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Thorndike joins faculty as part of GPH Triad

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – The newest faculty member in Monmouth College’s Global Public Health Triad has a truly global background.

Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Jennifer Thorndike comes to Monmouth from Lima, Peru, with a six-year stop in Philadelphia. She is an assistant professor in the department of modern languages, literatures and cultures, which joins psychology and kinesiology to make up the College’s second innovative Triad, following Global Food Security.

“It was a real fit for me and very related to my dissertation,” said Thorndike of the Triad teaching position. “I wrote about illness in Latin American literature.”

Thorndike, who joined the faculty this fall, is looking forward to the spring semester, when she’ll teach two Triad courses – one a language course for students interested in medical careers, and the other called “Life, Values and Death.”

“It’s a course related to the body, but with a broad perspective,” she said. “We’re just starting a lot of things that we can do to have the correct fusion between language and the other elements of the Global Public Health Triad. ... A big part of it for me is to show through culture how you can have an approach to illness – a more cultural approach – hopefully showing the students something they probably didn’t know.”

Thorndike said that opening the world to her students is her main focus when teaching.

“The most important thing for me is that students get information that makes them think differently from the way they used to think – not to change their minds, necessarily, but to show them the other ways to think,” she said.

Thorndike came to the United States six years ago to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in Hispanic and Portuguese studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She was an Hispanic and Portuguese department instructor at Penn last year.

Thorndike said that when she was an undergraduate student literature was something “I really wanted to study, but I studied communication” at Instituto Peruano de Publicidad in Lima.

She’s made up for that, focusing much of her time since on reading and writing. On the writing side, she’s published two novels and two collections of short stories.

As for reading, “I’m a total geek. I read all the time,” she said, including popular culture, graphic novels and academic works.
“My favorite author is (the late Austrian) Thomas Bernhard,” she said. “He’s very reflexive. You see things that are truth that you don’t want to accept. It’s complex and difficult. You think, ‘I can’t believe I’m feeling these things.’ I like authors who tell you things that are difficult to accept.”

Thorndike said she also enjoys leading discussions of literature with her students.

“You can have these connections with students,” she said. “The discussions can be really good. They can say things you’ve never thought of before.”

After living in Lima and the Philadelphia metro area, with populations of 10 and 6 million, respectively, living in a town the size of Monmouth is a relatively new experience for her. But she said she appreciates having extra time to get involved in activities such as exercise and the College’s Concert Choir, which is open to faculty as well as students.