The newest addition of the Spanish department: Who is Philip Allen?


Former professor at Pennsylvania State University, Philip Allen, is the newest addition to the Foreign Languages & Culture department. He says that Midwestern State and he found each other.

“We found each other at the time I was actually looking for jobs in a warmer climate because I was in Pennsylvania and it was just literally freezing all the time. I know that that’s a personal reason to look for another job but furthermore, I was looking for a job that would give me a little more freedom in regard to preparing my own classes. The university I was at before they already had everything set in place, and they knew exactly where they wanted each of their professors and faculty to be,” Allen said.

Allen says that he wanted to be allowed to be creative. He wanted to use his creativity more in the classroom by the way he prepares his lessons, teaches them and even materials brought into the room.

“I was looking at my possibilities and saw the Midwestern State advertisement and the more I started looking into the department and the university and Wichita Falls, the more I started getting excited about it and wanted to submit an application and see if Midwestern was interested and luckily, they were,” Allen said.

Now allowed more space to be creative, Allen will begin a new course starting in the spring semester that focuses on the advanced conversation in Spanish.

“The first thing that I am going to be able to do is next semester, I will be doing a class over advanced oral expression, what that means is that there will be no written exams. I have the freedom to actually take away written exams. It’s a conversational class – all the exams will be oral exams…that’s something that at my previous university I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do,” Allen said.

Allen is already getting started with allowing students to practice Spanish by hosting a weekly conversational table every Wednesday in BW127 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Allen wants people to be able to not just learn Spanish in the classroom but also use it in the real world.

“Anybody at the university or faculty, even if you aren’t a student but a member of this community who would like to come and speak Spanish for an hour and work on their oral execution, is welcomed to come by and speak with me and other students that come and stop by as well,” Allen said.

The idea stems from wanting people to feel more comfortable with speaking Spanish, especially when interacting with others. Something that concerns Allen the most is among Spanish majors, not just as MSU but universities all over, is that students still feel timid to speak Spanish.

“They go on their study abroad and don’t put themselves out there as much as I think they should. They hold back a lot and I’ve seen that on multiple study abroad trips that I’ve gone with students. For example, we had students at a university in Salamanca, Spain meet with our American students at a coffee shop and made them sit down with one another and have a conversation in either English or Spanish,” Allen said. “Every five minutes, they had to switch the language of the conversation to the other. By that, we were able to show them that it’s not that scary and that yes, mistakes will happen, but people make mistakes learning your language too. It breaks the ice and helps them learn and appreciate the language more and use it in the real world,”

Allen speaks Spanish fluently and said not to get him confused with a Spaniard although his accent would determine that he is Spanish – Allen is far from it. Allen is originally from a small town in Kentucky.

“I grew up around Spanish. I was really close to a military base and we had a big multi-cultural community and there was even a factory in town that was originally from Spain. We had so many people from Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Germany, Japan, in this really small area and were all just tossed into this diverse culture mix,” Allen said. “When I attended the University of Florida to receive my master’s and Ph.D. in Spanish Literature and Cultures, being close to the Caribbean, I really fell in love with countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. That’s actually one of my top priorities right now is to travel to at least to one of those countries then continue into Latin America since I’ve only ever traveled to Spain.”

To keep it short, Spanish made more sense, Allen said. The more he studied and was interested in the language, Allen said that grammatically, everything just made more sense.

“Because of the diversity, I was always around Spanish, and so the more I learned about it and got interested in it, the language itself, it made sense to me, the grammar and formatting, even more than English, Spanish has such a perfection and everything matches, I’ve always really loved it and wanted to do more with it and having that personal connection with it with the friends that were my age from Spain is what pushed me especially to Spain versus other areas,” Allen said.

In five years, Allen is hoping he is still at Midwestern, along with having a regular class rotation such as every two years he does a class with oral expression and the other two years a class over composition, as well as extend Spanish beyond the classroom – Allen believes as much as Spanish is under ‘world languages’ that it shouldn’t be treated as such.

“I am hoping to prepare myself to really plant my roots here by going up for tenure in the next five or six years and heavily involved in student organizations such as Spanish club, the conversation table and have more outreach with the Wichita Falls community,” Allen said. “I do think that as much as we are the world languages and cultures, by no means should Spanish be a foreign language in this country. I want the Spanish and cultural skills we are learning here to extend into the community and work with museums and The Wichitan and getting more integrated in general with the community and our Spanish speaking neighbors.”

Fun Facts about Allen:

Allen says his favorite part about Hispanic culture is how encompassing it is. He says there is something in it for everybody.

“If you like the Caribbean culture with all the beaches and music like that, there’s something there for that, if you like more metropolitan cities and urban areas, you have Mexico City, Madrid and Panama City, if you like rural areas, there’s that for sure, agriculture and farming especially in Latin America and even in Spain too,” Allen said. “There’s something for everything, I don’t think I can pick just one thing and I think that’s my favorite thing about it. There is something to love because first the people – and even if you don’t like the people, well then you have the food and if you don’t like the food, well then the lifestyle.”

Allen’s favorite part about being in Spain was the routine he had and access to traveling within Spain and Europe.

“I don’t like driving, it’s a burden for me. I liked that I could walk to everywhere and if I ever got tired of walking then I could stop at any corner and get a coffee. I liked the public transportation because not only was it affordable, but it was so accessible. If you wanted to take a weekend trip all you had to do was book the train ticket and you could go anywhere across the country or into France and Portugal and it wasn’t a big exchange of time or money to do that,” Allen said.

Allen admitted to one of his favorite dishes is – all dishes. He says he hasn’t had a dish that he did not like.

“There’s arroz con guandules, I know that’s big in Puerto Rico, I really liked pulled pork plates, carnitas, barbacoa. I am a huge carnivore I had a colleague of mine from Florida that would have asadas, and we would have huge quantities of meats and I just loved every part of it,” Allen said.

Lastly, since Allen is new to Midwestern State and Wichita Falls, he would like for everyone to know that his door is always open for conversation.

“I am honestly just really looking forward to get to know everyone here, so far everyone I’ve met is great and super friendly which I love. Any questions that anybody would have about using Spanish in their professions, communities and personal life – my door is always open, and I’d be more than happy to sit and speak with students and help them. It doesn’t even have to be Spanish; I love everything language and culture. I could get them in contact with our German and French professors because our department really has so much to offer, and all of our doors are open and welcomed for you to just come sit and talk.”