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Alumni

Josh Collins​ (B.A. Linguistics, Computer Science, 2016)

I double majored in Linguistics and Computer Science, and am currently working as a Software Engineer. Looking back as an alumnus, my experience in the Italian program is one of my favorite aspects of my time at the University of Kansas. 
 

 

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After two semesters learning from encouraging professors, I spent a summer in Florence Italy studying at the Accademia di Giglio. It was shocking how difficult even the smallest social interactions became when the native language was not English; however, I was empowered in finding that I was able  navigate every circumstance that came my way. By the end of the first week, I was sitting down for dinner with my host family and having full conversations in Italian. Traveling to Cinque Terre, Pisa and Rome on the weekends was great, but this program enabled me to do more than visit these places. I learned to cook authentic Italian meals from my host mom who did not speak English, and I had conversations with many people who would not have been able to speak with me otherwise. It really was the experience of a lifetime, and I highly encourage anyone considering these programs to give them a try."

Mary Mba

Dr. Mary Mba (Ph.D. French with a concentration in Francophone/African/Women Studies, 2014)

I am very grateful for everything that I did at KU because they have all come together to complement themselves in my work at Cottey College. I teach courses in French and Francophone Studies, African Studies, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in addition to Film Studies. 

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What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

Coming to the University of Kansas and Lawrence in general remain one of the best decisions I have ever made. This is probably because I was passionate about coming to Lawrence, about starting that next step of my life, and about feeling free at last to do all the things I loved to do. Lawrence made us (my children and I) feel safe and free. I was so determined to prove myself, and defy all the odds that were stacked up against me and trust me, they were many: a single mother of two children, expecting a third one (I had my third child in my first semester after several complications that resulted in me being on crutches and wheelchair), studying for my doctorate degree and working as a graduate instructor. I had to figure out how to make myself more marketable and make people take me seriously because at the end of the day, it did not matter what obstacles I faced, all that mattered was what was on my transcript and curriculum vitae. So besides taking classes towards my degree, I also took classes towards getting two graduate certificates in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) and African Studies. I participated actively and held leadership positions in students’ organizations. I joined professional organizations, attended and presented at graduate, national and international conferences. I also joined and held leadership positions in organizations outside of the campus community such as serving on the Board of some non-governmental organizations. However, I still had a lot of fun because I always made it clear anywhere I was involved in, that my children were coming along. So as a graduate senator representing the college of liberal arts, the senate provided baby sitters for my children whenever we had meetings or events. My children came along and played in a room at the community center when I was the secretary of Stouffer Place Association, etc. As the president of International Women Connect (IWC), they came to events that were held in the evenings (though most of IWC’s events were held when my children were in school). Etc.

I consider the Department of French and Italian my home and family. I felt so much at peace in the department and I received lots of support. I was initially afraid of letting the department know things about my life, but once people got to know, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received, especially when I had my baby and when my dearly beloved dissertation advisor, Dr. Samira Sayeh was sick and later passed on. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through, but everyone was willing to help. Professors offered to read my dissertation and gave whatever editing and formatting suggestions they could. I am eternally grateful to professors Caroline Jewers, Diane Fourny, Tom Booker and Van Kelly. I did not even have to ask to be hooded, because Dr. Bruce Hayes was more than ready to hood me during my hooding ceremony. It is amazing, his wife even came along. My best memory is walking down the hill with all my three children because I had seen a picture of professor Hayes’s son receiving his degree and I wished to do the same. I also had the most wonderful office mates I could have possibly asked for, especially, Mary Kelly. What a joy it was coming to work every day. She completely understood my humorous and playful nature. It was always fun in the offices. I am sure everybody knows how grateful I am and continue to be to the department, but I must say it again. Thank you.

