Who I Am

My name is Javier Jiménez Westerman, and I created this site primarily to communicate with colleagues near and far about my academic research and teaching interests. That was before, when I considered myself fully invested in university life, even though I had voluntarily and purposefully left the tenure-track faculty world. While I still work in “the academy,” being a (tenured) professor is certainly no longer a destination. What I am supposed to do next lies just beyond my reach–I just have to imagine it.

Javier Jimenez Westerman
It me

Like most immigrants to the United States, my story is both exceptional and very common place. Common place because my parents brought my sisters and me to this country so that we could take advantage of the great educational opportunities here. Exceptional because my educational attainment is unusual for first-generation immigrants. Underneath it all, I like to think I’m regular folk…regular folk that just happens to enjoy some of the finer things in life.

I was born and raised in the Dominican Republic until the age of 10, at which point my family moved to New York City (Elmhurst, Queens to be exact). After spending two years in Queens, learning English and trying to figure out a new and bewildering world, my family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. Though I grew to like Springfield, my early experience with New York City made we want to go there for college. I spent most of my high school years working hard so that I could get the grades I needed to get into college in New York. Happily, I did and got into my dream school, New York University.

Through a series of puzzling and unwelcome circumstances, I did not get to go to NYU, and I was very disappointed. I did, however, attend Columbia University. Not having gone to NYU, I can’t definitively say that my experience at Columbia was “better” than what it would have been at NYU. But I do know that I made some amazing friends there, and that unbeknownst to me the university afforded me with a top-notch education (surprise, surprise!). I would happily realize just how good my education was when I entered a Master’s program in English Literature at San Francisco State University and later the PhD program in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley.

After earning my PhD in 2012, I moved to southeastern Ohio to take a post as a professor of Latin American literature and culture at small college there. For three years, I taught courses in Spanish language (all levels), and upper division courses in Latin American literature and culture. You can take a look at my CV at the time of leaving the tenure track here.

While in Ohio, I noticed many things. Some were a surprise and some were not. For example, it became clearer than ever that I enjoyed teaching, guiding students, and the workings of a college. Research was fine, but it wasn’t clicking–nor did I have time to really engage in it (I had negotiated a 3-3 teaching load, which was less than most other professors at the college, but even though I had to teach less courses, each course was its own unique prep). It was also clear that it would be very feasible for me to get tenure, and that if I stayed long enough to get it, I (and my now husband) would be trapped there forever.

It might seem like I am being shady toward the town and college (the college did treat me reasonably well), but that’s now what I mean. I’m a big city, coastal kind of person. That’s the kind of life I most prefer. It didn’t make sense to commit to a life in which I was going to voluntarily choose against not only what I wanted but also give up the ability to choose–while at the same time having to be thankful for the tenure “prize.” So, we chose keeping the ability to make choices and left Ohio for Washington, DC.

I have now lived for six years in the DMV, and it seems like the universe keeps rewarding me for that choice, personally and professionally. Even during a global pandemic, I have a lot of privileges, and I am grateful and humbled by how lucky and stable my life is.

I have lived and continue to live nothing short of a charmed life.

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