Office 367 on the third floor of Fine Arts belongs to Dr. Hernan Fontanet. But his world is far larger than that.
Born in Buenos Aires, Fontanet grew up with the ambition to teach and is bringing changes to the University’s Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.
Fontanet said he loves to communicate, which brought him to his job as a teacher.
“To teach is to communicate,” he said. “I want to be part of the communicating process because I feel that I can help somebody. I like people, and I like researching knowledge. Communicating, researching and helping are all parts of the learning process.”
Fontanet pursued degrees in European history in Argentina and Latin American literature in Spain. Upon receiving his Ph.D., he participated in a work-abroad program with 30 other professors sent from the Ministry of Education to teach in Connecticut institutions.
When he was a professor at Yale University, Fontanet decided to transfer to the University of North Carolina, where he taught for two years. Still in the pursuit of something more, he was impressed with Dr. Linda Materna, chairperson of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, and took the offer to teach at Rider.
“Linda Materna is a positive, active and creative person,” Fontanet said. “I felt like this was the place to be. So much was going on and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Fontanet wants to establish two creative majors: Spanish communications and Latin American studies.
The Spanish communications major would encompass all aspects of the Spanish media; Fontanet said he feels that students in general are not given enough opportunity to study these areas. Currently, he is hoping to develop a bilingual radio and television show at the University.
“They would learn how to apply perfect Spanish in front of the camera and how to write proper Spanish for the Internet and newspaper,” he said.
The second major is Latin American studies, which he supported with two reasons for its importance.
“In the 2000 elections, there were 5.9 million Spanish voters,” Fontanet said. “In the upcoming 2008 elections, there will be 13 million.”
Latin American studies are also vital to students for economic reasons, according to Fontanet.
“The necessity to have the Americas work together toward the free trade is essential,” he said. “To complement investment into international trade, an interdisciplinary major, including history, literature and business administration, would benefit profusely.”
Fontanet also said that Portuguese is the largest spoken language in South America.
“It’s not a widely taught language here,” he said. “We need to expand our studies in this matter. We need to study the cultural and social anthropology as well as the politics of South America.”
Fontanet hopes to set up student internships with Telemundo and Univision as well as provide an opportunity to work and study in Latin American countries for a semester. It is an understatement to say he is a strong advocate for exposing students to the real world.
His hobbies include playing soccer — he plays every Saturday afternoon — playing chess, writing and playing the clarinet. Fontanet also admits to being a movie buff.
“The last time I [watched] TV was five years ago,” he said. “I love movies. I suggest watching at least one movie per day.”
Fontanet held a showing of Motorcycle Diaries in Conover Hall on Oct. 4. The Oscar-winning film is about the life of Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevera. It’s part of what he calls The Foreign Film Festival, an event that he hosts on the first Thursday of every month.