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Nerd Night covers bilingualism and the border

Alexia Nava
Katherine Mortimer, Ph.D. and Associate Professor in the College of Education, presents on language inequality in our education system.

The UTEP Centennial Museum and Insights presented their 21st monthly educational event, Nerd Night, Thursday, Aug. 22, at Gonzalos G & R Mexican restaurantwith the theme of bilingualism in the border city. 

The latest Nerd Night consisted of four speakers, three of which were UTEP professors, who gave presentations about scientific, social and visual aspects of bilingualism and the border. 

“(The topic is) interesting, I have always been interested in linguistics, being bilingual,” said Erasto Cortes, who came to the event with his son.  

Meghan Curry, Insights executive director, opened the event and introduced the first speaker of the evening: Katherine Mortimer, an assistant professor at the UTEP Department of Education. 

Mortimer talked about the inequalities in the education system in the U.S. that hold up Englishlearners in their path to success and how different language ideologies that are present in today’s society contribute to that. She then showed examples of high school students in a biology class who understood the material and the English language better when the class was given using both Spanish and English.  

The second speaker of the night was Ana Schwartz, an assistant professor at UTEP’s Psychology Department.  

Schwartz started her presentation giving a historical background on how bilingualism was not viewed as a good quality in the U.S. until 1963. She also talked about ambiguous language is and how, contrary to our physical borders, there are no border fences in your brain. 

After a break, Iva Ivanova, an assistant professor in the UTEP’s Psychology Department spoke 

Ivanova started her presentation by defining bilingualism as a continuum where it is not necessary to be fluent in two languages to be considered bilingual. She then talked about how languages are always active in the brain and how the brain suppresses the native language while speaking in another one to prevent a mixing of languages in conversation. 

Ivanova closed her presentation by talking about how we tend to imitate each other’s forms of speaking and naming things in order to ease communication and gain rapport easily. She added that this imitation process can also be helpful while learning or during therapy sessions.  

Ivanova was the one who suggested the topic of bilingualism and helped Curry and Centennial Museum director Daniel Carey-Whalen with the event.  

(Ivanova) had attended some of our other Nerd Nights, really liked them and said she wanted to do one on bilingualism,” Curry said. “She actually helped us get all the speakers together.”  

The last speaker of the night was Angie Reza Tures, the director of Femme Frontera, a group composed of six female filmmakers who advocate for an increase in films made by women living on the border, according to  its website.  

Reza Tures first explained how camera angles were used in movies to convey different visual messages. She played four movie clips and, after each clip ended, asked the audience what messages were in them and how the camera angles were used to convey them.  

Reza Tures closed her presentation and the event by talking about Femme Frontera’s annual showcase. For more information, visit 

Insights and the Centennial Museum have hosted Nerd Nights since 2017, usually in places like restaurants or bars to make learning fun, according to Carey-Whalen.  

“We wanted to be in a social environment. It’s kind of a fun way of learning as opposed to a classroom,” Carey-Whalen said. 

The presentations started at about 7:15 p.m., once most attendees finished their meals at the restaurant located at 401 E. Nevada Ave. 

For information regarding Insights, other activities or the upcoming Nerd Night Friday, Sept. 13, visit  

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About the Contributor
Alexia X. Nava Carmona
Alexia Xiomara Nava Carmona is a junior majoring in Multimedia Journalism at UTEP and copy editor at The Prospector, the university newspaper. She is in charge of making sure all articles and stories follow AP Style and are grammatically correct. She is a bilingual Mexican who crossed the bridge every day to comply with her obligations as a student and a reporter.
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Nerd Night covers bilingualism and the border