SPNS 291: Orientation to Study Abroad in Oaxaca Program

Fall 2014


Instructor: Clary Loisel

Office: LA 428

Telephone: 243-2150

Class Meeting Time: T 3:30-4:20;

Classroom: LA 207


Office Hours: T/R 12:30-2:10 and by appointment

Prerequisite: You MUST complete Spanish 201 by January 2015.

Course Description/Goals:

This course is intended only for those students who will be spending the Spring Semester of 2015 abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. As time permits, this course will offer a general introduction to Mexico and various aspects of its civilization with a more specific orientation to Oaxaca. We will also cover administrative topics like release forms and insurance as well as health and safety issues. By the end of this course, you should be prepared to spend the spring semester of 2015 abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico. I will do my best so that you can capitalize on your experience in the spring.

More specifically, this course has two main purposes:

1)to introduce you to the culture and history of Oaxaca, and in the larger context, Mexico

2)to familiarize you with the workings of the program (especially in regard to health and safely issues) so you can travel to Oaxaca and feel comfortable integrating with the people and their way of life there.


  • By the end of the semester you will have acquired a working knowledge of the general issues and events of Mexican history and culture and will be familiar with the Oaxaca area in greater detail.
  • You will have developed skills in informing yourself of the current reality of Oaxaca and Mexico.
  • You will have a practical and theoretical understanding of Oaxaca and its place in Mexican national reality of the 21st century.
  • You will also have had at least one formal presentation by a representative of International Programs to cover all health, safety, and liability issues. This presentation will complement everything I will have already covered regarding these topics.
  • In short, you will be prepared for one of the most transformative experiences of your lives!


The course is structured so that the student regularly receives feedback so that (s)he can achieve the stated outcomes. Progress toward the stated outcomes is assessed using the following criteria:


Preparation, active participation:20%

5-10 Minute Presentation on some aspect

of Oaxacan/Mexican culture15%


Consistent attendance is essential to acquire the skills needed to learn how to prepare for Oaxaca. The material in this course is cumulative and requires constant reinforcement. If you miss an important step along the way, your understanding of future concepts may be significantly impaired. Students are responsible for class work and assignments they miss. Please get the phone number from at least two of your classmates during the first week of classes. Please do not call me and ask me what you missed. I will lower your cumulative final grade by two points for every absence after the sixth unless you bring me a verifiable, documented excuse.

Preparation and Active Participation:

A satisfactory participation and preparation grade assumes that you come to class each day prepared to actively engage in all class activities.

Oral Presentation:

  • We will begin the individual presentations the on November 28.
  • I will first ask for volunteers. We will have up to three presentations per class period through Thursday, December 7. Once you have committed to a certain date during the final two and a half weeks of class you may NOT change it unless you are willing to accept a fifteen-point penalty.
  • You will decide on a topic in consultation with me. The topic of your presentation must pertain to some cultural aspect of Oaxaca, Mexico and must be a completely different topic from the one you develop in your term paper. Possible topics could include archeology, anthropology, sociology, political science, history, a famous painter, writer, or musician. You are only limited by your imagination.
  • You MUST check with me before you begin.
  • The most important component of your oral presentation is a strong, solid thesis statement. You should be able to fill in the blank of the following statement with a well-crafted, cogent commentary: “The point of my presentation is to ______.”
  • Please understand that you are trying to convince the audience of your point of view. This means that you will need evidence to support your argument. In other words, your presentation is much more than just your personal opinion. You need to analyze and synthesize.
  • Be sure that you have at least three sources (an article, a book, a review, an essay, etc.) on which you can rely. You must turn in a written bibliography the day that you present.
  • You will also need an insightful conclusion. Please do not abruptly end saying that you have run out of time. Plan your talk so that you can offer a well thought out summary that highlights the major points of your presentation.
  • It will be helpful to think of your presentation as the oral version of the kind of paper you normally write in a literature class.
  • Your talk must last a full five minutes; you will be penalized if you go beyond ten minutes.
  • On the day of your presentation, you MUST turn in a detailed outline to me and to each of your classmates before you begin. Should you forget part of your talk, I will be able to help you.
  • You are required to use posters, photos, artwork, or other visual aids during your presentation.
  • You may not read anything nor may you use notes. Everything you say will be well rehearsed.
  • Again, you will be graded on 1) Fluency (10%), 2), Organization (intro, body, conclusion) (20%), 3) Interest developed/audience response (10%), 4) Audiovisual materials/handouts, etc. (10%), 5) Bibliography (10%), and 6) Content (40%).
  • If you are absent the day of your presentation, you MUST provide a documented, verifiable excuse to be allowed to do a makeup presentation. No exceptions.

Grading Scale:

70 and above: “Pass” or “Credit”

Below 70: “Fail” or “No Credit”



Helpful Internet Addresses:


antequera.com/inscuoax/ (homepage of the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca)

thepaperboy.com/mexico.html (list of Mexican newspapers)


ns4.ac.edu/langlitcom/mexico/ (Augusta College)

aug.edu/langlitcom/mexico/oaxaca.htm (Oaxacan culture) (Oaxacan churches)

aug.edu/langlitcom/mexico/index.html (Oaxaca in general)


Please do NOT bring your cell phone to class. If you decide to bring it anyway and it goes off, I will ask you to leave class immediately. You will receive a five-point deduction from your course grade for each incident. In other words, should you bring your cell phone to class and it goes off and your course grade at the end of the semester is 92, I will deduct five points leaving you with an 87. Should the incident happen again, I will deduct another five points, and so on. It’s a shame that I have to do this, but there have been so many cases of cell phones going off in my class, I have decided to try to put an end to it.

Tentative Day by Day Itinerary

(Subject to change)

There is no final exam. However, we will meet during the time scheduled for our final exam: Thursday, December 11, 2014, 3:20-5:20 PM in this class room. If you do not attend this meeting, I will lower your course grade by 10 points.

Grade Sheet (SPNS 291; Fall 2014)

Student: ______

Active Participation/Preparation: (20%)______

______= ______

Attendance (Absences):(65%) ______

______= ______

Oral Presentation: (15%)= ______

Numerical Grade ______

Grade for the course(Pass or Fail) ______