By Bailey Owens, ’23
Joann Quiñones has been a professor at Earlham College since 2004, creating new opportunities for students and serving as a role model for many first-generation, low-income, and minority students both in the classroom and in conjunction with the McNair program.
According to its website, the McNair Program is a federal program that is “designed to prepare undergraduate students for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities.”
Quiñones is the former director of the McNair Program as well as the writer behind the grant that secured funding for the program. Quiñones’s dedication to students like herself has been one of her greatest gifts to the college.
Also a first generation student from Brooklyn, New York City, the thought of even attending college was a strange idea for Quiñones and her family. She stated that after having gone through frustration due to application fees for colleges she had actually, “ripped up all my college applications.” However, through the help of her guidance counselor she was able to receive a scholarship to Rutgers University to study English. A similar series of events landed her in the McNair Program, and allowed her to attend graduate school. This is one of the reasons that she was able to give back to Earlham in a “concrete way,” by writing the grant that helped establish the program here on campus.
Quiñones has both studied and taught English for most of her academic career and has contributed significantly to the curriculum of the English program at Earlham, in establishing it as a program that is “changing and responsive to the discipline, to the needs of the students, and the mission of the school.” One way that these values have been established is in the focus of content courses on topics such as peace and justice, genre, and literary theory, rather than a focus on periodization.
In addition to her curriculum work, Quiñones has greatly contributed to the new creative writing major at Earlham, is currently teaching creative writing classes this minimester, and recently facilitated a reading with Aaron Coleman from his book Threat Come Close, all while still publishing her own writing.
Outside of her work in English, Joann has also been a part of the African and African American Studies program. She has taught courses about literature within the African Diaspora, specifically in African American and Caribbean Literature, which has been a long-term focus in her own writing.
One of Quiñones’s favorite parts of Earlham is the opportunities she was not only able to have for herself, but also with other students like herself. With Earlham, she was able to travel abroad for the first time in her life. She explained that during her own time as an undergraduate student she couldn’t have imagined studying abroad, as she felt like she was already living in a different world. She emphasizes “how much your world view opens and shifts when you go to other places.”
In her time here, she was able to have new global opportunities, such as attending conferences in the UK, teaching in Switzerland, and traveling to the Middle East on a faculty development trip. She was also able to lead the study abroad program in London and was able to bring McNair students on the trip with her. She states, “That opportunity to really put your money where your mouth is, step up and realize that part of the responsibility of your faculty is to be a role model to students. I can’t tell you that you need to study abroad if I’ve never actually studied abroad. We do it together.”
Joann stated that she felt very lucky to have an upcoming opportunity to work at Alfred University. She stated that she has never really had the opportunity to find what she was truly passionate about. During her trip with faculty in the Middle East, she had a layover in Paris and while there she spent 5 days travelling between museums and viewing art. It was then that she realized her true passion was art. After her return to Earlham, she realized she finally had to take her own advice, and just go for it. “What happens if you take yourself seriously?” she said. “What happens if you give yourself the time to just pursue what you enjoy?”
She began to “crash” all of her colleagues’ art classes on campus, and after taking all of the available classes here she went on to get her MFA from Indiana University. She says, “I attribute [my MFA] to the ethos at Earlham. You have to awaken the teacher within, you’re a continuous learner, and I take that seriously. I love English, I love literature … but there’s something that is like fire when I’m thinking about art.”
If you would like to view some of Joann’s previous art work or the many awards she has received, please visit her website at joannquinones.com.