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Skidmore College
Travel Seminar

FLL Alumni News


Matt Santangelo '87, Spanish
After graduating with a major in government and Spanish, I was commissioned as a naval officer (under the terms of my NROTC scholarship). I was assigned to a guided missile destroyer (USS Conyngham DDG-17), and initially served as the auxiliary & electrical engineering Officer and then as the ship's navigation & intelligence officer. While on deployment with NATO forces, I did have an opportunity to use some of my Spanish language skills on several occasions.

One time, I was assigned as a liaison with the Spanish ship Cazadora, and was able to be the Cazadora's honored guest. They, of course, filled me to the brim with rioja and paella, and my visiting fiancée (now wife) Bernadette Uy ('88) did most of the talking and charming in fluent Castillano. 

Another time, a gastro-intestinal "plague" swept through my ship, forcing us to pull into Palma de Mallorca for medical treatment. Since I was the only officer that could muster even a few words in Spanish, I was tasked with transporting dozens of my poor shipmates to the hospital and handled all of their affairs and coordinated their treatment.

My last occasion to use my Spanish was in 1990, when the U.S. decided to improve relations with Argentina (which had been difficult in the aftermath of the Falklands War). I was asked to sail onboard the tall-ship Libertad during her first visit back to the USA since the war ended. I sailed with from the mouth of the Chesapeake up into Baltimore Harbor. The captain of the ship took that opportunity to give me a book and a lecture arguing for Argentina's claim to the "Malvinas" and a substantial wedge of Antarctica. The most important thing I did for them was to ensure that each and every unmarried sailor and midshipman was introduced to a young lady (thousands of whom where waiting on the pier when we arrived).

After marrying Bernadette in 1989, I left the active duty Navy in December 1990, and have lived and worked in NYC, Princeton, N.J., and since 1997, Boston. For that entire time, I have worked in the financial services industry at Bessemer Trust Co. and for the last nine years with Merrill Lynch Trust Co. I am a vice president and certified trust and financial advisor (CTFA), and advise Merrill Lynch's best/largest clients on matter of estate and tax planning, philanthropy, and wealth management. In keeping with my Navy experience, my occupation has nothing to do with my college majors. I do believe that a well-rounded liberal arts education has helped to make a superior communicator who is fairly well rounded in history, culture, philosophy, foreign affairs, etc. I think that business is best learned by doing, but when will I again have a chance to devote 4 years of my life to the study of the liberal arts and critical thinking?

Bern and I have two smart, athletic and very handsome boys (Nick, age 11, and Alex, age 6) and live in Medfield, Mass. Bern has been a full-time mom for the last nine years and is very active in the local public schools. Bern received her M.S. in international relations from Old Dominion University in 1989. Before becoming a full-time mom, she worked at a nonprofit organization called Parliamentarians for Global Action. She also used her French and Spanish working for an manufacturing export firm.

Christina Sanyour '15, Italian

After graduation in 2015, I decided to put my Italian studies to good use and move to Turin, Italy, where I spent the year teaching English in a variety of academic settings.  It was a real crash-course in being a self-starter, as I had to build up a professional and social life from scratch, in a city I’d never been to before.  The most difficult part, though, was navigating my way through all the bureaucratic red tape (and anyone else who might be having problems with this, please feel free to contact me!).  Overall, I used it as a year to take on a new challenge, put my independence and self-motivation to the test, and to refocus, delineating the direction I wanted to take going forward.  At the end of the school year, I returned stateside to again change course and began working at an urban agriculture start-up.  The start-up environment is, in my eyes, a really wonderful place to learn, and I feel so lucky to be able to see, up-close-and-personal, the ins and outs of a business, to spend one-on-one time with our founder, and to be part of the creation of our company, making decisions that truly have an impact.  I’ve been representing the start-up in a small businesses competition, through which I’m able to take classes at NYU Stern.  That experience and education-- especially in such a globally minded academic community-- has piqued my interest in international business.  I’m now studying for the GMAT with the intention of pursuing an MBA in the next couple years.  I look forward to that as a way to bring my knowledge of and zest for foreign languages and affairs into my career.  For now, I also volunteer teaching ESL, I write for a non-profit, and I am planning a series of “go green” events in my city.  In June, I’ll be headed back to northern Italy for a summer-long teaching gig.

