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Her major in mechanical engineering is not stopping Monika Serrano ’04 (Caracas, Venezuela) from working as an EXCEL Scholar with Sidney Donnell, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, on “Women Dramatists, Cross-Dressing, and the Golden Age.”

“The research examines cross-dressing in 16th and 17th century drama in Imperial Spain, specifically in the drama of Sister Juana Inez de la Cruz, Maria de Zayas, Ana Caro, and others,” says Donnell. The two are investigating how numerous women playwrights of the early modern period used cross-dressing in their respective works as a means of addressing the gender politics of their day.

“My EXCEL project doesn’t have much to do with my major, but it is definitely a great experience,” says Serrano, who is considering a minor in economics. “I do bibliographic searches, obtain material, and read books, articles, selections, and critical commentaries in both English and Spanish.”

Though the research is a departure from the type of work Serrano does as an engineer, she feels it has enhanced her academic skills. “I have gained familiarity with the field and indispensable knowledge of how in-depth research is carried out in the humanities,” she says.

Donnell adds, “That’s the nice thing about EXCEL work at Lafayette. It offers, among other benefits, the chance for engineering or science students to cross over into the humanities.”

In addition to broadening her academic horizons, the experience is offering Serrano opportunities to revisit her native culture.

“The interesting thing about this project is that Monika is studying a playwright who is really a Latin American icon,” says Donnell. “Obviously as a native Spanish speaker the project suits her skills, but there is more to this work than language. She is really getting insights into her culture.”

For her part, Serrano is pleased with the EXCEL project. “At the beginning of this year, I thought the summer was very long and thought it was better to make use of the time, learn more, and have a different experience,” she says.

“I think I couldn’t have made a better decision when I chose Lafayette as the place I would spend the next four years of my life. Lafayette provides the academic and social environment I need to face a successful future as an engineer, an athlete, and a woman.”

Monika Serrano plays on the varsity tennis team, winning the Patriot League Singles #5 Championship last year and finishing with a record of 14-3. She also is an active member of the International Students Association.

Categorized in: Academic News