Meet Dr. Jennifer Rathbun
Dr. Rathbun will be joining the College of Sciences and Humanities faculty this fall as the new Department Chair of Modern Languages and Classics and a Spanish professor.
Where do you call home?
While I grew up in the heartland of America, my heart belongs to Mexico and I call home wherever I am with my family. Now I have the pleasure of calling BSU and Muncie my home as well and mi casa es su casa.
Education and professional background?
Like our BSU students, I am a state-school educated professor. I completed my Ph.D. in Spanish specializing in contemporary Latin American Literature at the University of Arizona in 2002. I received my MA in Spanish and my BA in Psychology and Spanish from Wichita State University. After completing my doctorate, I relocated to MA with my family where I worked at UMASS Amherst and Mt. Holyoke College. Then, I relocated to OH where I taught at The Ohio State University before accepting my first tenure-track position at Ashland University where I worked for fourteen years.
What initially drew you to your field of study?
As a college freshman I enrolled in Spanish to complete my graduation language requirement. I chose it since the United States is the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world and I knew it would benefit any career I would wind up pursuing. What I didn’t know at that time was that I was on the verge of discovering my life’s calling.
In that first Spanish college class I learned of a Sister’s Cities grant that would support travel to Mexico. I had the great honor of being a recipient of one of those grants and with it I taught English to a hundred sixth graders in a public elementary school and completely fell in love with the language, cultures and people.
What is your research focus?
I am a translator of poetry. As a translator, I have published sixteen complete poetic works by Mexican poets Alberto Blanco, Minerva Margarita Villarreal, Juan Armando Rojas Joo, Fernando Carrera and Ivan Vergara and Colombian poet Carlos Satizábal, Spanish poet Maripaz Moreno and world author Indran Amirthanayagam. Two of my publications will actually be released during my first week at BSU.
Additionally, I am co-editor of the anthologies of poetry Sangre mía / Blood of Mine: Poetry of Border Violence, Gender and Identity in Ciudad Juárez (2013) and Canto a una ciudad en el desierto (2004). I have also published more than fifty poetic translations of Hispanic authors in prestigious national and international reviews and journals such as The Dirty Goat, Terre Incognita, Prism International, and International Poetry Review. I am the author of the poetry collection El libro de traiciones / The Book of Betrayals (2021) which should be released this July. Lastly, I am a member of The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) and serve on their membership committee.
What drew you to Ball State? Any goals for your first year here?
I love how our motto at BSU is “We Fly” – I was ready to fly to new horizons. The position at BSU seemed like it was perfect for me and I know that in my new position as Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics and Professor of Spanish, I will fly higher than ever before.
My first year here at BSU I aspire to share my love of languages and cultures and contribute to the growth of the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. The BSU students I had the pleasure of interacting with during my interview process were stellar and I can’t wait to work directly with them.
What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy listening to classical music, attending live music performances, spending time with my own college-aged children and playing with my chocolate Labradors.
Anything else to help to CSH community get to know you?
My love of languages goes hand in hand with my love of cultures so I really enjoy traveling whenever I can. I’ve been to eleven different countries (there’s many more on my bucket list!) including Argentina, Finland, Germany, Mexico and Spain.
As a language professor I’ve always been a strong advocate for linguistic justice and representation. This has led me to be a DEIB ally. In academia, we are just now beginning to recognize the fact that historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged populations have encountered obstacles and obstructions in their access to higher education whether they are seeking employment or a degree. Furthermore, the authorized administrative structures and knowledge commonly taught in university settings have further marginalized and disenfranchised these groups. As a bilingual, and first- generation female scholar, my entire academic career in the United States has been forged by provoking these systems to work differently—to do and be better.
I firmly believe that diversity, equity and inclusion are sine qua non qualities for any institution in order to succeed in today’s world. Most importantly, as a mother of two Hispanic college students myself, I feel a deep and personal moral obligation to improve the lives and lived experiences of every college student.
DEI efforts improve the college experience for all students and constituents of the university community. I personally pledge to pursue my DEIB efforts in every post and in every way I am able.
For more information about the Department of Modern Languages and Classics, visit our website, contact our office, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.