I left KU for Cottey College as a Visiting Assistant professor in the fall semester of 2016 and I was supposed to be here for just one year, but three months into my stay, I was re-interviewed for the position and, I signed a contract to become a full-time tenure track faculty member of the College. This did not come as a surprise to many of my former professors and colleagues at KU because, when I was at KU, I diversified my scholarly activities so much that I did not know if and how they would come together, but I always believed that no knowledge or experience was a waste. I set out to be multidisciplinary and the Department encouraged me. As a graduate student of French, with a concentration in Francophone/Women’s Studies, many doors were opened to me. My interest in films also added another layer to my academic diversity. All these have come together for me. At Cottey College, I am a one-person program, in that, I am the only faculty member in French, and I am working to make it a strong program. To do so, I formed a French Club, Le Cercle français within my first month at the College. This club provides my students a place where they can continue to not only practice French outside of the classroom, but apply and explore their Francophone knowledge and curiosities. We have had several activities since the founding of the club such as a campus-wide Mardi Gras celebration with lots of activities to mark the Francophone week and students were very passionate and involved in the activities. I attended a weeklong workshop on professional French, to enable me tap into existing strong programs at Cottey College by creating professional French courses such as Business French, Medical French and Environmental French among others. I am researching and developing a program whereby I could take students to Canada for a 2-3-week immersion program in French and to Senegal for my Francophone courses during the spring breaks. I have other ideas that I am still toying with.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

An absolute YES! As someone who loves multi-tasking, French and Francophone studies allow me room to breathe and do many different things at the same time. I have many options for growth both professionally and personally. At the personal level, now that I am no longer taking care of babies, as in doing all the physical things like bathing, dressing, feeding, and carrying them everywhere, I don’t feel the sense of loss that comes with these detachments because I have so much to do professionally. My KU experience was not just about French, but about all the other disciplines and activities that I involved myself in.

I am very grateful for everything that I did at KU because they have all come together to complement themselves in my work at Cottey College. I teach courses in French and Francophone Studies, African Studies, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies in addition to Film Studies. Towards the end of the academic year, I proposed a minor and a certificate program in African and African Diaspora Studies (AADS), which I believe is highly needed at Cottey College as this didn’t exist at the College. I have also proposed many courses for all the disciplines that I teach as well as revised the French curriculum. I plan to propose a minor in French as soon as I get the program to where I am having more students in my advanced level classes. I am able to do these because I was given opportunities to grow at KU. Serving as the lecturer representative to faculty meetings when I was a lecturer at KU exposed me to how some things worked. It was fun and educative sitting in and listening while the Department’s curriculum was being modified. I learned a lot about the processes and procedures as well as the importance of majors, minors and certificate programs. I am glad to be tapping into that knowledge and using them at Cottey College.

My College values service so much, and I continue to serve at various levels. Being a small institution, the interaction between faculty and students are closer and I am currently sponsoring and advising several student organizations besides Le Cercle français. As a sponsor, I endeavor to participate in their activities such as attending their meetings and events. I recently proposed a journal entitled “Cottey Teaching and Research Journal” and it was approved. The journal will start publishing teaching and research work by the Cottey College community: faculty, staff and students, among other things starting from the next academic year. I am continuing with the same enthusiasm and involving my children in my academic and professional life, so everything remains fun, light hearted and blissful.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

I will encourage students in the Department to please take advantage of all the support and opportunity that the Department has to give. Talk to and the ask the professors questions if you are confused about anything. Diversify your interests and be interdisciplinary. First off, if you plan to teach French, take this very seriously, you need professor Kim Swanson’s pedagogy class like a fish needs water. Do whatever part you are assigned in your work as a graduate instructor, be it writing an exam, creating activities for a shared class or drafting the instructions for a composition or a film guide, etc. Trust me, you will need all the knowledge and practice you can get, because, if you end up in a small college where you are doing it alone, everything will come to you very easily. However, if you had avoided your responsibilities in graduate school, you will struggle and students will get you in the evaluations.

