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The Bigger World

February 17, 2011

Whenever she gets the chance, María de los Santos Onofre-Madrid tells her students to take any opportunity to venture out and experience the world.

The ASU assistant professor of Spanish leads by example, taking students on study abroad trips to Mexico and working on a proposed trip to Spain in the summer of 2011 through ASU’s Center for International Studies.

For the work she does with language students, student mentoring abroad and her church and community, as well as her example as a strong role model for Hispanic women, Onofre-Madrid received the 2010 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award for the College of Liberal and Fine Arts.

A native of Morelos, Coahuila, Mexico, Onofre-Madrid’s most abiding objective as an educator is for her students to appreciate Spanish as much as she does.

“My favorite part of teaching is being able to teach others my language and talk to them about not only my culture, but about the culture of other Spanish-speaking countries,” she said.

To that end, Onofre-Madrid conducts discussions about food, clothing, mannerisms and geography so that her students know where Spanish-speaking countries are and some of the differences they will find if they venture to one.

“If you go to our classrooms,” she said, “you will see all the maps where we can physically show the students where places are on the map and talk about the different regions.”

Onofre-Madrid not only teaches Spanish in class, but lives it when she is out in public.

“I like to see people speaking back to me in Spanish,” she said. “If I’ve met you and I see you at the mall or wherever, I like to greet you in Spanish. I like to do that with my students, especially when they answer back in Spanish. They know that if I see them out there, it’s going to be ‘buenos días, buenas tardes, ¿cómo estás?, etc.’”

Onofre-Madrid’s students will get a chance to use the Spanish they have learned if they accompany her to Spain this summer. But first, they will have to meet certain criteria.

“They have to have a good grade point average, be motivated and be willing to abide by the rules and regulations,” she said. “They need to have completed the first year of Spanish, and that involves being able to narrate in the past. As a result, they should be able to ask for directions if they get lost, for help if they need and it and for the location of buildings. They should be able to conduct basic conversations.”

While Onofre-Madrid’s previous study abroad trips were to Mexico, her groups will not be returning anytime soon because of the ongoing unrest and problems with security in the country she left as a child.

Onofre-Madrid’s father brought her family to West Texas so that he could work on ranches, first near Iraan then Sonora and Eldorado. They eventually settled in Christoval, where she earned valedictorian honors in high school. She continued her education at ASU, earning a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, then went to the University of Texas-Arlington for a master of arts degree, and finally to the University of Texas at Austin, where she did doctoral work, completing all but her dissertation.

After earning her master’s degree, Onofre-Madrid joined the ASU faculty in 1978, but left for four years to work on her doctorate. When she returned to ASU, she found many things were different.

“The changes have been for the better,” she said. “I have been under three presidential administrations here at ASU, and with each one, their changes have made it better. ASU is a much more student-centered university now, which is good because students are our clients and our bread and butter.”

She stresses the importance of students getting the most out of their education by experiencing life elsewhere, like through study abroad programs.

“If students don’t leave San Angelo,” she said, “they won’t see what’s out there. If we can get them to discover what’s out there, they will appreciate what we have here.”

María de los Santos Onofre-Madrid

Assistant Professor of Spanish

ASU Alumni Association 2010 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award for College of Liberal and Fine Arts

M.A. University of Texas, B.A. Angelo State University