Labinger shares love for diversity

Andrea Labinger, a professor of Spanish at the University of La Verne is originally from the East Coast city of Yonkers, N.Y. Yonkers, primarily a Latin area, is where Labinger received her first taste of the Latin culture. Since then, she has traveled to several countries in Latin America such as Brazil and Chile. Labinger has been teaching at ULV for 20 years and resides as the director of the honors program and adviser to the student-run bilingual magazine La Vernacula. / photo by Vicky Martinez
Andrea Labinger, a professor of Spanish at the University of La Verne is originally from the East Coast city of Yonkers, N.Y. Yonkers, primarily a Latin area, is where Labinger received her first taste of the Latin culture. Since then, she has traveled to several countries in Latin America such as Brazil and Chile. Labinger has been teaching at ULV for 20 years and resides as the director of the honors program and adviser to the student-run bilingual magazine La Vernacula. / photo by Vicky Martinez

by Deanna Reyes
Staff Writer

In Andrea Labinger’s office there is a picture on the wall in a green frame of an old storefront that reads “Hector’s Candy and Record Shop.” It was probably fate that her grandparents once owned that candy store in the prominently Latin area of Yonkers, N.Y.

It was there where Labinger, a professor of Spanish and director of the honors program at the University of La Verne, fell in love with the Latin culture.

Labinger, who was born on the East Coast, attended Hunter College and later, Harvard, to earn her master’s degree. She moved with her husband and daughter to California where she applied for a one-year temporary teaching position at ULV. Little did she know that 20 years later, she would still be employed at the University.

“I love California. It’s one of the best places to be because of the culture and diversity,” she said. “There’s no place quite like LA. It’s one of the most dynamic cities.”

Labinger said she can still recall the day she first stepped foot on the ULV campus, and remembers feeling a strong sense of familiarity.

“The first building I saw was Founders Hall with the ivy all up the walls,” she said. “It looks like a school that would be back East. It was very welcoming, and I felt comfortable.”

Growing up in New York first introduced Labinger to the Spanish culture. She said she was constantly around the culture because she was always at her grandparent’s shop.

“I was exposed to the Spanish culture very early on. To the culture, the language, the music and the food, and I thought it was wonderful,” she said. “I’ve always loved the Spanish language. I guess you could say it was love at first sound.”

Labinger feels that this exposure was a powerful subliminal factor in her choosing Spanish for her profession. She said it was an exciting alternative to her everyday life and that on some level, it was a powerful influence.

Labinger is currently teaching Latin America Contemporary Literature and Civilization and Culture of Latin America. She said that her great passion is literature. She said she likes when students get passionate about something they’ve read and can discuss it with enthusiasm in class. She has even taken this passion for literature to a new level-by interpreting Spanish books to English for publication.

On a trip to Mexico with some students from ULV, Labinger had a few hours to kill and wandered into a bookstore. The title of a book caught her eye and she picked it up and began to read it. “The book was incredible,” she said. “It really touched me on a personal level. I had to do something with it, so I asked the author’s permission to translate it.”

After much persistence, the author gave Labinger permission to translate the book and have it published. “La bobe,” or “Bubbeh,” as it is translated, means “the grandmother,” and is about a girl’s relationship with her grandma. The publication of this book led to working relationships with other authors who wanted their books to be translated as well. Labinger even took a year off to devote herself entirely to her newfound passion.

“It was scary, but it was fun,” she said. “I like having a balance in my life; teaching and being able to have other forms of expression.”

Labinger is also the adviser for La Vernacula, the bilingual magazine on campus which she started in 1982. She said when she began working at ULV there were a number of students who felt there was a need for a bilingual magazine. Labinger added that her staff this year is great and that she is anticipating a great issue to be released in May.

Besides teaching, advising La Vernacula, translating books and being director of the honors program, Labinger surprisingly finds time to express other passions. Her family is self-proclaimed “travel bugs,” and they love to travel to new places. She said she does not really know if her passion for travel is clearly a hobby, or more of an obsession. She has traveled to many of the Latin countries like Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Columbia. She enjoys cooking and being with friends.

She is an avid collector of giraffes, and her friends, family and even students have made it a point to bring her back a giraffe trinket from wherever they travel.

Labinger’s one piece of advice she would like to offer students, or anyone for that matter, is to “do the thing that makes you happiest.

“Don’t compromise yourself. A joyless life is not the way to go. Do the thing you’re passionate about and give something back to those who helped you,” she said.

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