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Todd Mack, assistant pro­fessor of Spanish, with his wife, Betty, and their four children.
Todd Mack | Courtesy

Assistant Pro­fessor of Spanish Todd Mack has read every­thing from “Wuthering Heights” to the “Twi­light” series, but he said the all-time greatest novel is “Don Quixote” — an opinion he’s willing to debate with anyone.

While Mack, who joined joined the Spanish department this fall, said he has always loved lit­er­ature and stories, it wasn’t until a two-year mission trip during college that he truly fell in love with Spanish culture and lit­er­ature. He had studied Spanish in high school but said it was nothing to write home about.

“That mission trip was a really huge turning point in my life,” Mack said.

After the mission, he returned to his studies at Brigham Young Uni­versity and switched his major several times, tee­tering between his interests in history, lit­er­ature, and lan­guage. He ulti­mately settled on a Spanish major and history minor before earning his master’s degree in Spanish and his doc­torate in Iberian and Latin American cul­tures at Stanford Uni­versity. As a part of his studies, he learned Spanish, Por­tuguese, and Catalan, the lan­guage of Cat­alonia.

“Stanford has this idea that there are all these other lan­guages that are spoken, all these other nations inside of the Iberian peninsula, and they have great lit­er­ature and have inter­esting his­tories that we can learn from and well developed cul­tures and tra­di­tions,” Mack said. “In order to under­stand what’s going on in Spain you have to under­stand the nations and regions that make it up.”

For his dis­ser­tation, Mack studied con­tem­porary novels on the Spanish Civil War from mul­tiple regions of Spain.

“I went to these places out in the middle of nowhere and talked to people who had read the novels and their expe­ri­ences reading the novels,” Mack said. “The dis­ser­tation was about how where we’re from impacts the way we read and the way we read impacts the way we remember things, so how memory and lit­er­ature and space are all tied together.”

In addition to his teaching, Mack works as a Catalan trans­lator, trans­lating every­thing from Cat­alonian science-fiction short stories from the 1890s to modern aca­demic articles.

Outside of work, Mack said he enjoys spending time with his wife, Betty, and his four children. He also enjoys hiking, running, and reading.

He pro­duces a podcast — The Pro­tag­onist Podcast — with a longtime friend, in which they discuss a char­acter from a story. The medium of the story varies from old TV shows to comic books and novels, and the duo just pro­duced their 150th podcast. Mack said they’ve covered “Jane Eyre,” “The X-Men,” and every­thing in between.

“Every week, we just sit down and have a con­ver­sation,” Mack said. “It’s really fun because it forces me to read tons of stuff. I’m con­stantly being exposed to new stories, and it’s always awesome to find some new thing to love, and that will happen really fre­quently.”

Although “Don Quixote” is Mack’s favorite, he also listed the “Lord of the Rings”  and the “Harry Potter” books as excellent stories.

“I love a great story, and I’m not opposed to reading just for fun,” he said. “You just read what you can get your hands on.”

Mack will teach a Spanish lit­er­ature class, The Hero’s Journey, next semester, and is teaching Beginning Spanish and Com­po­sition & Grammar Review this fall.

In-class activ­ities have ranged from trans­lating song lyrics to Spanish ad-libs, according to senior John Duffy, a student in Mack’s Com­po­sition & Grammar Review class.

“Dr. Mack legit­i­mately cares about all his stu­dents, and he’s really invested in helping us learn the lan­guage,” Duffy said.

Chair­woman of Spanish Sandra Puvogel said Mack’s engaging per­son­ality and hands-on teaching style will help his stu­dents learn and practice the Spanish lan­guage.

“I think he feels that you want to get people using and speaking the lan­guage as much as you can, espe­cially since there aren’t a lot of oppor­tu­nities in Hillsdale for speaking Spanish outside the classroom,” Puvogel said.

Mack said his love for teaching super­sedes his other aca­demic interests.

“As pas­sionate as I am about lit­er­ature and phi­losophy, I’m probably more pas­sionate about just teaching and being in class and having the oppor­tunity to reach stu­dents,” Mack said. “I think through my classes I’ve been able to help kids see the world in a dif­ferent way, and that’s a huge priv­ilege. It’s really not me, but the fact that we’re in this space with an oppor­tunity to think about stuff together, that’s what changes people. It’s awesome to be a part of that.”