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Spanish Professor Receives Fulbright Award

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    Laura Senio Blair

Laura Senio Blair will spend the spring 2012 semester teaching and conducting research in Chile

Laura Senio Blair, an associate professor of Spanish at Southwestern, has received a Fulbright award to study and teach in Chile during the spring 2012 semester.

Senio Blair will teach a course on Hispanic film at the Universidad Católica Santísima Concepción in Concepción, Chile. Concepción is located southwest of Santiago in the central part of Chile. The area was the epicenter of the devastating 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile in February 2010.

Senio Blair has been interested in Chile ever since she went there in 1994 on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship. She also went to Concepción for that program, and took master’s level classes in Hispanic literature at the University of Concepción. Senio Blair says she established relationships on that trip that continue to this day. The trip also led to the topic for her dissertation, which she continues to explore: how sentiments of dislocation born from exile experiences and the return from exile are expressed in narrative, drama and film.

Senio Blair says the Fulbright scholarship will enable her to continue her current research on Chilean films. She hopes to complete a book manuscript that centers on the contributions female directors have made since the 1970s to the increasingly growing field of Chilean cinema, both in documentaries and fictional feature-length films. 

“Although some significant bibliographic chronologies published in the past 10 years about Chilean cinema have included female directors in their summaries, few have dedicated more than a few paragraphs to any particular female director or the impact she has made in the field, both inside Chile and internationally,” Senio Blair said. “As female expression and social change have been intimately linked throughout the course of Chile’s literary and oral history, I feel that his area is deserving of greater attention.”

In the summer of 2010, Senio Blair received a grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation to conduct archival work in Finland and Sweden on films written and directed by Chilean artists who fled into exile in the early 1970s. On her way to Concepción, Senio Blair plans to stop in Santiago to deliver copies of the Chilean films she acquired in Scandinavia and acquire copies of films that are missing from her collection.

Senio Blair has been a member of the Southwestern faculty since 2002 and currently is chair of the Spanish Program in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature and is the Latin American Studies Program chair. She holds an undergraduate degree in Spanish and philosophy from Whitman College, a master’s degree in romance languages from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a Ph.D. in Latin American literature from the University of Kansas.

Senio Blair says her firsthand experiences in Chile have proven to be one of her greatest assets as a professor. “Since I teach film courses both as points of departure for conversation courses at Southwestern as well as advanced-level research seminars, my semester in Chile will contribute not only to my research, but also to my teaching experiences and knowledge of international student experiences, cultural building and interdisciplinary understanding,” she said.

She also hopes that during her time in Chile, she can establish contacts to bring an annual film festival to Concepción so that a greater diversity of people outside the metropolitan capital of Santiago are able to view and appreciate national and international films.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is the U.S. government’s flagship academic exchange effort. It was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills.

The program sends 800 U.S. faculty and professionals abroad each year to more than 140 countries. Grantees lecture and conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. Program participants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and because they have demonstrated extraordinary leadership potential in their fields.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For more information, visit www.cies.org.