Arts & Culture / Mosaic / September 27, 2017

From student to professor: Jessie Dixon-Montgomery

Professor of Modern Languages Jessie Dixon-Montgomery reflects on her time in Barcelona as a student at Knox, Sept. 27 (Julian Blye/TKS)

Jessie Dixon-Montgomery ‘89 expanded her sense of community when she traveled to Barcelona with Knox College’s study abroad program. Now, Dixon-Montogomery directs the same Barcelona program she once attended as a student.

Almost thirty-two years later, Dixon-Montgomery now serves as an Associate Professor and Burkhardt Distinguished Chair of Modern Languages. Over her years at Knox, Dixon-Montgomery recalled, much has changed and much has remained the same.

The Barcelona program she once attended, for example, she now directs.

“I always tell students, go abroad, go abroad! It’s like nothing else, You’re like family,” Dixon-Montgomery said. She pointed to her windowsill in her office, where a photograph of the students who studied on the 2007 program she directed stands inches beside the posed, elementary school picture of her own daughter.

As a student in Barcelona, Dixon-Montgomery felt a close familial bond with her. She recalled one night when her host mother, Pilar, went out of her way to make Dixon-Montgomery feel happy and at home.

“I was walking back one night, and it happened to be my birthday. I opened the door, and–Surprise! Surprise!… I remember Tatiana [saying] , ‘¿Sopresa, sí?’”Dixon-Montgomery said

As an only child from Chicago, Dixon-Montgomery’s first experience with a sibling was with her host sister, Tatiana.

“We still keep in contact on Facebook. My house sister, my little sister, just had a baby,” Dixon-Montgomery said.

Several other organizations that Dixon-Montgomery participated in still thrive at Knox, including ABLE, International Club, Spanish Club, musical fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota and the Knox College Choir. As a professor, Dixon-Montgomery sings with the choir at her church in Peoria and she still eats meals with students, faculty and staff at the Spanish Table.

“One thing that has changed is the diversity, the domestic diversity,” Dixon-Montgomery said. She noted that the college has been intentional about this in recent years.

“Being an African-American on campus was rare… Especially in a class setting, sometimes being one of 18 or two of 18 was uncomfortable. Not always, but there were moments when it was hard,” Dixon-Montgomery said. “I don’t know if students today meet that still, or the same way, but domestic diversity has changed.”

Dixon-Montgomery remembered Fred L. Hord as the first black professor “coming for the long haul” in her senior year in 1988. The faculty, she said, has also changed since she became a professor in 1994.

“We really fought for a more diverse faculty,” she said.

The constant which began her career, of course, was her love of other languages and cultures.

“I think it started with Sesame Street. That’s my earliest memory. The Count, you know. Uno! Dos! Tres! Cuatro!” Dixon-Montgomery said. “I kept going.”

Tricia Duke

Tags:  Burkhardt Distinguished Chair Jessie Dixon-Montgomery mosaic professor profile

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