Illinois State University’s Latin American and Latino/a studies program is spotlighting faculty member John Baldwin.
Baldwin is an affiliated faculty in the Latin American and Latino studies program. He is a professor in the School of Communication, teaching courses on culture, communication theory, and qualitative research methods. This year he received the 2016 Outstanding University Teacher Award!
Baldwin went to college in Abilene, Texas, and following college lived in Brazil for two years. He has a master’s degree from Abilene Christian University and a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Baldwin’s dissertation was an in-depth interview study of whites’ perception of what constitutes racist communication.
Baldwin explains that he has tried to change his teaching from a delivery of content approach to more discussions and class exercises. In several of his courses, he uses formative writing projects, where students work on a portion of a paper and then meet with him to improve it and take his feedback. While this is a lot of work, it transitions teaching from a passive-receptive and evaluative approach to more of a mentoring approach.
Baldwin has also moved from a multicultural perspective in his courses—which (merely) values the contributions of different cultures and promotes understanding of cultural difference—to an approach informed by feminism and anti-racism. “While I am not in the classroom to ‘preach’ ideology to the students, I hope through class investigations to help them become aware not only of difference but of the role of power structures in sometimes maintaining and describing difference,” Baldwin said.
Because of his teaching approach, Baldwin does a great amount of work with graduate and independent study students. This semester alone, he is chairing or co-chairing six theses and an independent study! He is also working with two different students on journal articles. Baldwin enjoys mentoring students to go to regional and national conferences whenever possible.
On top of everything else Baldwin undertakes, he mentors undergraduate students in research in some of his classes. His students’ topics range from social scientific (e.g., survey or quasi-experimental design), projects on language attitudes (i.e., language prejudice), and cross-cultural acculturation to interpretive/humanistic and interpretive studies on all topics of culture and difference. Student topics have included the communicative experiences of Latino men who have sex with men, the communicative meaning of foodways among Mexican American women in Miami, and messages Latino high schoolers have received that encourage or discourage higher education.
When Baldwin is not busy working, he loves to travel! He has been to about 20 different countries, including several in Latin America (Chile, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Panama).