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Alumni Profile: Hillary Birdsong

Hillary Birdsong, a 2014 M.A. graduate, is using what she learned from the program in her position as adjunct instructor at SLU as well as in her personal training business. 

Hillary Birdsong


How long were you in the program?

After three and a half years, I graduated from the program in 2014.

What have you been doing since receiving your M.A. from SLU?

Upon graduation, I continued to teach Spanish at SLU as an adjunct professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. I am still doing that, but I have also created a successful personal training business. I started taking classes for it in 2016, and then began picking up clients here and there in my free time. At the gym where I started training, I was able to use my knowledge of Spanish and Hispanic cultures to communicate with Spanish-speaking clients.

The head trainer would pair me up with any clients who spoke Spanish, as I was the only bilingual trainer at that particular gym. Being paired up with more clients gave me the experience and the confidence to branch out and talk to more people about training.

Currently I train nineteen clients, and the business is continuing to grow. I am also currently taking classes to become a physical therapist assistant, where my Spanish skills will help me get a job. My two-year goal is to be a part time physical therapist assistant/on-site translator, as well as a part time personal trainer. 

What is the title of your current position?

My current positions are Spanish adjunct instructor and personal trainer.

In what ways did the SLU M.A. program prepare you for what you do today? 

Going through the SLU M.A. program helped me improve my proficiency in the Spanish language. I had previously lived in Chile and Spain, but nothing helped me hone my skills like the intensive reading and writing that this program requires. Also, my peers in the program were mostly Latinos, which provided a global Hispanic immersion experience for me; I was immediately engulfed and constantly surrounded by the cultures of Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, and Colombia simultaneously.

Socializing with my new Latino family, while also being absorbed by the topics of the classes I was taking, swept me into an alternative universe and a higher plane of awareness. The classes were hard work, but I am extremely grateful for the entire experience because I learned so much. My master's degree gave me grit, time management skills, and a mind that is more open and understanding of the world than it was before.