The University hosted the first Showcase Saturday with Spanish options for select presentations in admissions and financial aid on Nov. 13.
Sara Urdaneta, senior psychology and Spanish major from Katy, initiated this project as part of an independent studies class she participated in for her last semester. The course, managed by Spanish professor Mario Morera, began for Urdaneta as an opportunity to translate the mySFA website.
“We saw a need,” Urdaneta said, “To make [SFA] more accessible is just one less barrier to climb over [for Spanish-speaking families].”
Urdaneta’s independent studies course was part of the translation certificate track for Spanish majors, which has helped translate documents for the Department of Social Work, Nacogdoches ISD, and the City of Nacogdoches.
“Most of the work we do for our classes is not only for practice but it is indeed something that’s going to be used out there in the real world,” Spanish professor Mario Morera said. “The moment they see that whatever they’re doing in class is actually helping somebody out there, it really motivates them and makes them see the huge potential they have.”
Due to mySFA’s capability as a portal and a complex compendium of other resources, Urdaneta said the University deemed it too daunting a project to translate into Spanish. Urdaneta then turned to the official SFA website; over the summer, she emailed several offices and organizations, one of which was University Marketing Communications, who handle the official SFA website.
“They never answered my email,” Urdaneta said, “So I went and knocked on their door.”
UMC officials told Urdaneta that the main issue was maintenance of the website. Since Urdaneta graduates this December, and translation consistency could be compromised by having multiple individuals translate updates to the website, UMC opted to not participate in the project. Urdaneta then turned to the Admissions Office.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘If you’re a student here, you should know English. Your classes are going to be in English,’” Urdaneta said. “But, I didn’t find the issue with the students. It was their parents. That’s why I wanted to focus on recruitment, [like] admissions and financial aid — things that would bring a lot of students in.”
In Admissions, Urdaneta met Admissions Counselor Estefania Torres, who was enthusiastic about Urdaneta’s desire to help Spanish-speaking students feel at home at SFA. Torres is the only Spanish-speaking admissions counselor at SFA. Together, they highlighted necessary documents and began translating admissions and financial aid brochures, pamphlets and presentations for Showcase Saturday.
“Due to the new rule for high school students to submit their FAFSA application in order to graduate, we had a huge demand for financial aid presentations in both English and Spanish,” Torres said. “Since most of our faculty/staff do not speak Spanish, I created a PowerPoint with the information in both Spanish and English. I translated the presentation but also requested [Urdaneta] to revise the translations and give feedback.”
During the process of translation, Morera approached Urdaneta with an opportunity to manage the Spanish Internship course this semester, which had two students. Urdaneta informed the students of her project with Admissions, and the students began helping with translations. Together with Torres, this small team created the first-ever Spanish presentations for Showcase Saturday.
“We definitely made a huge impact on the [families] that came [to the presentation] and provided them with a safe space to answer all their questions and/or concerns in Spanish,” Torres said.
The Admissions booklet, which is currently in print in English and being finalized in Urdaneta’s translation, includes information about admissions, scholarships and select SFA programs, as well as a guide listing every major in every college that the University provides. This booklet is often the first comprehensive resource students receive to help them understand whether SFA is right for them.
“In the whole experience of this, I really got to find out that departments are not connected with each other,” Urdaneta said. “And that sucks, to be really frank. We have the Spanish department. We do translation certificates. We work with Nacogdoches ISD, the Hospital, HR — and Admissions had no clue. I do hope it becomes more accessible, but that’s a hope as an alum. I wish for the good of SFA, and I think that the good of SFA is by being more accessible. We preach diversity, but we don’t act upon it, do we?”