Class of 2020

Congratulations to all our 2020 graduates from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese!

Video compiled and edited by Prof. José Luis Boigues.

Graduating class of 2020


Major in Spanish

Lidia Margaret Bailey

Erin K. Carter

James Cha

Lauren Devlin

Samantha Rani Dhaliwal*

Morgan Ruthann Dommisse*

Delaney Bridget Gough

Kaitlin Marie Hendershot

Sophia Christine Heredia

Amy Katherine Hunter

Barbara Jimenez

Hannah Rose Katz

Nora Genevieve Keathley

Zahera Khaliyah Leacock*

Alyssa Maita

Julybeth Murillo

Kathryn Nilest

Talia Roma

Yasmeen Shahout

Danielle Shin

Devon Preston Sullivan

Cherise Thomas

Robert Wainio


Major in Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Cinthia Medina


Joint major in Spanish and Linguistics

Ericka Samantha Canon

Melanie Elizabeth Fabregas

Dahae Lee

Debbie Lee

Seaira Lett

Shannan Leigh Mueller

Nicholas Victor Phoenix

Jeniah Thomas


Combined major in Spanish and Portuguese

Elisa Alonso Duque

Courtney Marie Callahan

Francisco González

Ashley Han*

Jemimah Kim

Maria Antonia Lopera

Carla Rodriguez

Josue Manuel Rodriguez

Sean Adam Setzen


*graduated December 2019


Emory College Language Center Awards in Spanish and Portuguese

Francisco González - ECLC Award for Excellence in Portuguese

francisco gonzalez Francisco González is a senior majoring in Biology and Spanish & Portuguese. Francisco was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where his family still lives. Growing up in a Spanish speaking island that also happens to be a U.S. territory meant having to learn both Spanish and English from a very young age. These unique circumstances helped him realize how learning another language is key to truly understanding another culture and expanding one's horizons. This is the reason why, even knowing that his future path was medicine, Francisco decided to pursue an academic experience that included a new language. More than providing him with another impressive way to say hello, learning Portuguese opened the doors to a world full of endless possibilities and introduced him to the amazing Portuguese speaking community not only at Emory, but also all around the world. Francisco's experience learning the language at Emory reached its perfect conclusion in the Summer of 2019, with him studying abroad in the magnificent country of Portugal.



Debbie Lee - ECLC Award for Excellence in Spanish 

debbie lee Prof. José Luis Boigues writes: Debbie came to Emory from the other coast of the country: Seattle. She has completed the Joint Major in Spanish & Linguistics, and it would be impossible to summarize all the qualities for which she was selected for the ECLC Award for Excellence in Spanish; the following ones could serve however as a small glimpse. The first one is her original thought and interdisciplinary approach, which she displayed by developing highly sophisticated projects for her classes, such as an intercultural study on how gender roles in the Netflix TV series La Casa de Papel (Money Heist) were perceived by audiences in social media from Spain and the US, or the development of an ethnographic study on language brokering practices and their impact in Hispanic/Latino identity. The second is her collaborative skills, since she genuinely enjoys developing these projects in combination with her classmates. And finally, but not last, her generous and grateful nature; she is the type of student who will bake cookies at the end of the semester and will leave them with a thank you note in the instructors’ mailbox. And some of us have been very fortunate to receive them. As the expression goes in Spanish, "es cuestión de detalle". And Debbie pays special attention to the details.


Departmental Awards

Kay Nilest - Emilia Navarro Award for Excellence in Spanish

kay nilesProf. Hazel Gold writes: Kay Nilest stands out as a highly engaged student who is interested in all aspects of Hispanic/Latinx culture. She has a sharply analytical perspective and in SPAN 422 ("Matzo and Tortillas") her insights into the materials we've been reading and discussing, stretching from medieval Iberia to contemporary Latin America, reveal her deep understanding of issues surrounding diversity and the conflicts that arise between minority and majority cultures in society: not just issues of religion, but also gender, class, and race. Her writing in Spanish is both clear and expressive; likewise, her contributions to class discussions are always thought-provoking. The Emilia Navarro Award was established in memory of our late departmental colleague, who throughout her career set the highest intellectual bar for herself and her students and who viewed equity as the principle on which academic inquiry must be grounded. The Department is conferring this award on Kay in recognition of her distinguished academic performance in Spanish and also for the ways in which she exemplifies the educational ideals that Professor Navarro stood for. Prof.  Bridgette Gunnels writes: Kay Nilest defined herself as a formidable student in Spanish from the first semester with highest marks in SPAN 212 and 300. Her confidence and dedication to learning spanned from the corners of Latin America to Spain, where she eventually spent a semester abroad. Kay was a student who quietly worked yet dedicated herself to conquering the minutiae of Spanish grammar and idiom, delighted in cultural histories, and devoured literature with relish. While maintaining several other responsibilities outside of class, Kay was able to present excellent work of highest quality in Spanish, making excellent connections between her other classes and her study of language. ¡Enhorabuena, Kay! 