Catherine Sconzo '82, Spanish
After graduating from Skidmore I wanted to use my Spanish language skills in a medical setting and reach out to people who knew little English on a basic level. Up until that time I had always been interested in the nursing profession, so I pursued my nursing degree at Columbia University School of Nursing and graduated with my BSN in 1984. I worked at Babies Hospital at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center until 1986, when I married and moved to Virginia with my husband, John. I obtained my master's in nursing in 1989 from the University of Virginia School of Nursing, and throughout my nursing career my Spanish skills have always been important and well utilized. After we moved back north I worked at Albany Medical Center as a nurse and Spanish translator for patients in a maternal-child clinic for three years. At present I have the luxury of being a stay-at-home mother.

Amy Scribner '86, French
(B.A. French; minor, Italian)
Immediately upon graduating from Skidmore as a French major and Italian minor, I worked for a gourmet food importing company in New York City that imported products from France and Italy, hence requiring a trilinguist. It was a great initiation into the corporate world; however, it made me realize that I really was an actor/writer which, fortunately, I still am. I spent two summers teaching theatre at the Leysin American School (international student body) in Leysin, Switzerland (French part) where I employed my language skills again, including chaperoning the students on weeklong trips to France and Italy. Further testimony to my love of language and travel is my recent one-woman show, which ran in New York and L.A., titled Around the World in Amy Days. I continue to travel to Europe frequently. 

I currently have two full-time jobs: writer/producer in On Air Promotions at Telepictures here in L.A. and also actor/writer. I owe it all to Skidmore that on my resume I can write "Fluent French, Italian, working knowledge of Spanish," and I've been hired many times because of it, especially in voiceovers. 

I have one piece of advice for students: Study what you love, and the rest will follow!! 

Jodi Siegel Sharon '96, French
I currently reside in Westchester County and teach third grade at Grafflin School in Chappaqua, N.Y. Although I do not teach French, I feel that my major has always helped me during the past six years as it expanded my global awareness and knowledge of other cultures around the world. My semester in Paris is still one of my finest memories in life. I would recommend that every French major spend a semester in France. I use my French language skills whenever possible as a result of my studies at Skidmore, and always recommend my little 8-year-olds sign up for French when they choose a language in fifth grade. I could go on and on, but am not sure what else you would like to hear from an elementary teacher like myself. I will add that I left Skidmore and went on to receive two master's degrees from American University, the first in public communication and the next in teaching elementary education. I have traveled to Paris once since graduation as well as the French Polynesia (Tahiti, Bora-Bora and Huanine). Obviously these locations were selected as a result of my love of French that I developed at Skidmore.

Elizabeth Stanish '07, Spanish
Elizabeth Stanish will be attending the University of Chicago's M.A. program in the humanities fall 2009.
She will be returning to China (summer 2009) to take part in Valparaiso University's Summer Advanced Chinese Program in Hangzhou.

Laura Mackenzie Steins '83, Spanish
I … was a business and spanish major…. I spent my junior year abroad with Joan and Angel Berenguer in Barcelona, before the program had to be relocated to Madrid (sadly!). My senior thesis on Catalonia was done under the guidance of Juan Carlos Lertora.

I went on to receive an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1993 and then spent the next seven years overseas. I am currently settled in Westchester County in Harrison, N.Y., with my husband and three small children.

Since my return to the States in late 2000 I have been home with my children, but hope to return to work within the next year. In direct and indirect ways my spanish studies at Skidmore were an important and influential thing for me. My career began with a decade of management roles in the fashion business in New York and London. After completing my MBA, I made a career change to the field of electronic commerce, technology startups, and finance over the last five years spent in Johannesburg, South Africa. While I have only fleetingly used my Spanish throughout my career, there is not a week that goes by that I don't use it within my personal life. Being back in New York, it is almost essential.

By far and away the most wonderful and memorable time for me was my year in Barcelona. I was extremely lucky to have made a set of friends during that year that have become intimate, lifelong friendships. Years ago the group of friends began a ski club called the Gaudi Club de Esquii, and over the years I have met them in Europe or the U.S. for ski trips more than half a dozen times. All trips are carried on in either Spanish or Catalan. My closest Catalan friend, met in 1981, is now the godmother to my youngest son, is living in Washington D.C., with her diplomat husband, and we see each other at least four times a year (and as recently as last week). But the independence and confidence gained through a year on my own in Europe at age 20 has allowed me over the years to independently grow and change my career around the globe. It has become a big part of who I am.  So, thank you all.

