With an interdisciplinary background in architecture (BA), planning (MS) and Spanish and Latin American Literatures (PhD), Rafael has been in the faculty of Converse since 1984. He has published scholarly books and articles and has presented research papers on Spanish and Latin American literatures and Latin American urbanization at professional conferences. He is a Fulbright scholar. From 1992 to 1998, he was secretary-treasurer of the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies (SECOLAS) and editor of the Southeastern Latin Americanist (SELA). In 1998, Converse made him Reeves Professor of Spanish and he was awarded the Katheryne Amelia Brown award in recognition of teaching excellence in 2018.

At the present time, he is working on a book on the novels of Gabriel García Márquez, the 1982 Nobel Laureate.