Future by Design Sharon Mendieta Ramirez ’23 has designed her W&L experience to prepare her for her career as an educator.
“I am very grateful for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had during my time at W&L, as well as all the faculty and staff that I’ve had the honor to work with over the course of my four years — I would not be where I am today without their support and guidance.”
~ Sharon Mendieta Ramirez ’23
When reflecting on their W&L experience, alumni can often identify the one undergraduate course that started them on their professional paths. For Sharon Mendieta Ramirez ’23, a Romance languages major and education minor from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it was a class taught by Professor Dick Kuettner that helped her find her vocation.
“I came to W&L knowing that I definitely wanted to pursue a career in education, but at first I wasn’t sure what that would look like,” Mendieta Ramirez said. “It wasn’t until I took a class called Methods for World Languages that I was able to figure out what specific career path I wanted to pursue in the field of education.”
Mendieta Ramirez’s subsequent coursework at W&L helped narrow her focus to curricular design. After applying and being accepted to several similar graduate programs, including those offered through Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, she chose Vanderbilt University’s master of education program and will be joining its Learning and Design cohort, an instructional design degree at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, this fall. Mendieta Ramirez has also been awarded the Peabody Distinguished Scholar Scholarship, a merit scholarship that will cover 75% of her tuition during her time at Vanderbilt.
Kuettner recalls Mendieta Ramirez as an exceptional student.
“She produced quality work beyond anything I would have expected,” Kuettner said. “She was meticulous in her thinking and in her writing.”
After taking that first class with Kuettner, Mendieta Ramirez went on to serve as a lead language mentor for the Virginia Governor’s World Language Academies (VGWLA), which Kuettner oversees, on Washington and Lee’s campus during the summer of 2022.
“The decision to select her as the lead was not difficult, knowing her organizational strengths and her attention to detail in executing any assigned task,” Kuettner said. “What I found most beneficial was her thoroughness. This quality convinced me to ask her to review Academy job descriptions with me when it was time to revitalize the positions for the faculty and staff handbooks and applications.”
Kuettner said he is confident that the various graduate programs that have admitted Mendieta Ramirez made the right decision in recruiting a student with her talent.
“I can see her sometime in the not-too-distant future as Madam Secretary of Education in a U.S. president’s cabinet,” Kuettner said.
Mendieta Ramirez said the faculty support she has received at W&L has been an honor.
“I am very grateful for all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had during my time at W&L, as well as all the faculty and staff that I’ve had the honor to work with over the course of my four years — I would not be where I am today without their support and guidance,” she said. “I would like to say a special thank you to my education minor advisor Eric Moffa. As a professor, he exhibits a profound dedication to what he does that inspires me to take the knowledge and skills I learn in his courses out into the world to create meaningful change. As an advisor, he has always gone above and beyond to support my academic success and encourage me to pursue my career goals. I’m thankful to him for believing in me and I aspire to lead by his example one day as a future professor.”
Mendieta Ramirez, fluent in Spanish and French, has leveraged her gift for languages into meaningful campus involvement outside the classroom, providing some of the hands-on experience she enjoys. She has been involved with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), a program that facilitates communication among the rural and increasingly diverse language communities of Rockbridge County, since her junior year. She has been the translations co-chair, coordinating various translation projects for community organizations. The role also oversees the planning process of translation projects. This year, she transitioned into the community coordinator role, leading Monday evening classes for adults who want to improve their English proficiency.
Mendieta Ramirez also serves on the editorial team for Pluma, W&L’s Spanish-language literary magazine. The publication asks for submissions from the community as well as faculty, staff and students, and is in the process of finalizing this year’s issue. Mendieta Ramirez has also excelled in her leadership roles in the Francophone Student Organization, serving as social media specialist and secretary, vice president and eventually president of the organization.
“Sharon delves into her community involvement and demonstrates quiet, compassionate leadership,” said Kristina Roney, assistant professor of French, who first taught Mendieta Ramirez in French 261, an introductory upper-level course, during the winter term of Mendieta Ramirez’s first year. “It has been a joy to watch her grow and progress over the course of her four years at W&L.”
Mendieta Ramirez has also focused much of her time on campus supporting her peers through various roles. She currently serves as the vice president of W&L’s Questbridge chapter, a role responsible for creating events for Questbridge scholars to help foster a sense of belonging on campus and ensure that scholars have the support that they need to thrive during their time at W&L. She has also served as a community assistant for the university’s office of Housing and Residential Life, creating programming for residents of Casa Hispanica and Nuestro Hogar Latino, and has most recently assumed the role of coordinator for the Campus Unity Initiative, another avenue for helping students find ways to gather and create community.
“I first met Sharon in her first year as a community assistant. She has a passion for her culture and helping others and bringing people together,” said Hannah Phillips, assistant director of Residence Life. “She has always sought out opportunities to advocate for the needs of those around her and does it in a way that is so professional and collaborative, which will serve her well in the working world when she graduates.”
Mendieta Ramirez’s goal is to one day become a university professor, focusing on doing research on second language acquisition while specializing in curriculum development for language instruction. She said she was drawn to Vanderbilt’s program because of its emphasis on hands-on experience.
“That is something really important to me,” Mendieta Ramirez said, “to take what I learn in the classroom, the theories and pedagogy, and be able to apply it in a real-world setting.”
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