Ángel Tuninetti, chair of the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics and associate professor of Spanish at West Virginia University, will exchange classrooms this semester with Paola Vera Báez, professor of culinary anthropology at the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, Mexico, as part of a short-term faculty exchange program.
Tuninetti is the first WVU faculty member to participate in the exchange, which is sponsored by the Consortium for North American Higher Education Collaboration. As part of the exchange, he traveled to Mexico to teach in Báez’s class April 9 to April 13. Báez will come to WVU to teach Tuninetti’s class April 22 to April 29.
“I think this is a great opportunity because it’s a clear example of internationalization at home,” Tuninetti said. “Usually when people think of internationalization, they think about students going abroad or international students coming here, but there are other ways of going around that and to bring connections with other countries through different models. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for our students to be able to interact with students from another university and also to bring to our campus a professor with a different perspective.”
Beyond teaching in Tuninetti’s course, Báez will also offer a lecture on Mexican gastronomy sponsored by the WVU Latin American Studies program on Wednesday, April 25 at 5 p.m. in 126 Ming Hsieh Hall. The lecture will explore chocolate symbolism in Mexican culinary culture. She will also participate in other classes and cultural activities in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics.
“(Báez) is a great resource to help us understand the complex food culture of Mexico,” said Ross Harvey, a criminology major in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “I did not originally know food was going to be the topic of the course, but I believe you can learn a lot more about a country through their alimentation.”
Tuninetti led an undergraduate seminar this semester on regional cuisines of Latin American culture. His students have collaborated with Báez’s students in joint online projects and communicate through class videoconferences.
“One of the goals of my course here besides learning about culinary traditions of Latin America is to also learn the importance of their food choices in their lives and their environment,” Tuninetti said. “I think that having the opportunity to talk with the Mexican students will basically expand their views on this topic.”
Tuninetti and Báez’s students are also working on a blog as part of the course to highlight different regional cuisines. They are also creating videos showcasing traditional Latin American dishes.
“This course is an improvisation in the sense that the subject of the course was not fixed; it is a course intended to be open-ended, with the parameters being confined only to any cultural output,” said Benjamin Bradley, a Spanish and Italian Studies major. “The course is like a living organism and has changed and developed over time, which creates a dynamic environment.”