We Are Knox...
Associate Professor and Chair of Modern Languages (Spanish)
At Knox Since: 1994
After graduating from Knox College with a bachelor's degree in Spanish, Jessie
Dixon continued her studies at The University of Chicago, earning a master's
degree and a doctorate, and returned to the Knox campus as a faculty member.
She has served as on-site director for Knox's study abroad programs in Barcelona, Spain; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Besancon, France. Her scholarly interests include Latino identities, Afro-Carribean literature, and Cuban underground hip-hop.
What brought you to Knox as an undergraduate?
The fact that there's a small student-to-faculty ratio was really helpful because I thought, "If I need some extra attention, I'm more likely to get it at Knox." And I was determined to go abroad. Also, the reputation stood out. My mother was looking at the schools. She said, "Knox, yes, that has a very good academic reputation." My family doctor said, "Knox College. That's a very good college."
What is it about Knox that brought you back as a faculty member?
After going to graduate school, I could see the difference in education and the overall college experience at a small, liberal arts college and that in a larger institution. I wanted to work with students in a closer setting, be able to advise them, to nurture them, work with students and let them know: "Yes, you can actually do this. We will work with you. I will help to get you on track to get the grades and to decide what your future is going to be."
That is really the main thing that excited me about a place like Knox.
How would you describe academic life at Knox?
Intense. It's not a bad thing, but it is intense, and we move at a fast pace. For us, it's not overwhelming. It's exciting and rewarding. Students are intense. They're engaged in learning more. They have a true zeal for knowledge. They want to learn, they want to discuss, they want to do things that positively impact their lives and the lives of others.
I like that. It's an environment that is conducive to learning for everyone.
You often encourage students to study abroad. Why is that important?
A lot of times, when you just stay in the U.S., you have this vision of the world that is very, very limited. If you're here, whether you're from underrepresented groups or not, you have this vision that there's one dominant culture, this American culture, and that's the way it should be for everybody. You don't stop to analyze why we do the things we do, why we do them the way we do.
Every student that has gone abroad has come back and said, "Wow, I just feel totally different. I'm looking at things in a very different light." I think it's really good when they go abroad, move outside of their comfort zone, and expand their mindset. (Photo above right: Jessie Dixon with Knox students in Barcelona, Spain.)
Do you have any advice for students who are considering studying at Knox?
I would tell them to definitely work on their writing skills because they're going to do a lot of writing at Knox. I would tell them to talk to Knox students. Find out what they're reading and take the time to read some of those texts. Get a feel for what the workload is like, what's going to be expected.