Montana State University

Student sees global connections

March 2, 2006 -- By Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service


MSU student Chris Owens teaches second graders at Morning Star Elementary School the Spanish word for pig. Owens volunteers as a Spanish instructor at the school once a week. (MSU photo by Jay Thane.)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
msunews@montana.edu
Bozeman - Chris Owens has read Kafka's "Metamorphosis" for fun. He's finishing up a double major. He's got a grade-point average high enough to require an oxygen mask and he's thinking of starting his own publication.

But the favorite part of Owens' week doesn't involve mental heavy lifting so much as having fun: He's a second-grade volunteer Spanish teacher at Morning Star Elementary School.

"It's a refreshing time of the week for me," he said. "I really enjoy being around a group of people who don't take themselves very seriously."

This is Owens' second year as a volunteer Spanish teacher. He is also a CAP mentor for a Sacajawea Middle School student. For his civic involvement and academic achievement, Owens was chosen as the MSU Rotary Student of the Month for February.

Owens came to MSU two years ago as a transfer student from the University of Minnesota in Duluth. His hometown is Chanhassen, Minn., a bedroom community of Minneapolis.

"To be honest, I came for the snowboarding," he said. "But I've found professors and students who are really brilliant. That's kept me here and it's what will keep me here if I do stay in Bozeman after graduation."

Owens, 21, will finish a double major in Spanish and Liberal Studies with a global and multicultural option this spring.

"I like studying a variety of disciplines and this allowed me to do that," he said. "To me, global-multicultural studies was more diverse than anything else - sexier, I guess you could say - more provocative."

Owens currently works with adjunct Spanish instructor James Martin as a student fellow. He helps Martin teach a university seminar aimed at developing students' critical thinking skills.

"Chris was my student in an upper-division Latin American history course last fall," Martin said. "In the course, he repeatedly offered insightful reactions to a variety of sources -- historical writing, documents, films, and novels. His ability to develop connections across disciplines really impressed me."

Owens originally studied Spanish because he felt it was the easiest of the languages to learn, but now his interest has grown into a real appreciation: For fun, he's reading a collection of short stories in Spanish by Latin American authors.

In the summer of 2004 he went to Santiago, Chile, for a six-week language program.

"I had a presumption that people would be different and the culture would be impenetrable," he said. "I learned that, on a general level, people are more similar than I anticipated and that a good sense of humor goes a long ways. If you can laugh at yourself, any situation will be easier."

Owens is considering going to Spain or a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America after graduation, but he and some friends are also tossing around the idea of starting a publication in Bozeman.

So far, it's just an idea. Owens thinks there's an intellectual community on campus and in the Gallatin Valley that would respond to a publication about culture and ideas.
"I know it's there," he said. "I just want to make it visible."

In the meantime, he's keeping busy with his studies, volunteer work, snowboarding and a job that fits with his interest in global and multicultural studies: a prep cook at Café International.

He points out that he's not all about work and study.

"I don't want to sound like a saint," he said. "I do go downtown and have a beer once in a while."

Contact: Chris Owens (952) 239-6930 or cowens@montana.edu and James Martin (406) 994-5502 or jameswm@montana.edu.