Carla Rodriguez - Award for Excellence in Lusophone Studies

carla rodriguezCarla Rodriguez is a senior graduating with a degree in Spanish & Portuguese and a BBA with a concentration in Finance. Throughout the past four years, she has held a variety of on-campus leadership roles, including co-founder of the Puerto Rican Student Association and VP of Finance for Emory Women in Business. She has also served as a Teaching Assistant for some of her business classes and as a Research Assistant for Dr. Balyuk. Nonetheless, she deems as one of her most valuable opportunities at Emory the ability the liberal arts educational system has given her to explore two completely different worlds – the texts, cultures, and language of the Lusophone world and the ins and outs of the finance industry.

After having taken PORT 110 [Portuguese for Spanish Speakers] as her language requirement during her first year at Emory, she was able to discover an interest in the humanities that had been dormant until then. The course facilitated her language learning process by aiding in the transition from her already developed Spanish skills to the skills necessary to master Portuguese. This unique scenario allowed Carla to leave Emory having learned a completely new language. As part of the SPAN-PORT program, she was also able to roam via readings, movies, class discussions, and music around all the Portuguese speaking countries, including those smaller and less recognized countries such as Cape Verde and Sao Tome e Principe. Finally, she was also able to study abroad in Spain and visit Portugal twice in those six months and experience firsthand some of what she had learned in the classroom. During her study abroad, she was also able to connect with a group of Brazilians who were, as her, studying abroad in Spain. Carla credits her ability to connect to the capacity she developed as a part of the Portuguese Department to understand the language and Brazilian culture. She believes her experience at Emory was enhanced by her decision to double major with Spanish & Portuguese. Currently, she is looking forward to moving on to the next stage and continuing to see how her SPAN-PORT degree keeps playing a role in her life and helping her connect with people. After graduation, Carla will be moving to Chicago – a city quite different to her hometown Puerto Rico - and will start working at William Blair as an Investment Banking Analyst.


Seaira Lett - Award for Excellence in Spanish and Linguistics

seaira lettProf. José Luis Boigues writes: Seaira came to Emory from Decatur, just around the corner. In her first semester at Emory she took an introductory course in Spanish Linguistics, and immediately decided that was exactly what she wanted to study. She declared the Joint Major even before she had finished that course, an uncommon decision for a first year students, which proves that Seaira is determined and had a very clear idea of what she wanted to do from the very beginning. She has completed her degree in only three years, amazing instructors in every class she took with her calm style and keen curiosity. In addition to that, she is the first student in the Joint Major to graduate with highest honors. Seaira completed an honor thesis on Chuj, an understudied Mayan language of Guatemala, for which she conducted extensive interviews with native speakers now living in the United States. Her thesis, directed by Dr. Marjorie Pak, is a study of the morphosyntantic structure of this language, which fills a gap in the literature on Mayan languages and reveals several areas for future theoretical work.


Yasmeen Shahout - Carlos Rojas Award for Excellence in Writing

yasmeen shahoutProf. Xochitl Marsilli-Vargas writes: Yasmeen is one of the brightest students I have ever encountered in my time at Emory. She is majoring in anthropology, human biology, and Spanish; her commitment to learning and connecting different fields is seldom encountered. For Yasmeen the humanity in the biological body and the politics that are involved in biomedical research are as important as her training as a scientist. She wants to become a doctor and her motivation is really to better the life of others. At Emory she lead discussions on refugee mental health issues, has raised money to send medical supplies for migrants in Thailand, has done outreach to distribute medical supplies to low-income communities, among many other initiatives. Yasmeen is a natural leader, she wants to work toward reduce health disparities, and she is doing the groundwork to make it happen. She is hard working, intelligent, self-driven, and most importantly, her only goal in life is to work towards giving access to care for unprivileged communities. I have no doubt she will be a great doctor. We need more people like her.


Ericka Canon - Award for Excellence in Community Engagement

ericka canonProf. Xochitl Marsilli-Vargas writes: Ericka Canon is one of a kind student. She is bright, curious, and her motivation for learning and her intellectual commitment to understand social inequalities is part of a broader personal and ethical commitment to fight them. Ericka was part of the 100 Senior Honorary Class of 2020, an award recognizing her impressive efforts of the betterment of the Latinx community at Emory. She has served as the president of the Latino Student Organization (LSO) where she has fought for recognition and specially the inclusion of the voices of female Latinas whose voices have historically been erased. For this work she was awarded the Emory Women of Excellence Award: Program of the Year (as a part of the REAL executive board), in May 2017. But her advocacy work has not distracted her from incredible scholarly achievements. Ericka received the prestigious Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. Through this fellowship she is finishing a research paper exploring how conceptualizations of race, and more specifically anti-backness discourses, shape ideas that people who do not identify as black have about how 'people of color' speak. This research is so important that she was selected to participate in the Linguistic Summer Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Ericka's commitment to study and her brilliant performance have probably much to do with her personality. She is kind and congenial, and her kindness contributes to creating the right atmosphere for developing a profound dialog about any topic. It has been a pleasure and an honor to see Ericka's grow as an intellectual and as a community organizer. I am convinced that Ericka is, intellectually and professionally speaking, the kind of young person that, simply put, will make a difference in this world.