Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching
Nieves Romero Díaz’s ability to impart Spanish at any level, to just about anyone, is legend. Students talk of her “contagious enthusiasm”; groan, yet celebrate, being pushed by courses that are “ambitious, demanding, and contain a lot of reading.” They describe her as well organized, enthusiastic, funny, available, tough, fair, encouraging and respectful, charismatic, magnetic ... and an altogether “amazing professor” who “presents her philosophies while also encouraging us to develop our own” and yet “never makes me feel stupid.” They wonder how she could possibly also read in Italian, French, German, and Latin: “Some of the readings were so confusing, archaic, and difficult to read much less understand. She was helpful in explaining and showing us how to decipher these old medieval texts.” As one student notes: “I've never seen a professor prepare such elaborate and extensively thought out weekly assignment sheets, which include pertinent ‘food for thought’ questions. Our class discussions were among the best I've had in any class here.” And: “Though her handwritten comments were often difficult to read, she would answer any questions I had about them.” “She is a tough grader—good in the long run though.” “I would have died without literature class this semester, and I'm glad I took this one.” Even more striking than the praise, especially in evaluations where almost every student reports her effort as strenuous, is the almost complete absence of complaints, and the instantaneous constructive responses in subsequent classes to the mere handful of exceptions. Nieves consistently creates a classroom environment that makes her students feel safe to take risks, to think, to speak, and to articulate their ideas. But it is not a laid-back environment—she pushes students and they respond. “I want to work for her” writes one. “I need to work for her” writes another—themes echoed again and again by her students.
Nieves’s passionate interest in issues of gender and the casting of the Other in Spanish literature and culture permeate all her language courses. She explores this theme in her teaching across a wide range of texts in Spanish literature, and her courses show how the issues raised in such texts over the centuries relate to ways of thinking and writing within the worlds of today, Spanish-speaking and not. Her courses include Recasting History: Power and Gender in Early Modern Spain, Assault, Rape, and Murder: Gendered Violence from Medieval to Contemporary Spain, The Spanish Others, and Understanding Coexistence: Arabs, Jews, and Christians in Medieval and Early Modern Spain.
Nieves’s work is not confined to the classroom. She has emerged as “one of the most influential scholars of early modern Spanish women’s studies in North America and Spain.” A leading authority on Cervantes, the literature and culture of the Spanish Barroco and Early Modern women writers, she has received many grants and awards, including the Millicent Macintosh Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Her recent prize-winning bilingual edition of the political writings by María de Guevara, Warnings to the Kings and Advice on Restoring Spain (2007) has been hailed as breaking down the barriers between political history and women’s cultural history. She is very prolific, having written two books, half a dozen articles in peer-review journals, and an equal number of chapters in edited volumes. She has coedited a pathbreaking collection of essays that sprang from a Five College conference that she helped organize to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first part of Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote. Nieves serves not just her students and her discipline, but the College. At one point, shortly after joining Mount Holyoke in 1999, and while still an assistant professor, she was the lone faculty member in her department in a permanent position. In an ironic parallel of the powerful, unsung roles of the extraordinary women she has unearthed in the course of her scholarly work, she has worked with her colleagues, all of whom she has hired, to reimagine her department and re-create it as one of the most vital, exciting, and forward-looking academic enterprises in the College.
We are honored by Nieves Romero-Díaz’s membership on our faculty and delighted to present her with this award celebrating the distinction of her scholarship, service, and teaching.