There are three major areas that every college and university will judge you on: teaching, research and service. You have to build strong bases in these areas. Graduate school affords you the opportunity to get practice in these areas and build your resume/CV. Don’t waste the opportunities you have by being a “triangular student”, a Nigerian term for a student with little time for anything else other than classwork, who does nothing more than go from the dormitories (hostels) to the cafeteria then to lectures/library and back to the hostels without involving in anything else. Put yourself out there and get involved. Do not just join professional organizations, take leadership positions in them. Present your research works at reputable conferences and get them published. Do not hoard knowledge! No idea is a bad one, so lend your voice to whatever cause you are passionate about (hopefully, you are passionate about something. If not, find something to be passionate about). Always strive to identify the needs of anywhere you find yourself and be generous and proactive with coming up with ways to solve or improve them. Opt to live a life of service and you will enjoy a rich academic, professional and personal life.

Gretchen Meyer

Gretchen Meyer (B.A. French, English, 2012)

My time at KU provided me with an amazing opportunity to spend a summer in France traveling and improving my language skills.

 

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My years at KU were incredibly busy but I enjoyed them to no end. I was fortunate to be a student in two amazing departments and I loved my classes. My time at KU helped prepare me to go into education with a solid background in French grammar, culture, and literature and it also provided me with an amazing opportunity to spend a summer in France traveling and improving my language skills. I was already in love with French language and culture, but it was during this summer study abroad that I decided that I wanted to be a French teacher. I wanted to continue to use this beautiful language and to help others to discover it. I am very grateful to my French professors for encouraging me in this path and for helping me to achieve my goal. After graduation, I attended the University of South Carolina where I received a Masters of Arts and Teaching in French. I then had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach English in France for one year. I lived and worked in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and it was one of the happiest years of my life. I have so many wonderful memories from that year and I still keep in touch with and visit the friends that I made there. I currently live in Kansas City and teach high school French in the Blue Valley school district. I teach French 1, 2, and 2.5. The beginner levels are my favorites to teach because I get to introduce students to French culture and language. It is incredibly rewarding and fun to watch them work so hard and to see how proud and happy they are when they realize that they can actually write short stories, read articles, and have conversations in a foreign language. Exploring French culture, taste testing French food, learning French songs, and playing tons of games with my students make my job even more fun.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

If you love French, keep studying it!! Use it whenever, wherever, and however you can. You would be amazed what doors can open for you if you speak another language. If nothing else, travel! The experiences you have and the people you meet will stay with you for your entire life and hopefully your travels will be full of wonderful surprises.

Amy NyeBryan Prentice (B.A. Italian, English Literature 2012)

I enjoyed every Italian course that I took and learned from each one. That goes for the language classes, cultural classes, and literature classes. I cannot say that about any other course of study that I have done.

 

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I attended KU from 2008 through 2012, and graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and Italian. Coming to KU, I was most excited about studying Italian because my high school did not offer Italian courses and I had been studying it independently for a couple of years. At KU I found fantastic professors, particularly Crystal Hall, Marina De Fazio, Lauralyn Bodle, and Jan Kozma. I enjoyed every Italian course that I took and learned from each one. That goes for the language classes, cultural classes, and literature classes. I cannot say that about any other course of study that I have done. Looking back, I’m not sure how I got exposure to so many works of Italian literature in what felt like a short four years. I also spent an enjoyable month in the summer of 2009 at the Centro Linguistico Italiano Dante Alighieri in Florence, worked as a research assistant for Professor Hall, and was a Fulbright semi-finalist for an English teaching assistantship in Italy. I am currently working as an attorney in Houston, Texas and Italian is not a large part of my professional life, but the background in Italian that I received from KU enriches my life every day, as I will explain below.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Yes. After graduating from KU, I attended law school at Washington University in St. Louis. After my first year of law school, I worked a two-month summer internship with a law firm in Milan, Italy. I also spent my last semester of law school as a visiting student at the University of Trento law school. This was one of the most enjoyable semesters of my life, and enabled me to meet friends from many places in the world, as well as my significant other, who was also a visiting American student. Trento is my favorite Italian city. I still return to Italy every chance I get. Most recently, I traveled to Campli, Abruzzo with my significant other to explore her Italian ancestry. I was not blessed with Italian ancestry, but I have had a blast working with her locating and reading old baptism, marriage, and death records from her ancestors in Abruzzo. We had the good fortune during our much too brief stay in Campli to meet a gentleman who shared a last name with ancestors of my significant other and who, with typical Italian hospitality, invited us to share a meal with his family. We have not managed to exactly link him with my significant other, but this has opened a whole new avenue of research. None of these experiences would have been possible without the education, assistance, and encouragement I received at KU

