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Romance Languages graduate published five books while completing his dissertation in McMicken College.

Date: 7/6/2009
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Kim Burdett and provided by Arturo Gutiérrez
University of Cincinnati, says recent doctoral graduate Arturo Gutiérrez Plaza, was just one of many chapters in his life. And much like his 600-page dissertation, his UC chapter has been a lengthy one.

Gutiérrez arrived in Cincinnati in 2004 as a PhD candidate in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures from his native Venezuela, where he taught as a professor of Latin American literature at Simón Bolívar University.

Arturo Gutierrez.
Gutiérrez received his PhD in the June 2009 All-University Commencement.

When he came to Iowa in 1997 for the International Writing Program, he met Romance Languages Professor Armando Romero who invited Gutiérrez to a poetry reading at UC. What he found when he got here was enough to dedicate the next five years of his life to the university.

“I like the urban university,” he says. “I had a great experience when I visited Cincinnati. The city was alive.”

He visited many other institutions before ultimately landing on UC, mostly because of his affinity for the urban environment, the continued relationship with Romero and a desire to study in the United States —“because the system of libraries in this country is really amazing.”

While here, he took full advantage of his time and resources. Not only did he construct “the best dissertation defense that I’ve witnessed,” according to Associate Professor Carlos Gutiérrez, he churned out five books on top of it.

Pasado en Limpio is a collection of poems Gutiérrez wrote that was published in 2006. His other publications are currently in press.

“In my own poetry, I focus on many topics,” he says. “I am interested in discovering the everyday life, the small scenes.”

His free verse poetry may not have a designated theme, but his scholarly work focuses on the way cities are constructed in Venezuelan poetry from the 19th century until today, through the transformation of rural areas into an international center of petroleum.

Arturo Gutierrez.
Gutiérrez plans to return to Venezuela and continue teaching Latin American literature.

While a normal dissertation can be about 200 pages or so, Gutiérrez topped his off about three times more than that.

He credits much of his productivity and success to support from the university, including the Charles Phelps Taft Dissertation Year Fellowship which allows him to focus on his scholarly interests sans teaching load for an entire year. Gutiérrez also earned a University Research Council Graduate Student Fellowship and other smaller awards for his research.

“It allowed me to really commit to my projects,” he says. “It would have been impossible for me to do it without them and I thought it was a great opportunity.”

Gutiérrez also received the Outstanding International Graduate Student of the Year Award by the Graduate Student Governance Association.

“He is truly exceptional, one of a kind,” says Carlos Gutiérrez. “He breathes literatures. He reads and writes. That’s all he does.”

The professor recalls having Gutiérrez in his 17th century Spanish literature class — a class not within the doctoral student’s specialty — and how he surprisingly ended up writing a book based on the papers he wrote in the class.

Nicasio Urbina, graduate studies director in RLL, agrees. “The GSGA award is a demonstration of his exceptional talent and dedication to graduate studies,” he says.

Armed with five years of research, a newly minted PhD and five more publications to add to his curriculum vita, Gutiérrez is ready to move back to Venezuela and continue teaching at Simón Bolívar.

This chapter in his life has closed, he says. But another one is just starting.

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