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Carnegie Mellon Names Award-Winning Professor


PITTSBURGH—Susan G. Polansky, teaching professor of Hispanic studies at Carnegie Mellon University, has been named head of the university’s Department of Modern Languages, effective July 1. She succeeds G. Richard Tucker, the Paul Mellon Professor of Applied Linguistics, who has been department head since 1995.

Polansky has been on the Carnegie Mellon faculty since 1986, and is associate head of the Modern Languages Department. She has taught courses at all levels in the Hispanic Studies program as well as the service learning course “Tutoring for Community Outreach,” in which Carnegie Mellon students attend local public schools to tutor elementary, middle and high school students in French, German, Japanese, Spanish or English as a Second Language.

In 2004, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS) feted Polansky with its Elliott Dunlap Smith Award, which is given annually by the college to honor excellent undergraduate teaching. Last year, Carnegie Mellon honored her with its Barbara Lazarus Award for Climate and Culture. The award is presented to faculty and staff who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and made a proven impact on improving the culture and climate in the Carnegie Mellon community.

Polansky’s research focuses on Spanish literary and cultural studies, in particular early 20th century writers. She is the author of several books, her most recent being “The Poet as Hero: Pedro Salinas and His Theater.” She has published articles in several journals, including Hispania, the journal of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

“This is a wonderful department and place to work. There’s a strong, positive momentum here that I aim to maintain and build on,” Polansky said. “I hope we will uphold our reputation as a unit that promotes excellent teaching, and that we continue to develop our strengths in second-language acquisition and literary and cultural studies research.”

“Susan has a unique combination of abilities to provide outstanding leadership in both the education and the research missions of the department. Her deep concern for the welfare of the faculty, staff and students will help to preserve the strong sense of community the department now enjoys,” said H&SS Dean John Lehoczky.

Under Tucker’s leadership the department has cultivated a well-earned reputation as one of the university’s strongest teaching units and has developed cutting-edge language-learning technology and curricula. As a result, the department’s enrollment has grown substantially over the past several years. Forty-eight percent of last year’s graduating class took one or more language classes during their undergraduate career, compared to an average of only 12 percent nationwide.


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