International Cinema Excursion

January 4, 2017

Thirteen Canisius students and one alumnus had the unique opportunity to travel to New York City to hear Oscar-award winning Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar speak at the Museum of Modern Art. The trip, led by Richard Reitsma, PhD, was under the auspices of Reitsma’s Spanish elective course entitled “Almodóvar y la Movida Madrileña.”  During the course, students explore how Almodóvar’s artistic work reflects, comments and critiques the socio-political context of Spain during the transition from the Francoist Fascist dictatorship to democracy.

“As we heard Pedro Almodóvar talk about his work, it reinforced many of the things students learned and studied in class all semester,” says Reitsma.  “From both the class and this experience, I watched some normally shy and reticent students become inspired. They began to share their thoughts and participate in class in ways they had not before.”The participating students included:

  • Melissa Benjamin ’17, a senior communication studies major and Spanish language and culture minor.
  • Michael Berg ’17, a senior international relations and Spanish dual major.
  • Paul Castricone ’17, a senior Spanish/Latin American Studies and international relations/European studies quadruple major
  • Valarie Cavanaugh ’17, a senior early childhood/childhood education major with a Spanish concentration and childhood education (grades 1-6) with a Spanish concentration dual major
  • Asher Havis-Walton ’17, a senior international relations and Spanish dual major.
  • Geovaira Hernandez ’17 a senior criminal justice major with a Spanish language and culture minor
  • Alie Iwanenko ’17 a senior Spanish/international relations, Latin American studies/peace and justice quadruple major
  • Ashley Ponza ’17, a senior special education (grades 1-6)/childhood education (grades 1-6) major with a Spanish concentration
  • Courtney Roe ’17, a senior biology and Spanish dual major
  • Lorisbel Romero ’18, a junior criminal justice major
  • Amber Strawbrich 17, a senior adolescence education (grades 7-12) and Spanish dual major
  • Alexa Valdez ’18, a junior human services and Spanish dual major
  • Katrina Wagar ’17, a senior biology major with a Spanish language and culture minor

“The best part of the trip was experiencing the culture of Alex Valdez’s family, who served as our host family while we were in New York City,” says Valarie Cavanaugh ’17. “Her mother, who spoke only Spanish, served us an authentic Dominican breakfast. In their neighborhood, everyone speaks Spanish, which is so different than where I am from. I learned and grew so much in such a short time.”

“I felt very privileged that I was able to sit and listen to a great well-known Spanish director comment and share his feelings about his work,” adds Alexa Valdez ’18. “I felt as if I already knew him with through analyzing I have done of his movies in class.”

Margaret Stefanski, PhD, associate professor of modern languages and co-advisor of the Canisius chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish Honors Society, also accompanied the group, as did alumnus Nick Grostefon ’16.  

Later during the trip, at the Museum of the Hispanic Society of America, seven of the students were inducted into Sigma Delta Pi, amidst the backdrop of a large mural by acclaimed Spanish painter Joaquín Sorollla.  They include: Melissa Benjamin ’17, Valerie Cavanagh ’17, Geovaira Hernandez ’17, Ashley Ponza ’17, Lorisbel Romero ’18, Alexa Valdez ’18 and Katrina Wagar ’17.   

"I think it is important to note that three of the inductees (Hernandez, Romero and Valdez) are Latina, as we work hard to recruit Latino/Latina students,” says Reitsma. “It was a special event for all of the students to tie in the subject of study (Spanish language,  culture, history, and art) as well as their commitment to, and interest in, the study of Spanish and cultural production.”

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.