Author: ijs13003

Spotlight: Annia Bu

Annia Bu is a second-year master’s candidate in the Spanish Studies section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. Annia was a professional actress in film and theater before she came to UConn.  In fact, she was acting professionally even before her undergraduate degree and has received acting awards at the Ceara Film Festival in Brazil, the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, Florida, and has worked under renowned directors such as Juan Carlos Tabio. She is a native of Santiago de Cuba.

She completed her undergraduate studies at the Art Institute of Cuba. There, she studied drama, acting and theater arts.  She also took courses in literature, history, philosophy, psychology alongside drama – subjects which she describes as “crucial” to doing well in the field of acting.  She loves studying and performing.

In 2011, Annia moved from Cuba to Miami, and then from there to New Haven one year later where she worked as assistant director of a film festival hosted by Yale University featuring films from Spain and Latin America. She then moved to New York City where she spent three years working for the Spanish Repertory Theater – one of the most prominent and longest-running Spanish-speaking theaters in the city.

Annia knew that she wanted to pursue graduate studies in the United States with a focus on literary and cultural studies.  In 2016, she began her master’s degree at UConn. Annia says she was excited to begin her M.A. because of the encouragement of Professor Laurietz Seda, a specialist in Latin American theater. In her first year of the program, Annia took courses in Latin American and Hispanic Theater taught by Professor Seda as well as in Spanish Theater taught by Professor Ana María Díaz-Marcos. Advanced study has supplemented her practical theatrical experience with new insights. “When I analyze literature or philosophy here in school, I’m glad I can apply the practice of looking for subtexts, things that are not told in the text completely… I’m so happy that I can see these, but now in a different way,” she says.

Annia speaks fondly of her fellow graduate students. She says that analyzing works of theater while working with her classmates’ individual interpretations has been instrumental in deepening her appreciation of theater and for writing more broadly. Teaching, however, is the best part of her day. “My goal is not that my students are perfect speakers,” she says, “my goal is that they communicate, engage with the culture, and now know more about the Hispanic world.” Annia has drawn upon theatrical practice to help teach her native language. Her students always form a circle at the beginning of class, a ritual that is important in theater. During class, Annia implements group activities during which she encourages students to play out their lessons, voice their new vocabulary, and to translate the abstract into physical gestures. She says that theater helped her learn how to go further in communicating even when words aren’t spoken perfectly.

In May of 2018, Annia will be graduating with a M.A. in Spanish Studies and a teaching certificate. She will be staying in the United States to teach Spanish and continue her work in theater. In the future, she would like to pursue a PhD with a focus on history through the lens of theater. “I am happy I decided to come to UConn,” she says in reflecting on her time in the master’s program. “It is great, in our department, to have people from all around the world… I am lucky for having this opportunity to learn and teach but also to have this environment.”


This feature was written by Claire Boers.

New UConn Major Aims for Cultural Connections

The new Arabic and Islamic Civilizations program at the University of Connecticut hopes to bring context and conversation to an increasingly connected world by offering courses ranging from the classical to the contemporary.

The program, which will include a major and minor track, will launch during the 2018-19 academic year, Dr. Nicola Carpentieri, Assistant Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic studies at UConn, said.

“One of the great assets of this program is that students have a choice to focus on contemporary issues like modern Arabic literature, Arabic cinema or the press,” Carpentieri said. “Or they can focus on the classical heritage.”

Courses under the major will provide for a variety of interests with topics including classical Arabic literature, folk tales, Arabic media and more, Carpentieri said.

“I had to create about 14 new courses to cover the kinds of things that I think students would be interested in,” Carpentieri said. “We also have quirky things like a course on folk tales and advice literature for princes…These kinds of things are part of Islamicate culture.”

Among the program’s many goals is to provide a distinction between Arabic and Islamic culture and to study their interaction, Carpentieri said.

“We aim here to give a plural and inclusive view of Arabic and Islamic civilizations in many linguistic traditions but also different religious traditions,” Carpentieri said.  “Arabic is always associated with Islam but that’s a very simplistic association.”

Morgan Boudreau, a senior graduating this May with an individualized major in Arabic and Islamic Studies, said she is elated to see her interests reflected in the new courses.

“It’s really nice to see that once I graduate people will be able to pursue that degree path,” Boudreau said. “I think UConn is a great place for this program because they have such a unique student body.”

Janae McMillan, a sixth-semester political science major, said that for some students such as herself, UConn provided the first opportunity to explore the Arab world and spurred interest in pursuing further studies about this topic in the future.

“I think it’s important that students have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, especially those that are as fascinating as Arabic and Islam,” McMillan said. “I started at the college level and now that I know how amazing it is, I wish other students could have that same possibility.”

Carpentieri said he is enthusiastic about the program’s future.

“There’s a lot to be learned I think,” Carpentieri said. “If students are interested in the Arab world and Islam, we hope to offer this to open the eyes of people on the positive values of every culture.”


This article first appeared on the Daily Campus on 2/8/2018 and was written by Colin Sitz. The photo is from Dunia: Kiss Me Not on the Eyes directed by Jocelyne Saab (2015).

Miller is First Leon Charney Visiting Scholar

Dr. Stuart S. Miller, professor of Hebrew, history and Judaic studies and a member of the classics and Mediterranean studies section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, will be the first Leon Charney Visiting Scholar at YU’s Center for Israel Studies (CIS).

“Stuart Miller is a leading historian of the Rabbis, world-renowned for his careful and meticulous analysis of both rabbinic literature and archaeology with the goal of really understanding the lives and words of the sages in Talmudic Israel,” said Dr. Steven Fine, Dean Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History and director of CIS. “We are honored that he will spend time on our campus, learn with our scholars and share with our students.”

Miller is equally delighted to be at Yeshiva University and CIS. “I look forward to spending time with colleagues and friends and to meeting with students, especially those who might have an interest in studying the history, literature and archaeology of Talmudic-period Israel.”

One project that Miller proposes to work on while at YU is a new book. “My working title for the book,” he said, “is From Temple, to Home, To Community: The Survival and Transformation of Jewish Life in Roman Palestine in the Wake of Catastrophe.” His other publications include Studies in the History and Traditions of Sepphoris (E. J. Brill, 1984), Sages and Commoners in Late Antique ’Erez Israel: A Philological Inquiry into Local Traditions in Talmud Yerushalmi (Mohr-Siebeck, 2006) and, most recently, At the Intersection of Texts and Material Finds: Stepped Pools, Stone Vessels, and Ritual Purity Among the Jews of Roman Galilee (included in the Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplement Series, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015).


This editorial first appeared in Yeshiva University’s faculty news blog and was written by Michael Bettencourt.