Getting to Know Professor Debra Ochoa
We asked Spanish professor Debra Ochoa some questions to get to know her better.
Friday, October 7, 2016

Although she teaches Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Trinity University, Debra Ochoa is fond of oil painting and drawing. Her favorite expression includes art supplies as paths to freedom. To learn more, keep reading.

How did you get involved in your area of expertise?
I am a specialist in contemporary Spanish literature and film, and my interest developed in high school when I first traveled to Spain in 1990. Spanish culture is one of my passions. I remain in contact with many friends and visit them in between conferences and research projects.

How do you motivate your students?
The 21st century student is a digital native and highly visual, which makes teaching cinema a lot of fun. In order to motivate students, regardless of the topic, I aim to break class time down into three to four class activities. Recently, I asked students to draw images of an alternate ending to Luis Buñuel's film Viridiana. Not only was I impressed with their ideas, but I enjoyed seeing how they connected class discussion to their storyboards.

What are some of your pre-class rituals?
There are times when I have about ten minutes in between class, other times more. I like to spend a few minutes in my office to clear my mind and review my class plans.

What is your favorite aspect of teaching? Least favorite? Why?
There are a lot of wonderful aspects to teaching, but one of my favorites is seeing students' reactions to a challenging text, whether visual or literary. I have to say that my least favorite aspect of teaching is grading.

Favorite color? Why?
There are a lot of colors I like, but one of my favorites is red. I've received several compliments when wearing that color.

What's your favorite expression?
One of my favorite Spanish writers is Carmen Martín Gaite, particularly her novel El cuarto de atrás. Here is a quote that I love: "me amparaba el desorden de los lápices, sacapuntas y tijeras diseminados por la felpa, objetos que se convertían en amigos a través del uso y de la libertad." This is translated as, " "I was protected by the disorder of the pencils, pencil sharpeners, and scissors scattered all over the carpet, objects that became friends through being used and being allowed their freedom . . . " Thus, she sees having all of her art supplies out as an exercise in freedom and she thinks of them as companions. I love it.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Why?
I took a few oil painting and drawing classes as an undergraduate at Boston University, but I decided on Spanish. Nonetheless, I think that art would have been another career path for me.

Where would you like to retire?
I'm a native New Yorker and think about going home, but that wouldn't be a practical choice. I imagine I will retire here in San Antonio.

Who inspires you? Why?
My favorite writer (in English) is Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Lowland and many other texts. She speaks so eloquently and her writing is lucid. I have shared with my students a video in which she talks about writing. Lahiri's tranquility inspires me.

If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be and why?
Our cat Giada and our dog Taffy have a very comfortable life. I would not mind coming back as one of them. Perhaps I will bring Taffy (Gold Retriever mix, 1-year-old) to campus when she matures.

Susie P. Gonzalez helped tell Trinity's story as part of the University communications team.

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