippi. The conference titled “From Classroom to Global Stage: Nurturing World Language Competence,” will emphasize the power of language and connection and how teachers can use those things to help students forge pathways into so many careers.

Vergara said she was surprised by the number of foreign language teachers in the state who didn’t realize the opportunities available to their students at The W. She said that discovery motivated her to advocate for The W to serve as host for this year’s conference. While the planning for the event continues, Vergara is excited about the chance to educate students and teachers about the myriad ways – Study Abroad Programs and bilateral exchanges with the University of Alicante (Spain) and Aichi Shukutoku University in Nagoya, Japan, to name two – studying a foreign language at The W can be an attractive choice.

The W offers coursework in Spanish, French and Latin. The Spanish program has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish, a Spanish Education BA, a Foreign Languages minor and a Certificate of Competencies in Spanish Language & Culture.

Edgar Serrano, executive director of the Mississippi Foreign Language Association (MFLA), said the conference is designed to encourage active interest and research in languages other than English as well as the advancement of the study and teaching of English in schools, college and universities in the state of Mississippi.

“The conference will provide a lot of professional development,” Serrano said. “It will offer a look at what is new in the education side and what can we learn. But another one of the powerful benefits of the conference is the ability to network with others.”

Serrano, who is a lecturer of Spanish at the University of Mississippi, was president of the MFLA from 2016-18. He also is the president-elect for the National Network for Early Language Learning (NNELL). Since its founding in MFLA, Serrano said the MFLA has worked to break down barriers and to educate people about the importance of learning a foreign language.

“The conference will give attendees a chance to see everyone reaching for pathways and ways to continue with language education,” Serrano said. “It is crucial to speak multiple languages to strengthen our national security, diplomacy, and more robust business relations. People forget that 75% of the world doesn’t speak English, and when they speak English how proficient are they?”

The cost is $50 for teachers and $25 for students. The conference will offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that teachers can use to renew their teaching certification.

To register for the conference, go to: https://www.mflams.org/2023-conference and use the drop-down menu to access the program. There also will be a free conference workshop “Embracing Differences in the Language Learning Classroom” on Saturday, Nov. 11.

Also at https://www.mflams.org/ or at https://www.muw.edu/llp/teachingcontest/, you can register to take part in The W’s Teaching Contest 2024.

For more information about the benefits of attending the MFLA conference, contact Vergara at revergara@muw.edu, or Erinn Holloway, Spanish instructor at The W, at echolloway@muw.edu.

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.