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Jenny Rademacher

FAVORITE CITIES

In the U.S., I love D.C., Boston, San Francisco. In Spain, Valencia and San Sebastián. In Latin America, Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

FAVORITE VACATION

Any vacation with my husband and four children. So, so glad to have this time all together.

FAVORITE HOBBY

Oh, a hobby sounds so luxurious! I like to run, bike, and spend all the time outdoors that I can. But a hobby—I’m looking forward to that.

FAVORITE TV SHOWS

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Modern Family, Project Runway, Downton Abbey. And I have to admit, rather guiltily, to watching Dance Moms with my daughters. I know it’s scripted, but it makes me glad for my own life anyway.

Photo: Tom Kates

 

From Capitol Hill to the Classroom

A winding career path and a small town led Jenny Rademacher to the profession she loves.

By Donna Coco

The word “fun” comes up a lot when you talk about teaching with Jenny Rademacher, assistant professor of Spanish and director of the language program. But as a young professional, she didn’t envision herself a teacher. It was a small, Southern town that nudged her toward the career she would come to love, one that combines a passion for Spanish and Latin American cultures with what Rademacher calls the “invigorating” atmosphere of the classroom.

Rademacher’s original undergraduate major at Harvard was premed, but the department was huge and left her feeling disconnected. An interest in travel and international affairs brought her to Salamanca, Spain, for the summer after her sophomore year. “I really loved it,” she says. “The people are wonderful, and you can walk everywhere.” Coming home, she switched her major to Spanish literature. Her junior year, she spent another semester in Salamanca.

After college, Rademacher and her husband wound up in the Washington, D.C., area, and Rademacher went to work on Capitol Hill for then-Rep. Ron Machtley, eventually becoming his chief of staff. A close group of Spanish-speaking friends kept her language skills well honed, as did trips to Spain and Latin America. She also earned an MA in economics and international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies with the aim of leaving the Hill to become a consultant. Indeed a job offer with McKinsey & Co. would have had her living three weeks in the States and three weeks in Latin America. However, the welcome arrival of their first daughter derailed those plans; the long hours and travel of consulting didn’t mesh with a new baby. So she stayed on the Hill.

A few years later, she and her husband moved for his job to a small town in Virginia. “Coming from D.C., I was not prepared. By that time I had two little girls, and I didn’t know what I was going to do in a small, Southern town,” she says. After some searching, Rademacher began working in the president’s office of the nearby Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, writing speeches and acting as a special assistant. When a job teaching Spanish opened, she jumped at the opportunity. Turns out, she loved the classroom. “I decided what I wanted to do is teach.”

Rademacher set about earning her PhD in Spanish literature from the University of Virginia, focusing her dissertation on contemporary Spanish literature and Spanish society’s search for truth after the death of dictator Francisco Franco. Whenever she could make it work, Rademacher also took teaching fellowships. Ten years, four moves, and two more daughters later (yes, that’s a total of four), she finished.

Although the trip to the graduation podium felt long to Rademacher, the timing proved just right for coming to Babson, which happened to have an opening for a language professor. “I remember reading the ad for the position and telling my husband, ‘This would be perfect,’” she says, thinking at Babson she could draw on not only her Spanish but also her economics background. She came on board and hasn’t been disappointed. “It’s a business school, obviously, but it has such a deep reach into so many different things. I think it really is this interdisciplinary laboratory. I’ve loved that aspect of it,” she says.

Rademacher fills two roles at the College, one as the director of languages and global cultures, which includes managing faculty, building programs to create more course offerings, and helping clear a way for languages and offshore experiences to fit into the curriculum. “We want to reward students who go to the effort to take a language so they can market that skill externally and apply it to other aims and goals,” she says. “Even if they’re not fluent, it would be very useful for them to say they can navigate in a culture successfully.”

But it’s her other role as assistant professor that excites her the most. Coming to Babson, she had lots of ideas for courses. “I love crafting a course,” says Rademacher. “I have this whole list of different things I think would be fun to teach.”

The first course she developed draws partially on her dissertation: “After the Dictator” looks at post-dictator societies in Spain, Chile, and Argentina. The initial time she taught it, just a small group of students signed up. The next time, the class filled and typically has ever since. “It was fun to have this broader group of kids,” she says. “It was fun, too, because at first it was a lot more Latin American students, and now it’s kids from all over. A lot of them are domestic kids who don’t really have any exposure to dictatorships, or sometimes they’re from other countries that have some kind of colonial or dictatorship background. So they all bring a really interesting perspective.”

Rademacher also developed “Living La Vida Latina,” which uses various forms of art and popular culture to look at experiences that have shaped the U.S. Latino population. “I wanted to figure out a course that deals with U.S. Latino culture and how much we’re changing in this country,” she says. This class fills to capacity, too. Two more courses are brewing in her head, one that looks at Brazilian literature and culture, another that’s less defined but would be taught in Spanish and focus on an economic or business model.

“I love being in the classroom,” says Rademacher. “To have that relationship with young people keeps you thinking about things in different ways. A lot of things you do in your job just kind of continue along, but every time you teach, you get to start again. You have a whole fresh group of students who look at things differently. I always learn something new. It’s always fun because it refreshes.”

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