Professor and Chairperson, Department of Foreign Languages
Growing up in Iowa, Professor Lea Ramsdell had little opportunity to encounter other cultures outside her own. So she vividly remembers the day when a family from Cuba moved in next door. Through them, a new world opened up for her. She fell in love with Spanish and the rich cultural background that it introduced her to.
“That was eye-opening to me,” she recalls. “I've always had this broader interdisciplinary interest, especially in music and dance. Seeing how politics, the arts, economics, and history interconnect is very exciting—and necessary to understanding a particular culture.
“I feel like I owe it to our students, our faculty, and our community to provide opportunities to appreciate the richness of other cultures.”
As chair of Towson’s Department of Foreign Languages, Professor Ramsdell does just that. Collaborating with departments and individuals across the campus, the department hosts public events throughout the year with an international theme to provide an in-depth introduction to a specific culture.
“One program was called ‘Rethinking Brazil,’” she says. “So we brought in speakers to talk about Brazilian society and politics, but we also had a film series—and even a performance by a group of Brazilian drummers.”
This interdisciplinary approach, which is woven into all of Towson’s foreign language courses, motivates students to continue their studies in a way they might not otherwise. “They can see that a language is relevant to their lives,” says Professor Ramsdell.
“Learning a language gives you a broader understanding of the world’s different cultures, as well as problem-solving skills.
And, in our global society, knowing another language opens doors that would otherwise remain closed.”