May 28, 2020

Gómez Barranco shares how he prepared for his new job with help from The Graduate Center's Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures Ph.D. program and what he anticipates for teaching during a pandemic.

Salvador Gómez Barranco (Photo courtesy of Gómez Barranco)
Salvador Gómez Barranco (Photo courtesy of Gómez Barranco)

Salvador Gómez Barranco (Ph.D. '20, Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) has spent the past year in his home country of Spain, completing research for his dissertation, which he defended remotely on Zoom this spring. The newly minted graduate has reason to return to the U.S. shortly, though. This fall, he begins his new job as an assistant professor of Spanish at the World Languages and Cultures department at Iowa State University. He spoke to The Graduate Center about his experience in the Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures Ph.D. program and how he stood out in a highly competitive job market.

The Graduate Center: COVID-19 has disrupted higher education. How does it feel to start a tenure-track faculty role at this time?

Gómez Barranco: I feel incredibly lucky for joining Iowa State University as an assistant professor of Spanish, especially considering how competitive and challenging the academic job market is at this time. The COVID-19 crisis will have a significant impact on higher education in many ways, including the way we imagine and practice teaching and research, and an intensification of public universities’ financial struggles. Consequently, I will take this position with both a great joy and a great sense of responsibility, willing to be on the front line for the defense and strengthening of public education, giving the best of me.

GC: What are your hopes for the coming year? 

Gómez Barranco: My main wish is that this pandemic gets under control, and the most vulnerable people find enough support to return to their routines safely. As a new faculty member at ISU, it would be great if safety conditions allow me to teach in-person, face-to-face classes, and get familiar with the student community. At a personal level, I would like to have a smooth transition to the new life in Ames (Iowa), so I can devote my time and energy to research and teaching, as well as getting to know the institution, the city, and its people. 

GC: What do you think made you stand out in a competitive field? 

Gómez Barranco: I think this specific job offer at ISU was a perfect fit for me. They were seeking a scholar with a specialization in contemporary peninsular Spanish studies, with a focus on film and media studies, and able to teach Spanish for the professions. That was precisely my academic profile. Fortunately, CUNY allowed me to have valuable teaching experience during my doctoral studies when I worked as an adjunct lecturer for Hunter, City College, and John Jay, which made me a competitive candidate. I got the Film Studies Certificate at The Graduate Center, which also made me competitive for the position. To get ready for the interviews, I had great support from colleagues and faculty members at The Graduate Center, who helped me with mock interviews and recommendation letters. Finally, luck (that enigmatic component) helped me during the whole process. 

GC: What is your advice for students and recent graduates who are looking for tenure-track positions?

Gómez Barranco: Following my own experience, I would recommend focus on those offers that most accurately fit your profile (so your chances will increase); adapt your supporting materials (cover letter, teaching statement, etc.) to every position you apply for (make them unique and specific); prepare for every step of the selective process (mock interviews were particularly constructive for me); and be patient, because this is a long, tiring process in which you are never entirely under control of everything.

GC: How did The Graduate Center help prepare you for your career?

Gómez Barranco: I will always be thankful to The Graduate Center for supporting me as a doctoral student and for providing me with all the tools and resources I needed during my academic journey. At the Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures (LAILaC) doctoral program, I found an intellectual and affective community (students, faculty members, administrative staff) that made me feel comforted and supported at all times, and to which I was always happy to contribute. By the end of my doctoral studies at The Graduate Center, I think I have grown in both a personal and a professional level, gaining enough self-confidence and experience to join the higher education system as an assistant professor.