Joined USJ: 2009
Rachel Payne loves Latin America. A native of western New York, Payne worked at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina and visited or volunteered in most of Latin America. It was a trip to Mexico, however, that changed her world view. Payne recalls seeing both “intense poverty and joy,” a disparity that “fascinated” her. That experience also peaked her interest in cultural readings and novels, sparking a love for Latin American Literature. She earned her master’s degree in Latin American literature and language acquisition, developing an appreciation for both fields that she relays to her Spanish language students at USJ. Payne values the cultural diversity of USJ’s student population, noting it is common for half of her students to be “native or heritage speakers from different countries.“ To work with that kind of cultural and linguistic variety is why I got into language,” said Payne, who also speaks Italian and travels regularly to France. “You’re not going to get that in every college.”
Enamored with Latin American historical fiction, Payne sees a shift in perspective that casts women in dominant roles. Her research delves into literary strategies used by Latin American women authors and how men and women differ in their approach to the same historical topics in their writings. “I want students to think about the female perspective without becoming antagonistic about it,” said Payne. “I don’t want our students to define themselves by the male perspective. I want them to discover their own, point of view.”
The use of technology is a common thread in Payne’s language classes. Her students are required to explore and learn language through various multi-media platforms. “There is so much more opportunity for students to produce, hear, and interact with language outside of the classroom,” said Payne. Her interactive classes include dissecting and learning language through a variety of genres including comic strips, short stories, newspaper articles, and online short films. Payne said that these formats expose students to the nearly two dozen countries which have Spanish as their official language. She added that while students generally consume a lot of media, the use of various formats will not only help them to effectively communicate in a different language, but in global platforms.
DML, Middlebury College
M.A.,University of New Hampshire
B.A., Gordon College