Texas Tech University

School of Veterinary Medicine Scholar Awarded Grant to Improve Spanish Competency Among Animal Health Professionals

Weston Brooks

May 27, 2021

Arlene Garcia-Marquez

Arlene Garcia-Marquez was awarded the $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Communication between veterinarians and animal caregivers is essential when it comes to ensuring instructions are not only understood but also carried out properly. In many situations, those animal caregivers speak little to no English at all.

The Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) is tackling this challenge head-on through a grant designed to specifically improve Spanish competency among animal-health professionals, and improve their ability to effectively communicate with animal caregivers across the diverse communities the SVM serves.

Arlene Garcia-Marquez, an assistant professor of Behavior and Welfare at the SVM, was awarded a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Garcia-Marquez's project is titled “Developing Spanish Communicative Competence among Veterinary and Animal Science Students to Improve U.S. Agriculture.” It strategically responds to challenges veterinarians and animal science professionals face to effectively communicate with non-English speaking animal caretakers.  Ineffective communication can result in negative effects on animal behavior, welfare and food safety.

View of construction as of May 27, 2021
View of construction as of May 27, 2021

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The grant was awarded by the Capacity Building Grants for Non-Land-Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program, which is part of the USDA-NIFA.

Joining Garcia-Marquez on the project at Texas Tech are Dean Guy Loneragan and Assistant Professor Alexandra Calle from the SVM as well as Associate Professor Amy Boren-Alpizar from the Department of Agricultural Education & Communication in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources (CASNR), and Jorge Zamora, an associate professor in the Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures in the College of Arts & Sciences.

“My team and I couldn't be more excited to receive funding for this topic that is so critical for sustainable agriculture,” Garcia-Marquez said. “We have worked really hard in developing a proposal that will now allow us to better prepare our future veterinarians and animal science professionals.”

For the project, Garcia-Marquez also has teamed up with researchers from North Carolina State University, Tarleton State University, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and the University of Zulia in Venezuela in developing and implementing three courses of Spanish for Specific Purposes in Agriculture into the current veterinary medicine and animal science curricula at the SVM and CASNR. They will use innovative teaching methods, such as experiential learning activities, to enhance students' abilities to communicate effectively with the diverse population of animal caregivers.

“Our school's mission can be distilled to service to rural and regional communities,” said Loneragan. “For many animal caregivers in the communities we serve, Spanish is a preferred language. And it is more than simply speaking Spanish. It is also understanding the various and diverse cultures. This transformative project will help build Spanish and cultural competency, and enable us to excel at our mission.

“We set out to recruit and hire the best faculty. Dr. Garcia is truly outstanding and we are so excited that she is part of our team. She has worked hard for this grant and demonstrated exceptional grit. She is contributing to our School in so many ways. Importantly, she is developing new ways for us to build competency and engage in a diverse world.”