As early as the eighth grade, Dr. Joan Supplee knew she wanted to be a historian. Crediting a particularly inspiring teacher, one who "could make everything come alive" for her career choice, she seems to have the same effect on her students. For her, though, they are the ones that inspire. When asked what gives her passion in her job as a history professor at Baylor, she replied, "The students. I could be having a bad day, have a great class, and come out fine." It shows in her office (a dried squid, a gift from a student who traveled to Japan, hangs above the light switch) and in her work, as well.
Originally Dr. Supplee wanted to teach U.S. history, crediting her eighth grade teacher as her inspiration. However, while working on a B.A. in history at what is now Arcadia College, the state announced that it would no longer certify social studies teachers in Pennsylvania, as there were too many already. Undaunted, she changed her emphasis to Latin American Studies, being drawn to the interdisciplinary aspect, and went on to receive a master's degree from LSU and a PhD from the University of Texas in the subject.
In addition to teaching in the Latin American Studies program at Baylor, Dr. Supplee also advises theses on everything from political science to religion, from mass media in Mexico to women’s roles in Latin American government. In fact, she has directed so many different topics that when asked which thesis has been her favorite, she stated that she could not choose just one. She admits “they’re all excellent in their own way”. She is also involved with the Baylor in Argentina program, which takes place in the city of Mendoza. Dr. Supplee gives lectures in the Waco community because she feels that it connects the people outside the university to what is going on inside of it; she also teaches classes on pedagogy and how to teach in different cultures. Currently, she is also working on a project on the unionization in the Argentine wine industry and the Bibliographical Handbook of Latin American Studies, which is published by the Library of Congress.
Most importantly for her, though, she is a faculty sponsor for the Model Organization of American States, in which teams of students represent different Latin American countries. This year in April, she will be taking a team from to Washington, D.C. to represent Argentina at the international competition and interact with diplomats and trade representatives. Dr. Supplee handpicked these students and will be directing and coaching them as they re-enact Latin American governmental and trade procedures. She has done this at Baylor for several years and enjoys it mainly because of the interactive element, which she feels helps her students in learning better.