Isabella Steyer '15, Italian


Carolyn Stone '95, Spanish
I graduated from Skidmore in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in Spanish. Spending two full semesters living and studying in Madrid, Spain, was one of the best things I have ever done. On the advice of Professor Lertora, I decided to go for an entire year rather than for only one semester. Living abroad teaches you things that you will never learn in a classroom, and I would recommend it to all.

I have used my knowledge of Spanish in both professional and personal settings. Presently I am a second year graduate student at the Boston University School of Management. While all of my classes are in English, I have had many rewarding interactions with students from Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, etc. 

Immediately after leaving Skidmore, I worked as a high school Spanish teacher in Miami, Fla. It was both challenging and rewarding to teach everything from verb conjugations to "La Casa de Bernarda Alba." I would not have been able to lecture to a group of native speakers without the training I received at Skidmore.

After leaving teaching, I worked for a nonprofit poverty-relief organization in Boston that at the time focused heavily on development throughout Latin America. In my roles as a fundraiser and as a finance administrator, I used my Spanish skills. It was great to be able to just pick up the phone and speak to a colleague in Latin America in their native tongue.

Regardless of the path you choose after leaving Skidmore, foreign language skills will no doubt aid you in your personal and professional endeavors.

Margarita Sullivan '95, Spanish
Cómo estoy usando español en mi vida

Desde que yo tenía dieciseis años y fui a Costa Rica, decía que después de graduarme de la universidad, yo iría a un país hispanohablante y enseñaría. Cuando una de mis profesoras me mandó un email de la organización "Sapientis", una oportunidad para vivir dos años en Puerto Rico y enseñar, pensé: "lo encontré!" Y aquí estoy! No sólo vivo en un país hispanohablante, sino que también soy maestra de español! A veces los estudiantes y los maestros quedan sorprendidos cuando digo que doy español: "Pero Ud. no es gringa?"


Taylor Swope '99, French
As you may remember, I was intensely involved in photography for the first couple years after graduating, which actually was a direct result of the time I spent in France. I am, however, no longer trying to feed myself this way. In the spring of 2001 I decided to do a documentary story on the subculture of hippie music festivals. This led me to where I'm at now. In the fall of 2001, once my story was done, I ended up involved in the vending side of music festivals. I tried to do both for a while, but now I am 100% vendor. It just sorta happened that way. I never went looking for what I'm doing now, but I love it. I have my own company, Little Hippie, and I make babies, kids, and girls clothing. The clothing all features original artwork (mostly mine, a few illustrations commissioned) designed to spread love and understanding. Some of it is inspired by songs from the different bands involved in this scene, and the rest of the designs come from my own beliefs. I have an online store,, where you can view some of my stuff (right now about half of it is listed, but more will be up in the next month or two). I still have the photography site,, which I am embarrassed to say I haven't touched in over a year. And one more ... That's an adult clothing company I started with a partner last year and left once it was established to pursue my own interests. I designed all three of these sites as well as a few others on the side. As you can see, not too much has to do with French. I don't know if I'll ever really be sure what my French major did for me professionally, but I am always grateful for the background in literature, film, and writing, not to mention the cultural discovery of living in Paris. I have been living in New York ever since leaving Paris, where I'm very happy, but I travel all over the country for work. In fact, I spend more time on the road than at home. I'm dying to travel abroad again, back to Europe and beyond, but I will have to wait until next year at least.

Hunt Tackbary '99, French
I, a French fajor, am currently working for a fabric company. We import fabrics from overseas and sell them here in the states. My present role is as a sales person. But I do have limited contact with some of the mills that produce our fabrics in places such as France, Belgium, and Scandanavia. I read as I can in the language and travel to France when I get the chance.  

Nino Tsintsadze '14, Italian


Susan Tynan '00, Spanish
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Master's program in Spanish education via Spanish Teacher's Opportunity Scholarship (so much money for us out there!)

Currently I teach Spanish to 180 Chinese adolescents and six young hispanohablantes in Chinatown. What a mix! Some of my students speak significantly better Spanish than I, while the majority are still perfecting English. In college I was repulsed and insulted at the idea of teaching (as the profession is so highly encouraged among language majors), yet now I cannot bear to leave the position. Each day, I utilize my Spanish major in a creative process by teaching the Bacchata or cooking empanadas y platanos to share. The language and the Latino culture freshly reveals itself to me each time I discover something new, each time I teach a child something I have forgotten. During my summers off (major perk), I travel to Spain and steep myself in what I truly love about speaking Spanish: the people and all they have to offer. While the Spanish major is multifaceted in it's possibilities and teaching is possibly the most obvious and unglamorous choice of them all, the profession has grabbed my heart.

