Dr. Charles Fleis
Department of Foreign Languages
Dr. Charles Fleis is a huge proponent of traveling and studying abroad. "It is essential to the human experience," he says, "and the only way to unite humanity in peace and understanding." Bridgewater College's Interterm provides Fleis the perfect opportunity to travel with students. In 2006 and 2009, he took students to Costa Rica and, in 2007 he traveled with a group to France for a three-week culture and history tour.
In Costa Rica, the students attended language classes four hours a day, five days a week. They lived with host families and went on excursions within San José, as well as the countryside. During the 2009 trip, the group experienced an extra special and unplanned occurrence. On the third day, the group began the day with a coffee plantation tour and a hike through a cloud forest in the mountains of Alajuela province. At La Paz Waterfalls, the group had just finished lunch when a 9.0 earthquake hit. While the quake and its aftershocks continued, the group climbed over landslides, fallen trees and several other impediments to reach the top of the mountain, where the Springs Resort is located, and made an impromptu camp in the parking lot. Fleis says the BC students "kept their calm, their humor and their good spirits," and pitched in to help more than 400 trapped international tourists, and locals. The next day, the group was able to hike out of the area and return to their host families in San José.
Travel - in the U.S. and abroad - is also a personal passion for Fleis. Through keeping a journal, collecting souvenirs and taking photos, he shares his experiences with his students. His hope is to inspire his students to also travel and learn how to function well and respectfully in a global society.
Fleis also has a passion for film and theater. His doctorate dissertation was on Pedro Almodóvar, a Spanish director and, as a Personal Development Portfolio (PDP) adviser, he has used film to demonstrate different aspects of language, life, culture and art. Fleis utilizes skits in beginning and intermediate classes to provide students an opportunity to use foreign languages in a public setting.
"Teaching matters," says Fleis, and "Bridgewater provides the perfect setting for building great student/professor relationships that have lasting impact on both parties." One student who particularly stands out for Fleis is Adriana Delshorts, a 2008 graduate from Barcelona, Spain, who came to BC under the Brethren Colleges Abroad program as a junior and stayed to complete her degree. Being able to speak Spanish, Catalan and French, she became an assistant in the department. With a large language deficit in English, Delshorts wasted no time in filling that gap and conquering many barriers during her first semester at Bridgewater. With her insatiable curiosity about life, learning and others, she inspires others to strive for more.
Fleis earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Western Michigan University and a doctor of modern language from Middlebury College in Vermont.