Spanish professor Mariselle Meléndez has been named the next director of the School of Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics, effective August 16, 2023.

Meléndez has been serving as interim director of the school since January 2023 and previously served as interim associate director in Fall 2022.

“She has been an effective and energetic advocate for the school and all of its constituencies,” said Curtis Perry, interim associate dean for humanities and interdisciplinary programs in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “We are delighted that she will continue in this role in the new academic year and beyond.”

Meléndez is a professor of Latin American literatures and cultures in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. She previously served as head of the department, for which she will be honored with a 2023 Campus Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award in May, and is an LAS Alumni Distinguished Professorial Scholar. Meléndez received her bachelor’s degree in Hispanic studies from the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras and her master’s degree and PhD in Spanish American literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her appointment is pending approval from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

What inspired you to officially take the role on after serving as interim director this spring?

The more I learned about SLCL while acting as interim director, the more I realized the potential for the school to be a space for intellectual growth and community belonging. As such, I found the opportunity to position the school as the center of leading-edge language-related research and pedagogy, as well as cultural and linguistic expertise, to be an honor. Finally, I truly enjoyed working with our phenomenal staff, whom I view as a family who care for each other and for the well-being of SLCL.

What are you hoping to accomplish as the new director?

My vision for SLCL is holistic but centered on the principles of transparency, equity, respect towards others, and a firm and strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. I would also like to work hard to incentivize our current staff through paths for promotion, along with fostering an atmosphere of respect and value. Important as well is to foster a safe and strong community among our graduate students. I also envision the creation of a strong faculty development program with the aim of facilitating paths for promotion and career advancement. I would like to ensure that all faculty members receive effective assessment and mentoring to benefit their careers and engagement with the university. Advancement will be another area of prime importance in my aim to seek funding for initiatives related to the improvement of our building facilities. Finally, advocating for SLCL at the college and campus level will be my utmost goal.

What are you most excited about when it comes to this position?

All of the above!

What do you want people to know about SLCL?

I would like people to know that SLCL is home to nationally and internationally recognized faculty whose research and teaching in the areas of literatures, cultures, and linguistics help students develop the professional skills and social awareness needed to become a 21st-century global citizen, potential leader, and scholar. More importantly, I would like people to know that we believe that competency in more than one language is fundamental to nurturing diversity in a global society. As faculty members, we see language education as crucial to promote the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion among our student body.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I agree with Marjorie Hass, when she argues, “Leadership is an incredible privilege. It offers the opportunity and the responsibility to make meaningful, lasting change in your institution and therefore for generations of students” (A Leadership Guide for Women in Higher Education, 2021). To lead SLCL is an honor that I aim to fulfill with integrity, resilience, empathy, and a strong commitment to serve others.

Dania De La Hoya Rojas