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Advocating for DEI: Students Present at Fourth Annual Modern Languages Undergraduate Student Conference

by Paige Hawk Nov 22, 2021

Raised in a Spanish-speaking family, Sheyla Martinez ’22 has witnessed firsthand the struggles of individuals with limited English proficiency in health care settings.

“It really concerns me to see how many Spanish patients decide to stop their follow-up care due to their limited English proficiency. My grandparents and many other people would rather wait until the last minute to be seen by a doctor due to the language barrier.”

A nursing major and Spanish minor, Martinez combined her compassion with her career goals to present at the 2021 Fourth Annual Modern Languages Undergraduate Student Conference held at East Stroudsburg University.

Her presentation focused on linguistic barriers in U.S. health care settings, and how they impact Spanish speakers. According to Martinez, these barriers often negatively affect the emotional, psychosocial, and physical health of Spanish speakers. She says that, by law, health care providers are required to provide medical interpreters, but that this is far from a perfect solution.

Martinez was one of two students from DeSales to present at the conference. Jesus Delgado ’24, a law and society and homeland security double major, presented on why it can be offensive when movies pander to audiences.

“As a young Peruvian immigrant in the U.S., I found that Hispanics and Latinx were rarely represented in typical ‘American’ TV but, when I did, these representations were usually stereotypical or overly complicated to achieve comedic effects,” says Delgado.

Delgado also notes that movies pandering to Hispanic audiences, such as “La Llorona,” can be distasteful. “Any film, or TV show, or whatever decides to incorporate a part of a culture should do so with the utmost respect and integrity,” he says.

Both Martinez and Delgado were encouraged to participate in the conference by Angélica Silva, Ph.D., associate professor, as part of their course, SP 212: Spanish for Heritage Speakers.

“Students enjoyed their time and learned a lot from this event,” says Silva, who helped moderate a panel at the conference. “They made networking connections and got some ideas on how to advance their research to possibly pursue publication.”

Both Martinez and Delgado are thankful for the experience and agree that the best part of the event was engaging in DEI conversations after their presentations. They note the importance of advocating for DEI and hope society will work harder to overcome language barriers and decrease incidents of cultural insensitivity.