Gia Vaccarezza '13, Italian

I graduated Skimore in 2013 with a BA in English and an Italian minor. I worked as a Rassias driller and Italian tutor while at Skidmore. I also studied abroad in Bologna my junior year (the best city to study abroad in Italy). During my time abroad, I discovered the Italian company ACLE, which places native English speakers in different English-immersion summer camps all around Italy. When I returned to Skidmore for my senior year, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career teaching English as a foreign language, so I applied to the SITE Lombardia program, which recruits newly graduated students from the United States and places them in high schools all throughout the region of Lombardy, where they work alongside the current teachers to incorporate more English into lessons.

I worked with SITE for two years and then applied to NYU’s dual-certification masters in TESOL and foreign language education. I will graduate January 2018 with a New York State certificate for teaching English to speakers of other languages, K-12, and for teaching Italian as a foreign language, 7-12. I look forward to helping other students discover their passion for Italian language and culture. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about living or working in Italy, studying Italian at NYU or working in TESOL! My email is

William Van den broeck '15, Italian

After graduating, I went back to Milan (where I studied with the IES program in my Junior year) for 8 months with the S.I.T. E. program to teach English at a local high school. At the end of the program, I was a certified TEFL instructor, (teacher of English as a foreign language). I am currently back in New York teaching English and French and I am applying for Master’s programs in Europe.

Katy Wallace '02, French
Although my job doesn't involve French directly, I want to share with you my experiences since leaving Skidmore last May. Knowing French has helped me in many aspects of starting my career and beginning my life outside the the classroom.

I graduated with a double major in French and economics last May and knew I wanted to work within the environmental economics sector. While interviewing for a job with an environmental consulting firm in New Mexico (a place I never expected to be able to use my French) my future employer looked at my resume and immediately started speaking to me in French. My ability to respond and to interact with him on a different level showed my future employer that I had great communication skills. Though a brief exchange, that conversation gave me an edge over other competitors for the job. I landed a managerial position in the company, and maintain that it was my foreign language skills that gave me an advantage that got me the job. 

On another note, I think that my knowledge of French has been of the utmost importance considering recent international events. It is very interesting and useful to be able to visit or and read articles about world events from a French perspective. Additionally, having studied abroad in Paris for a semester, I feel as though I understand the views of the French government a bit more toward the current situation in the Middle East. I feel as though my travel experiences aided in developing my scope of knowledge of the world.

James Williams '94, Spanish
I am currently completing my master's degree at the Yale School of Medicine's physician associate program and about to start a job in internal medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital. It took me a while to get here, and I worked for a company that imports books from Latin America along the way. My Spanish has been incredibly helpful in my interactions with patients. I am able to hear the story without the distortions of a translator, and patients seem to be more trusting of me because I have made the effort to learn and speak their language.  

Vanessa Wingerath '05, Spanish
I am currently a middle school Spanish teacher in Brooklyn, N.Y. I teach beginning-level Spanish to sixth and seventh graders. I studied Castillian Spanish in Madrid through the Skidmore in Madrid program, and now I am learning about many other Spanish-speaking cultures from my students who come from Latino backgrounds. I would never have ended up in this career if I hadn't spent a summer abroad.

Menhqiong (Yvonne) Yu '15, Italian

I am currently in China working for an NGO promoting cooperation among companies in developing countries.

Gretchen Ziegler '04, Spanish
I'm currently a master's candidate in educational theater and teaching English at NYU. Once I graduate, I'll be certified to teach drama K–12 and English 7–12. Since I will most likely be teaching in an urban setting, I imagine that my ability to speak Spanish will come in handy; in fact, it already has, since many of the students in the classrooms that I am currently observing are Puerto Rican or Dominican. In addition, I worked at a charter high school two years ago where I was one of few staff members who spoke Spanish (in a school where 13% of the student population was Spanish-speaking). I was able to help the administration by translating important parent documents, and I also started up a Spanish club while I was there.

As for my study abroad (a semester in Madrid), I still talk about my experiences. That was the first time that I had traveled off of the east coast of the U.S., much less to another country. It really opened my eyes to different experiences and people, and I can say with complete honesty that it definitely helped inform major life decisions for me. I hope to go back one day!