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Dual major alumnus reflects on the Latin American Studies program

| Sandy Taylor

When Eric Duwe started his first semester at UW-Eau Claire, he knew he wanted to major in political science. During his second semester he took Spanish 202, learned about study abroad and the Latin American Studies program, and switched to a double major in LAS and political science.

That was 2003. In January 2017, Duwe became director of the International Student Program at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee. In the intervening years, Duwe’s career path has taken him around the world, several times.

After graduating from UW-Eau Claire in 2007, Duwe spent two years in Thailand. “I wanted to work with a group called Kingdom Workers, which supports mission work in other countries. Having my Latin American Studies background, I was initially hoping for a placement in Latin America, but Kingdom Workers didn't have any openings there. They offered me opportunities in China, Albania, and Thailand, and I looked at the job descriptions and decided to give the work in Thailand a try.”

For the next two years, Duwe worked as a residence hall supervisor and English teacher in Chiang Mai, Thailand, then returned to the U.S. and spent 2009 teaching English as a second language at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee. Duwe soon realized that he wanted to continue his education, and 2010 found him back in Chiang Mai, enrolled as a grad student in the International College program at Payap University.

After three busy years spent studying and also working as an international resident assistant and English teacher, Duwe received his master's degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages and moved back to Wisconsin. He soon found a teaching job in the English as a Second Language program at UW-Milwaukee, where he stayed until just this month when he began his new position at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee.

When asked how his degree in the LAS program has factored into his career, Duwe says, “My LAS background prepared me or the cross-cultural work in education I've been doing since my graduation from UWEC. My study abroad experience in Costa Rica in Spring 2005 has given me a great perspective of what my international students are facing both linguistically and culturally as they live and study abroad.”

Looking back on his years in the LAS program at UW-Eau Claire, Duwe recalls many outstanding classes and experiences. “I think my most remarkable class was Contemporary Cuban Literature with Dr. Manuel Fernandez. He had us reading and discussing really intriguing novels and exploring deep economic and philosophical issues — all in Spanish!“

Duwe also has fond memories of his senior research project. “In my senior year, I took a semester away from classes to do a research project exploring ESL opportunities in rural Wisconsin. It was a fantastic semester of exploration and independent learning, with Analisa DeGrave as my faculty mentor.”

Like many other students, Duwe found his immersion experience to be one of the highlights of his time at UW-Eau Claire. “Studying abroad was a truly eye-opening, life-changing experience for me. In that experience, I got immersed in Costa Rican culture and Spanish language. I also learned to think more globally and was humbled when I came to realize how narrow my thinking had been prior. My study abroad experience really set the tone for the work I've been doing in international education since my days at UWEC.”

“Really,” Duwe continues, “All of the classes that counted for my LAS degree were excellent! I'd particularly like to give my heartfelt thanks to Manuel Fernandez, Analisa DeGrave and Eva Santos-Phillips (now retired). You three made an especially powerful impression on me that remains to this day.”