People of IWU: Q&A with poet and professor Joanne Diaz

Liz Stein, Staff Writer

If you’ve spent any time on the first floor of CLA, you have probably run into Professor Joanne Diaz. Petite human, enormous enthusiastic personality, great Boston accent. You can’t miss her. She is IWU’s Isaac Funk Endowed Professor of English, the co-host of the Poetry For All podcast and an immensely talented poet herself. 

As a shameless plug that she did not ask for, I have to hype the summer course that she is teaching this year, HUM102: The World of Ideas.

 It fulfills an IT credit requirement. The course will cover literary, musical, philosophical, religious and historical changes from medieval times through the renaissance.  

Despite her incredibly busy schedule with finals coming up, advising appointments, and the senior seminar course to oversee, Professor Diaz was able to spare a few minutes to answer questions for “The Argus.”

  1. What first brought you to IWU? 

My job, of course. I got my PhD at Northwestern University. While I was finishing my dissertation, I saw a job listing for Illinois Wesleyan, and I eagerly applied for the position. 

  1. How long have you taught at the university?

I’ve been teaching at IWU since 2008. 

  1. Do you have a favorite memory here on campus? If so, care to share?

I have a lot of happy memories, but my favorites include the times that I’ve taken students on excursions to the Newberry Library and other sites in Chicago.

 I also loved being the director of the IWU in Barcelona program back in 2017. I really enjoyed watching students grow through that experience. 

  1. Are there any groups that you are involved in on campus?

I am the faculty adviser for Sigma Tau Delta, the English honors society. I am really proud of their achievements and of the programming that they support. 

They did so much to plan Jonah Mixon-Webster’s craft talk and poetry reading on campus back in February, and their work really paid off. They do so much to sustain the intellectual community on campus. 

  1. What is your favorite place on campus?

I love my office. I have these built-in bookcases that accommodate all of my books. I associate each book with a time in my life, or an interesting course, and that brings me a lot of joy. 

I also love the Ames Library. When I’m working on a draft of an article or a sequence of poems, I like to use those big tables to lay everything out. I also love the big windows…and the librarians, of course.

  1. Do you have any advice for students? It can be about school, writing, life, anything.

My wish is that all of us can throw our phones out the window, take more walks and write more poems. All three of those things are related.

 If we put the phones away, we’ll remember how to imagine, how to dream, how to listen to our own thoughts. 

If we take more walks, we can notice a bluebell flower, the sound of a bird in spring, a constellation, and then be moved to write. 

When we share our interiority, we share our fingerprint with the world. My wish is that we lean into what makes us uniquely human.

  1. Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I was a classical musician in my young life, and I performed in many beautiful concert halls–including Symphony Hall in Boston. Very fancy.

  1. What did you play?

The ol’ clarinoodle. (clarinet ) 

Professor Diaz is a pillar of IWU. Not only is she an amazing professor and poet, last spring she won “Academic Advisor of the Year.” If you have the opportunity to take one of her classes, do not hesitate. You will thoroughly enjoy your time and learn so much.