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A major in Spanish from Siena Heights University is more than simply learning to speak a second language. We believe the culture is inseparable from the language, and the study of literature, culture, civilization and language are all interconnected. The Spanish Department at Siena Heights works with all majors, including Nursing, Social Work, Criminal Justice, Business and Teacher Education to give students a skill that will complement almost any career plan.

FAST FACT – The heart of the Spanish major at Siena Heights University is The Mexico Experience: Perspectives in Action, a semester-long study abroad opportunity. Students are immersed in the language and culture of Cuernavaca, Mexico, living with families from January to April to get the full educational experience. The program is open to all majors and minors.

  • About the Program
  • Meet the Faculty
  • Career Opportunities
  • The Mexico Experience
  • The 'Taco Challenge'

Learn more about the Spanish program.

At Siena Heights University you will learn to speak fluently in Spanish. You will apply your speaking, reading, writing and listening skills to the study of Latino history, culture and literature. We believe that language and culture are inseparable. For that reason, as part of the Spanish major, you spend a semester in a Spanish-speaking country.

Spanish majors at Siena understand cultural diversity and are able to apply that knowledge to a variety of jobs and situations. We live in a globalized world that requires competent, purposeful and ethical individuals to work within multiple cultures. Our students are able to communicate well between cultures in the target language.

Most importantly, studying Spanish at Siena is fun! You have the opportunity to study abroad, meet new people, and have new experiences. Spanish majors have the opportunity to earn money as Spanish tutors, volunteer as translators and interpreters, and be involved in the Latino community.

Meet the Spanish program faculty.

Kaplan, Nicholas R.

Kaplan, Nicholas R.

Associate Professor of Spanish517-264-7694

Learn about the career opportunities you can have with a degree in Spanish.

A major in Spanish increases your job opportunities, employability, and marketability. Employers seek people who can speak a second language. People who study Spanish at Siena Heights University understand how cultures interact with one and another and are able to apply those skills in future jobs. Some career opportunities include:

  • Advertising
  • Bilingual Education
  • Consultant
  • Cultural Officer
  • Customs and Immigration
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Health professions
  • Interpretation and Translation
  • Law Enforcement
  • Lawyer
  • Nursing
  • Politician
  • Reporter
  • Research
  • Social Worker
  • Travel Agent
  • Teacher
  • Volunteer Agencies

Learn more about the study abroad program offered to Spanish majors and non-majors alike.

Students in MexicoWhat is The Mexico Experience: Perspectives in Action?

The Mexico Experience is a semester-long study abroad program at Siena Heights. It was started more than a decade ago by the late Professor Renato Gonzalez and lasts 14-15 weeks from January to April. Students will immerse themselves into the language and culture of Cuernavaca, Mexico, which is a city of approximately 800,000 people about an hour and a half from Mexico City in the mountainous state of Morelos. Students live with carefully selected families who are familiar with our program. All homes are located in residential sections and are nearby UNIC (Universidad Cuauhnahuac).

What is the mission of the program?

The mission of the program is to provide the student with as many perspectives as possible on the complex religious, socioeconomic and political reality that is Mexico. This is accomplished through the integration of courses, excursions into the daily life of the people and field trips that expose the student to indigenous communities, cultural centers and archeological sites. All activities are followed by reflection and discussion. Both aspects, “experience” and “reflection,” are examined from an interdisciplinary, multiple perspective point-of-view. The student views Mexico through the eyes of Mexico's decision-makers as well as through the eyes of its indigenous people, including the poor.

Who should study abroad?

Anyone who wishes to gain first-hand knowledge of other cultures, travel and increase his/her world view, be fluent in a second language, learn more about yourself or increase your employability should travel abroad.

Who is eligible to participate in the program?

Anyone from any major or minor may apply to study abroad. Those who make the trip are usually college sophomores who have two semesters of Spanish (with at least a ‘B’ average) and are in reasonably good health. The program is required of all Spanish majors at Siena Heights University.

Why is Siena’s program different from others?

We travel a lot. Mexico is an extraordinarily diverse country geographically and culturally. Because we believe the learning experience should extend beyond the classroom, the program organizes special cultural excursions. Supervised by the director and program staff, students venture to places like Tepoztlan, Taxco and Mexico City. Cuernavaca, also known as the City of the Eternal Spring, has a sub-tropical climate with warm, sunny days and cool nights. It is located near an area rich with archeological ruins and haciendas, impressive scenery and natural spas.

Who is Mary Cruz?

Mary Cruz is the longtime program coordinator who will become mom, teacher and best friend to all who participate in the program. She accompanies scholars on all travel days, is present each day at the university and is available to answer any questions. Her experience with the program is irreplaceable.

What kind of classes will I take?

Learning Spanish is more than just speaking it. In addition to language classes, students take courses in history, culture and religion. There is a song class, a dance class – even a cooking class! Students may take between 12 and 16 hours of credit. All classes are taught by experienced teachers who have lived and studied in Mexico all their lives. Language classes are never larger than 3-4 students. Students are in classes with other students from Siena Heights, and classes are conducted at UNIC Universidad Cuauhnahuac.

How much does it cost?

Students will pay one price for all program costs. This includes all program sponsored travel, a cell phone, food, housing and all instructional costs. Generally any scholarships, loans or financial aid a student normally receives will be applied to the program. Students are also responsible for the cost of airfare, passport, and personal needs and purchases.

What else do I need to know?

For those who may have concerns about traveling to a foreign country, safety is a top priority. Each student receives a cell phone to use during their stay, and the coordinator is there to supervise all travel and activities while in Mexico. In addition to the Program Coordinator Mary Cruz, Siena Heights’ faculty Nicholas Kaplan is also in constant communication with the students. And yes, the homes students stay in do have running water!

In Spring 2014, a group of SHU Spanish students and Maestro Nick Kaplan were  featured in the Chicago Tribune after completing the Fox River Taco Challenge. Maestro Kaplan and Siena alumnus Lee Rincon invented the challenge based on an article written by Tribune writer Kevin Pang. Following a map of taquerías (taco restaurants) along the Fox River (west of Chicago), the students ate one taco at each of the 11 restaurants before returning to Siena Heights. 

Additional Info


  • Bachelor of Arts


  • Division of Humanities


Meet Siena

Faculty & Staff

Nicholas R. Kaplan

Nicholas R. Kaplan

Director of the Mexico Experience; Associate Professor of Spanish
Contact Us at (800) 521-0009.
Siena Heights University Main Campus. 1247 E. Siena Heights Dr. Adrian, MI 49221.