Professor of Spanish; Chair, Department of Culture, Arts, and LanguagesJoined USJ: 1996
“Every one of your dreams are possible,” Diana Valencia proudly tells her Spanish language students, “if you really want them and stay focused.” She knows that to be true, first-hand. As a child growing up in Mexico, she successfully earned an advanced degree and became a member of the faculty at her alma mater, Universidad Autónoma in Guadalajara. Later she dreamed of continuing her education, and applied to be one of 10 individuals worldwide to receive a graduate Fellowship to pursuit a Ph.D. in Spanish in the United States. “I wanted an international perspective of the Hispanic civilization, its language and literature — and that’s precisely what I received at the University of New York at Stony Brook” with faculty members and students from nearly all the Spanish speaking world. She next completed her dissertation on Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, at Hartford’s Trinity College — having been selected for the sole Spanish graduate fellow position available — and resumed teaching, as well.
Language Plus Culture
Dr. Valencia savors the small classes at Saint Joseph, where she can work one-on-one with students while achieving class objectives and as an advisor. She has seen an evolution in student priorities, as the intensity to learn literature has been eclipsed by a more practical approach of learning Spanish to improve career prospects. She recognizes the importance of responding to student interests — and does, adjusting the entire program to the present needs — but continues to provide a broader context than language alone. “I want them to understand culture. Learning language without learning its culture provides only half the benefit.” She teaches almost entirely in Spanish, which can be challenging for students, but ultimately incredibly rewarding.
“We are in the global era,” she emphasizes, noting that the curriculum has become more interdisciplinary as the world has been more intertwined and interdependent. Courses integrate web activities, and textbooks are changed regularly to ensure currency. “Civilization is always evolving. We need to rearticulate our perspectives.” Dr. Valencia is a true believer in the value of study abroad. The requirement that language majors spend a semester in a Spanish-speaking nation, she says, is tremendously beneficial, not only in advancing language skills but in broadening horizons. She has presented her academic work internationally, at JALLA in Perú and Chile, LASA, Guadalajara and Chicago, MLA in San Francisco, and FIL Guadalajara.
“I am a very goal oriented person. One challenging goal at the time,” Dr. Valencia says, as evidenced by her career achievements. A writer as well as a professor, her book published in Mexico on Octavio Paz´s Modernity essays earned a national award. She will devote her 2014 sabbatical leave to revise the manuscript and translate it into English, along with Dr. Wayne Steely, to be published in the U.S. Active in developing cultural activities, such us the yearly Foreign Language Film Festival on campus, she says, “The University and my students are my family in America. I’m very comfortable here, building a diverse community of understanding.”
Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook
M.A., State University of New York at Stony Brook
B.A., Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, México