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It is with a mixture of sadness and gratitude that I write to inform you that our colleague and friend, Professor Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola is retiring from the University of Michigan, having accepted the position of Paul & Phyllis Fireman and Professor and Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Emory University. No doubt Alex will lead his new department, where he begins in January 2024, with energy, creativity, professionalism, and hospitality. We will miss him very much but will remain in touch, collaborating and sharing our passion for teaching and research.

Professor Alejandro (Alex) Herrero-Olaizola came to the University of Michigan in 1996 as a Visiting Assistant Professor and was appointed Assistant Professor in 1997. Since then, Alex has become an internationally respected scholar of Latin American literary and cultural studies. In the last twenty-five years his publication record has traced a course that has moved steadily from the purely textual analysis of twentieth century Latin American literature to wide-ranging cultural, social, and critical approaches to Latin American realities. His scholarship strikes a balance between meticulous archival work, theoretical reflection, and detailed close readings that allow his chosen cultural texts—novels, photography, paintings, and film—to achieve their full significance. Of particular importance is the way he approaches Latin America and the postmodern condition (in, for example, Narrativas híbridas: parodia y posmodernismo en la ficción contemporánea de las Américas), transatlantic studies (in The Censorship Files: Latin American Writers and Franco’s Spain), and the relation between popular culture and violence (in his latest book, Commodifying Violence in Literature and on Screen: The Colombian Condition). These works, taken in conjunction with his co-edited books (Territories of Conflict: Traversing Cultural Studies in Colombia and Teaching the Latin American Boom), and his numerous edited journals and articles, offer brilliant and most valuable reexaminations of topics such as modernity/postmodernism, the literary archive, and the history of censorship, which have opened new horizons for the study of modern and contemporary Latin American cultural history.

In 2014 Alex was awarded one of the highest honors the University offers its faculty: the distinguished title of Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Spanish, in honor of his excellence in undergraduate teaching. However, Alex has also been the recipient of the Excellence in Education Award on two occasions and, more recently, of the Faculty Fellowship Enhancement Award. For decades Alex has been one of the most popular instructors in our Spanish undergraduate program, and his classes have always shown the unmistakable marks of a dedicated and brilliant teacher: leadership, warmth, ability to identify and frame important issues, respect for complexity, pedagogical innovation, technological knowledge, desire for clarity, and appreciation for student’s needs. He has taught an impressive variety of classes in our undergraduate curriculum, from the survey of 19th and 20th century Latin American literature to Latin American short stories; from “the Boom” of the 1960s to contemporary mediations between literature and the expansion of market forces; from the Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar’s portrayal of Latin America to Colombian “Narco-narratives”. Throughout, his command of the material and devotion to teaching have been consistently reflected in his outstanding recommendations and evaluations from his students. But Alex’s record of teaching excellence also extends into our department’s graduate program, where Alex has been a much appreciated and widely respected mentor for doctoral students for decades.

Finally, Alex’s service to his colleagues in the department and university over the last twenty-five years has been second to none. He was worked tirelessly as Graduate Chair, Associate Chair, and Spanish Section Head, and has served the department and the university by working on asignificant number of hiring, promotion, and curricular committees. He has been involved directly in the development of new departmental curricular initiatives such as the creation of a new minor in Portuguese, revising and updating the major and minor programs across the languages, facilitating dialogue between undergraduate students and professors, and advising graduate students in any way he could. Throughout, Alex has been an exceptionally active and generous presence in our department, collaborating actively with faculty and staff in coordinating the preparation and design of our graduate and undergraduate curriculums, and making our department a hospitable place to work. We are profoundly grateful for Professor Alex Herrero-Olaizola’s dedication, professionalism, and generosity to our department and university. The department would not have accomplished half of what it has in the last twenty years without his knowledge, efficiency, hard-work, and good will. We will miss you, Alex!

Cristina Moreiras-Menor
Kathleen M. Canning Collegiate Professor of Spanish and Iberian & Gender Studies