Through Macalester and a semester abroad in Peru, one student found her passion for a field that weaves together all three of her academic interests.
Maggie Hutchison ’12 (Evanston, Ill.) didn’t come to Macalester planning to study Spanish, but she kept finding that she was so excited to take one Hispanic Studies course after another that she decided to declare the subject as her major. Hutchison, who added minors in linguistics and education, studied abroad in Peru through a program focused on indigenous peoples and globalization. While she was in Peru, she conducted an independent study on bilingual education.
“I researched discourse on bilingual education in Cuzco, and that independent study inspired my honors project,” Hutchison says. “Doing research in Peru helped me learn how strong my interest in bilingual education is. It helped me think more broadly about bilingual education and its power as a transformative force of social change in society.”
When she came back to campus, Hutchison began work on a year-long honors project through the Hispanic Studies department with the same professor who first encouraged her to major in the subject. She decided to investigate the ideological split between seeing the field as a way to support minority students learning English versus as a way to support multilingual global citizens. Hutchison interviewed three people in the St. Paul Public Schools: a dual immersion teacher, the teacher’s principal, and the district’s director of bilingual education.
“I found that they were in agreement about the basic big principles: that bilingual education has a lot of potential to help many different kinds of people,” Hutchison says. “Beyond that, there were lots of differences. It demonstrated that if there can be that much difference within a sample of three people in a very local context, there must be even more difference on a state or national level. Bilingual education is at a critical juncture that needs to be resolved in the 21st century.”
Macalester’s location, Hutchison says, enhanced her research. “It was incredible to be able to interview people in St. Paul,” she says. “I was lucky to study bilingual education here in St. Paul specifically because there are so many programs here—it’s a nationally recognized program in my backyard.”
Next year, Hutchison will work in Minnesota schools through AmeriCorps, tutoring English Language Learner (ELL) middle school students. After that, her plan is to complete a master’s program and go into teaching. Her research senior year will serve those objectives well: “This project was the ideal culmination to bring together all of my different areas of study. It was incredibly rewarding.”