Celebrating 110 years of Student Journalism

Touching Base(line) with Professor Natalie Aikens


It is not only the students at Wabash who are well-rounded, but also the faculty. Natalie Aikens is the perfect example of a well-rounded faculty member because she is an English professor and a professional tennis umpire.

“Reading, in general, has always been a passion. But what I think is interesting about English is when it comes through people’s identities and seeing what the stories really mean and make us think about ourselves,” Aikens said.

Last summer, Professor Aikens worked on a research project at the University of Florida. She read and analyzed nineteenth-century Cuban newspapers. She observed how Cubans thought about themselves, what they thought about their identity, and what they wanted to become. “It was looking at connections between the U.S. and Cuba and thinking about how Cuban identity fits into that,” she said.

Cubans argued about the future of their island in the nineteenth century. Some Cubans wanted to become an independent state. Some wanted to remain with the Spanish. And others wanted to join the United States. Several U.S. presidents attempted to buy Cuba. A class struggle also emerged in nineteenth-century Cuba. Many wealthy landowners in Cuba portrayed themselves as slaves to Spain while they were slave owners themselves. Aikens also observed newspaper items like classified ads for slaves. She observed these conflicts, and many more, in the Cuban newspapers.

Professor Aikens grew up in the San Francisco Area. She studied at Whitman College, a small liberal arts college in Walla Walla, Washington. “I say it is like the hippy […] coed version of Wabash […] there are a lot more people running around barefoot and much more concern about the environment,” she said. She did her masters at San Diego State and her Ph.D. at the University of Mississippi. Wabash College is her first job out of graduate school, and this year marks her third year.

Professor Aikens is also a professional tennis umpire and a recreational player. She missed her first day at Wabash to be an umpire in the 2017 U.S. Open. She points to Wabash as valuing well-rounded people because they allowed her umpire at the U.S. Open. She also works at other professional and collegiate events. “In the spring, almost every Friday and Saturday, I am somewhere in Division I tennis, usually at Illinois or Purdue,” She said.