Rosa Tapia, wearing a black, red and white turtleneck, stands in front of Main Hall.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Rosa Tapia (Photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different Lawrence faculty member each time — same questions, different answers.


Rosa Tapia has left her imprint on the Spanish faculty in a myriad of ways since coming to Lawrence University in 2002, but perhaps nowhere as visibly as her work with the annual Latin American and Spanish Film Festival.

Working in partnership with faculty colleague Cecilia Herrera, Tapia helped launch the festival in 2012, bringing award-winning films from Latin America and Spain to Lawrence and connecting the community to national and international filmmakers. It’s an extension of her ongoing study in contemporary Spanish and Latin American literature and cinema.

The professor of Spanish has been drawing rave reviews herself since arriving on campus 18 years ago. In 2005, she earned the University’s then-named Young Teacher Award. She also serves as a co-chair of the national Development Committee for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam.

In addition, Tapia has been a leader in academic advising at Lawrence, receiving the Excellence in Advising Award in 2014 and serving as faculty director of advising from 2016 to 2020. She chaired a task force that developed a new guide and resource page for advising and led initiatives that improved connections between faculty advisers and students.

More faculty features can be found here.

Tapia holds a doctorate in Spanish from Penn State University, a Master of Arts in Spanish from the University of Delaware, and a Licenciatura in English philology from the University of Granada in Spain.

We caught up with Tapia to talk about her interests in and out of the classroom.

In the classroom 

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

Students should know that I’m very passionate about what I teach and I’m always looking for ways to share that passion with them. My Spanish classes and my work on literature and film are tightly connected. They naturally include a variety of academic and cultural perspectives, so I expect students to contribute their own point of view. They should come ready to jump into other cultural frameworks and ways to see and study the world.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

I love being able to blend my research with my classes, with student projects, and with initiatives like the Latin American and Spanish Film Festival. It’s an amazing opportunity to interact with international filmmakers and it feels great to welcome such a diverse audience to campus. It was also energizing to participate in initiatives to improve academic advising for student success and I cherish my years as a Posse mentor.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

Oh, there are too many surprises to list here. Pursuing an academic career as an immigrant opened my eyes time after time. I learned to negotiate and inhabit a number of cultural, social, and symbolic borders, both in my everyday life and in my academic interests. These are not always easy to separate when one studies identity, power, and representation as a Spanish-born scholar of Latin American culture in the U.S. The flip side of the coin is, of course, the wonderful opportunity to see various parts of the world, meet incredible people, and be a lifelong student of other cultures. I had no idea this was going to be my life! I’d love to go back and tell my 18-year-old self when I was starting my own college journey in Granada, Spain.

Out of the classroom 

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing? 

I’d love to work on projects related to college access and success, or the promotion of cultural connections through the study of the arts, particularly film, across different communities and countries. Ideally, I’d like to do something that would allow me to keep growing and learning, travel, and collaborate with people from different origins and diverse backgrounds.

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus? And why?

One of my favorite places on campus is the Cinema, because it brings me wonderful memories of the film festival.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

Carmen Martín Gaite’s novel The Back Room, Caetano Veloso’s version of the song Cucurrucucú Paloma, and Pedro Almodóvar’s film All About My Mother.