Raquel Castro Salas Recipient of Outstanding Contribution to Service Learning Teaching Award

From left: professor Luis Fernando Restrepo with professor Raquel Castro Salas, interim Dean Kathryn Sloan and Assistant Dean Jeannie Hulen.
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From left: professor Luis Fernando Restrepo with professor Raquel Castro Salas, interim Dean Kathryn Sloan and Assistant Dean Jeannie Hulen.

Raquel Castro Salas, teaching assistant professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures, was named the recipient of the 2022-23 Outstanding Contribution to Service Learning Teaching Award.

The Service Learning Committee recognized the extraordinary commitment and accomplishments of Castro Salas through her four service-learning courses — Latino Youth Biliteracy Project, Business Spanish, Translation and Interpretation, and Spanish for Health Professions. Through these courses, she and her students partner with Springdale School District, Community Clinic, Apple Seeds NWA and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The award ceremony was held Monday, March 13, to honor Castro Salas. In addition to the Service Learning Committee, attendees included Kathryn Sloan, interim dean of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; professor Jeannie Hulen, assistant dean in Fulbright College; and Luis Fernando Restrepo, professor in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures. Opening remarks were delivered by Carrie Nelms, director of the Service Learning Initiative. Castro Salas was presented the award by Rogelio Garcia Contreras, the 2021-22 winner of the Outstanding Contribution to Service Learning Teaching Award and Service Learning Committee member.

Sloan mentioned that Castro Salas "epitomizes the land grant mission of the university by giving back to the state. She engages two community partners, U of A students and Springdale elementary school students, to speak Spanish together and help make our community bilingual."

Restrepo, an academic mentor of Castro Salas, commented that her strengths include a "commitment to justice and teaching by example." She acts as a liaison between the Springdale community partners and her students, advocating for the needs of both her students and the partnering elementary schools.

Two of Castro Salas' students attended the ceremony. Caroline Judy, a student in her business Spanish class, shared that the class developed her passion for learning Spanish and helped her see the language's significance in her accounting degree. Nayelys Mari Colon, another student and heritage speaker of Spanish, shared that Castro Salas taught her how to "fight for herself and care for our culture and language." As Colon pursues her degree in Spanish education, she is inspired to advocate for her students in the same way Castro Salas does.

The most gratifying part of teaching service learning for Castro Salas is seeing her students' interest and commitment to serving their communities. She has experienced the real ways her students realize the relevance of their Spanish coursework when they are working with community partners. This experience also helps them easily absorb and learn language topics that are covered in class. In 2021, Castro Salas was named an Exceptional Educator in Service Learning.

Nominees for the 2022-23 Outstanding Contribution to Service Learning Teaching Award were also recognized at the ceremony for their contributions to service learning courses. They were introduced by Service Learning Committee member professor Gabriel Diaz Montemayor and include the following:

Lisa Bowers, associate professor and graduate program coordinator of the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program

Donia Timby, instructor in the Human Development and Family Sciences Program and the Birth Through Kindergarten Program

Lobat Siahmakoun, instructor in the Hospitality Management Program

Cora "Dede" Hamm, teaching assistant professor in the Hospitality Management Program

About the Service Learning Initiative: The Service Learning Initiative is a joint initiative of the University of Arkansas Provost Office and the Honors College with the purpose of formalizing and expanding Service Learning opportunities on campus. Since 2014, when the Initiative was launched, more than 200 courses have been designated as Service Learning. Each semester, faculty and course instructors are encouraged to apply for Service Learning course designation. More information regarding Service Learning Course Designation can be found on the Service Learning Initiative website.


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