JACKSON, Tenn. – Feb. 12, 2002 – Many professors have come and gone over the course of Union University’s history, but there are some that continue to enlighten young minds on this campus for decades. Celebrating her twenty-fifth anniversary at Union this year, Dr. Cynthia Jayne, director of international and intercultural studies, has been a part of many changes to the university, both campus-wide and within her own classrooms.
“When you have been at a place like Union,” Jayne said, “it’s wonderful to watch the institution grow and see how you have grown within it. Looking back is a wonderful experience.”
When Jayne first came to Jackson, her future with the university was uncertain. None of the area colleges were hiring, but after only being in the city for a month, she received a call from former Union president Hyran Barefoot telling her that Union was in need of a Spanish professor. She accepted a one-year contract to teach Spanish, followed by another one-year contract the next year, and the next, until she had become a permanent fixture in the department.
During her time at Union, Jayne said that she has seen major changes to the student body, particularly in the diversity of the students that attend.
“There are people here from many different countries and backgrounds and that dramatically impacts every aspect of the educational system,” Jayne said. “It changes the tone in classroom discussions and opens students to consider new perspectives. I’ve seen disagreements about a particular issue turn into discoveries because they challenge students to look at the world in a way they may have never considered before.”
As the director of the newly-founded intercultural studies program, Jayne said that she is very pleased with this diversity that extends not only to student body but within the faculty as well. The leadership team at Union is continually growing and changing including many women and minorities in positions of authority.
Outside of the university, Jayne often returns to her Baton Rouge, La., roots. The food of Louisiana is a very important part of this, and Jayne claims, “People would be surprised if they knew how many crawfish I can eat.”
She and her husband Keith, an engineer for Proctor and Gamble, live in Jackson. The mother of four adult children with families of their own, one of the most prominent features of her home is the ever-expanding garden that Jayne has developed over the years. When she first moved in, according to Jayne, there were just a few plants near the foundation, but that has grown considerably and continues to change often. Another favorite hobby is travel both within and outside of the United States. Of all of her many destinations, Spain has a special place in her heart and memories.
“It’s exciting to meet people of other cultures,” Jayne said. “It’s great to see all the wonderful sites and places that are so full of history, but when you meet the people for whom this is a part of everyday life, it adds an entirely different dimension to them.”
After twenty-five years, Jayne is excited to be moving in a new direction with the new undergraduate and Master of the Arts in Intercultural Studies programs.
“It’s been wonderful to be a part of such a caring community here at Union,” exclaimed Jayne. “It’s a good feeling to know that the university is willing to take risks with new programs like this one. I’ve always felt that regardless of the outcome of various projects I’ve been involved with, I’ve always been supported.”
By Jody Webster,
Class of 2004
Sara B. Horn,