English, Theatre and Foreign Languages is happy to welcome Diana Lee as one of our new colleagues this term. As she has gotten settled in, Diana appreciates the atmosphere of the department and the “down-to-earth” attitude of UNCP folks.
Lee grew up far from Braves territory, in Santa Clara, CA — the center of Silicon Valley. She “absolutely loved” her high school Spanish classes but discovered, on a trip to Mexico, that she could barely hold conversations with local people. She made becoming fluent her goal and chose a major in Spanish before she even started her BA at Pepperdine University,.
At Pepperdine, she earned her degree in Spanish and International Studies. Her first day of study abroad in Argentina was September 11, 2001; that traumatic event encouraged her to commit herself to educating US citizens “about the broader issues of life outside the US, specifically focusing on Hispanic populations. ” She went on to earn a Masters in Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and a Masters and PhD in Spanish at UC- Riverside. Eventually, she found that she could not only have conversations in Spanish about daily life, but also discuss important ideas. In addition, she realized that language changes us — “When I speak to people in Spanish, I am different than when I speak in English. Studying Spanish has been a fun, frustrating, and fulfilling journey.”
During her undergraduate studies she learned an important lesson about academic perseverance: the class “Modern Christian Thought” was “one of the most challenging classes” she’d ever taken, and she felt she understood little of the reading. Still, the professor encouraged her and her classmates to keep reading, even if they felt they didn’t fully understand. Lee continued to work hard, and two years later, in seminary, she says “much of what I learned earlier began to click! I often take that as an encouragement when my students get frustrated with their lack of understanding because I know that learning is a process and that expecting to comprehend and master everything after one class is impossible.”
From her own experience, Lee has this encouraging advice to students: “It’s okay to be confused, it’s okay to be uncomfortable, and it’s okay to sound stupid. It’s not okay to give up because of those problems. Try to make learning fit with what interests you, even if it’s in small ways.”
In her Spanish language classes, Lee teaches nouns and verbs, of course, but her scholarship focuses on 20th and 21st century Latin American literature, and she often uses critical theory to analyze texts, so she has much in common with her English-language literature colleagues. Outside of class (also like many of her colleagues!) she occasionally curls up with a Harry Potter novel for some “comfort reading”; she also likes to run at a “slow jog” and watch documentaries about food and the environment. ETFL looks forward to learning, teaching, reading, and watching films with Diana Lee!