Iliana Pagán-Teitelbaum grew up in a bilingual Puerto Rican-Belgian household in Puerto Rico.
An early career as a professional dancer at Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico enhanced her creative thinking and has been useful in her teaching.
At the University of Puerto Rico, she was inspired by professors and Puerto Rican writers Ana Lydia Vega and Mayra Santos-Febres.
A year abroad at the University of Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle in France stimulated her interest in Romance languages and literatures.
Doctoral studies at Harvard University developed the tools to become a rigorous researcher and committed professor of Latin American literature.