Graduate Student Profile - Eli Carter (Hispanic Languages and Literatures)
UCLA Distinguished Teaching Assistant 2010-11
Eli Carter sees the Portuguese language as a ticket of entry to the forums where issues of global warming, alternative energies, the protection of the Amazon watershed, and emerging economies—in which Brazil is a key player—are being debated. As he sees it, then, one of his jobs as an instructor of Portuguese language and culture is to help "equip future professionals with a deep knowledge of the language and culture," he says, "so they can eventually participate in these important discussions in a manner that is intercultural."
In the Fall of 2007, Eli entered the classroom for the first time as a an instructor of Portuguese. One of those first students was Kenneth Moreno, a third-year transfer student who was picking up Portuguese as a secondary language for his major in Latin American Studies. At the time, he had an "obsession with French and European culture" and planned to give greater attention to French. As the class unfolded, however, his teacher’s "passion for the language and culture" of Brazil became obvious to his students, Kenneth says, and "Portuguese exuded from every crevice of the classroom."
By the end of Eli’s class, "I was committed to a Portuguese minor, and French had taken a back seat," Kenneth says. He hopes to use both Portuguese and his native Spanish as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department, a job that could bring him into those key policy discussions his teacher envisions.
Eli would understand how, falling in love with Portuguese, Kenneth might change his plans. "From the time I was very young," he says, "I always thought that I would be an attorney—that is until I visited Brazil for the first time." Teaching English as an inner-city volunteer in Sao Paulo, Eli became "enthralled with the culture and the language," he says. "I decided that one of my goals in life would be to obtain a sufficient command of Portuguese to be able to read a Brazilian novel."
He has achieved that goal and much more. As a graduate student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Eli has focused on contemporary Brazilian literature, television, and film. Film and TV have developed independently in Brazil, his adviser, Teofilo Ruiz, explains, with television by far the stronger cultural influence. Eli’s dissertation analyzes the relationship of the two media. "His intellectual promise is great indeed," Professor Ruiz says, "and he is a budding star in the field."
Published in Spring 2011, Graduate Quarterly