Faculty Spotlight on Joan Fox | A Rich Legacy

Submitted by Holly J Winters on

On the second floor of Padelford Hall, Joan Fox, Lecturer and First-Year Language Coordinator, inhabits an office brimming with evidence of a full career and a love of Latin culture: a Mexican mirror adorned with sculpted metal hummingbirds, an old Kuna Yala mola from Panama, and an intricate Peruvian weaving, to name a few. Even the colors of her walls give one a sense of being somewhere other than Seattle.

Fox, who will be retiring this December, began her time at UW as a PhD student in 1979. Her BA in Spanish is from UC Irvine and her Masters in Hispanic and Italian Studies is from the University of British Columbia. In addition to her PhC (ABD), Fox holds a teaching degree and a MATESOL from UW.

After teaching for two years in the public schools, Fox joined the UW Spanish Department in 1990 through the New Entry Level Initiative, designed to improve first year programs. “I was hired one month before classes started,” laughed Fox. “It was an easy fit because I knew everyone and knew the system.”

That was 23 years ago.

In addition to her duties as First-Year Language Program Coordinator, Fox teaches six classes. “The main thrust these last two years,” Fox explained, “has been adapting to a new text book, a new curriculum and helping implement the TA training. As Chair of the Events Committee, Fox is responsible for overseeing orientation events in the fall, the division’s holiday party and the graduation celebration at the end of the year.

Fox also works as a liaison between UW and Washington State public high schools that offer for-credit college level Spanish classes. “In 2008, largely because of the financial crisis, a change in graduation requirements resulted in reduced enrollment in our elementary classes,” explained Fox. “This change impacted a long-standing program in which high schools offer 100-level and some 200-level classes, which give students five credits of Spanish 103 at UW.” Fox and two other liaisons work with the high schools to make sure the classes are up to par. “It’s not a departmental duty but it is related to UW and I will continue to do that after I retire,” said Fox.

Speaking of retirement, Fox and her husband plan to travel. A lot! For starters, they will join the UW’s Language Program in Quito, Ecuador, and piggyback on some of the program’s activities there, and then travel to the Galapagos Islands.  

Other travel plans include a cross-country road trip to Chicago, stopping at National Parks and visiting Native American museums. Fox has some relics that go back to the time of Custer that she wants to repatriate during this trip. And then, in the fall of 2014: Tuscany.

As for leaving her long career and her colorful office behind, Fox is at peace. “I feel fine about retiring,” she said, “because the department is in a good place.” Hiring a Language Program Director to oversee all the coordinators was a good move according to Fox. “It streamlined and coordinated the transition between levels,” she said. “Major responsibilities are being passed on to people who know what they are doing,” she added, “and I feel that I’m leaving the first year program in very good hands with Sabrina Spannagel.”

 “I have enjoyed every minute of my work life,” said Fox who is looking ahead but reflecting back on her choices and her career. “This job has allowed me to live my life the way I want to. We adopted a daughter thanks to my non-nine-to-five job and my summers off,” she added. It’s been wonderful said Fox, and now,  “It’s time to go!”

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