This week, we spoke with Vincent Whalen ’11, a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Spain.
From Student to Teacher
From the moment he stepped foot at the Academy back in 2007, Vincent Whalen had a knack for two things: leadership and language.
Now nearly nine years later- and after graduating Providence College summa cum laude in both economics and Spanish, Whalen is putting those talents to good use as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in the Language Center of IE University in Spain.
“My primary job is to serve as an English and writing tutor for undergraduates, many of whom do not speak English as their first language,” Whalen said in an interview.
Holding the distinction of being the only Fulbright ETA teaching at a Spanish university, Whalen holds office hours throughout the week, during which students can meet with him to discuss their written assignments. Whalen’s goals are to improve their English, their essay organization, and their research paper formatting, such as citations.
In addition to tutoring, Whalen teaches an evening workshop for faculty and staff members on each campus titled “Advanced English Conversation.” In these 90-minute sessions, he works with roughly a dozen professionals who are interested in improving their English conversation as it relates to their jobs.
“I plan a speaking activity each week, such as a skit or debate about university-related topics, as well as a short grammar lesson that can be useful in both speaking and professional writing,” Whalen said. “These small classes are my chance to interact with my students on a cultural level, so I often make short presentations about holidays and traditions in the United States.”
Whalen’s in-depth knowledge of the Spanish language allows him to volunteer as a Spanish tutor, as well. For two hours per week, he works with 13 and 14-year-old students who are struggling with Spanish grammar and literature.
“That’s definitely a challenge for someone who is not a native speaker himself,” he said. “These students come from more suburban, lower-income areas of Madrid, so I’ve been able to see Spain through a different lens by working with local students.”
Since the position in Spain was set for only one year, Whalen is returning to the U.S. this month, ready for his next challenge.
Whalen starts a two-year Master of Public Policy (MPP) program at Duke University in the coming months. The program focuses on researching, developing and proposing solutions to public issues like taxation, health care, education, and national security, among others.
“This degree will allow me to combine my quantitative economics background with my desire to change our failing education system,” Whalen said.
“Having attended public grammar school, Catholic high school and a private college, in addition to observing how different countries take vastly different approaches to educating their students, I want to use this broad perspective on education and apply it to a career in education policy.”
Eventually, Whalen would like to transition to the field of higher education in an administrative position. He noted that many college administrators have a public policy background, so the transition could be easier than one would think.
His Academy Days
“CBA gave me the discipline I needed to succeed both in and out of the classroom,” Whalen said. “Having four intense years of study at CBA made college much easier to handle academically. Socially, I felt prepared to be an organized and effective student leader.”
Whalen said he owes much of his background in both Spanish and English to the teachers at the Academy. He noted the foundation that instructors in the World Language Department, such as Senora Ver Hoven, Senora Decker and Senor Ryan, gave him that allowed him to pursue a Spanish major in college.
He is also happy to report that he has used much of what he learned in Mr. Nunan’s English II Honors class during his Advanced English Conversation class in Spain. Whalen also noted that he has relied heavily on Mr. Nunan’s teaching advice as he was preparing for his work in Spain.
While at CBA, Whalen was the co-editor-in-chief of the Pegasus yearbook and was selected as a GURU during his senior year. He admits that he attended very few sporting events, but is thankful for the plethora of other experiences CBA offers.
“There were so many other ways that CBA allowed me to leave an impact and grow as a person, such as Lasallian Youth, NHS, and the GURU program,” Whalen said.
What He Misses the Most
“I miss the relationships I was able to form with the faculty,” he said. “Their support, encouragement, and ability to treat us like equals truly changed my CBA experience for the better.”
He noted the example that the Brothers of his era, such as then-President Brother Andrew O’Gara, Brother Cyril O’Neill and Brother Joe Miggins, put forth to encourage a sense of a strong community at CBA.
Overall, Whalen cherishes the memories of his experiences at CBA and is thankful for all that the Academy had to offer. Whether it was a lesson in English class, conducting a GURU session or editing the yearbook, he understands every experience helped shape him into the man he is today.
“When I think back to those experiences, it was faculty members like Ms. Carroll, Mr. Nunan, Senor Ryan, Mr. Brennan and Mrs. Hayes who ultimately taught me—either directly or indirectly—how to play to one’s strengths and pursue the activities that would make my four years worthwhile.”
And for current students, Whalen’s biggest piece of advice?
“Even if you feel like you can’t find a niche, just know that there are opportunities for everyone at CBA, especially if you have a favorite teacher or two to help you along the way.”
Who’s the next Alumni Spotlight?
Suggest a graduate! Contact Jason Lutz, associate director, development by email (email@example.com) or call (732-747-1959 x 220).