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

I am sure there are many new faces in the Italian Department at KU since I graduated, but I am confident that they have a passion and dedication similar to those that were present during my time. In addition to advising students to utilize those resources, I have always found that my language studies progressed the most when I could attach them to topics that I am independently interested in. I started studying Italian because I had become a fan of an Italian soccer team. I made great strides in Italian by reading Gazzetta dello Sport on a daily basis. I also located an Italian radio station with programs that I enjoyed and listened to regularly. One of the most fulfilling moments in my Italian study was when those nearly unintelligible radio programs became comprehensible to me. I still listen to Radio 24 every day on my commute to and from work. If you can link your language studies to your hobbies and locate newspapers, TV shows, podcasts, movies, etc. on those subjects in your language of interest, I believe it will pay great dividends. In short, I may not have become a diplomat or an agent for Italian soccer superstars, but I cannot measure the enjoyment that my Italian journey has added to my life, and I owe that in large part to the Italian Department at KU. Rock Chalk!

Bryan PrenticeAmy Nye (B.A. French, English 2011)

I took a number of French classes at KU and also did a semester abroad in Angers, France. This study abroad was instrumental in the progression of my French language skills, and gave me an opportunity to be fully immersed in a foreign language and culture.

 

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During my studies at KU, I majored in French and English. At the time, I was unsure how either of these majors were going to apply to a career, but I knew that they were subjects that interested me. I took a number of French classes at KU and also did a semester abroad in Angers, France. This study abroad was instrumental in the progression of my French language skills, and gave me an opportunity to be fully immersed in a foreign language and culture. Currently, I am working in the fields of international development and global health. I work on projects that seek to improve healthcare and health outcomes in developing countries in areas such as Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health, HIV/AIDS, and Nutrition, among many others. I woy with countries in Francophone Africa, allowing me to use my French skills on a daily basis.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

I cannot stress enough how much my French language skills have impacted my professional life! Being fluent in French has opened doors for me that I could not even imagine when I was completing my major. I have learned that while there are many people who share my interest in the global health field, there are a limited number of individuals who are fluent in French, making me uniquely qualified for many opportunities. Personally, I think my love for the French language and culture started me down a path of interest towards the world outside the United States. One of the joys of my field is getting to learn from my colleagues about their countries and local cultures, and especially getting to experience it first hand when I visited.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

Immerse yourself as fully as you can in the language and culture and become as fluent as possible! You never know how this will affect you down the road. It can create opportunities for you professionally, and being more educated about other cultures can only benefit you personally.

Beth M. Whittaker

Beth M. Whittaker (B.A. French, History, 1992; M.A. History, 1994)

French made it easier for me to learn Latin when I decided to study medieval history, and I focused my studies on Normandy during the Hundred Years War. A solid grounding in Romance languages makes it much easier to describe and interpret library and archival materials from many time periods, and gives me a broader understanding of the secondary literature than I would have if I only read English.

 

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What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

I really enjoyed my time at KU. I am the first generation in my family to complete a college degree, and I had no idea what to expect. Since I had studied French in high school, I continued to take classes in French and kind of fell into a French major, knowing that I would want to do “something else” as well. I was able to take a wide variety of classes in the humanities and social sciences before settling into history. While working on my M.A., I started a student job at the Spencer Research Library (where I had worked on a 15th century Norman cartulary for my thesis) and decided to pursue a career as a special collections librarian. French also came in handy as I studied bibliography and the history of the book and worked as a cataloger while pursuing my MLIS degree. I have worked in a number of major research libraries, and am now back in Lawrence. I’m currently the director of the Spencer Research Library and Assistant Dean of Distinctive Collections. Life is funny that way.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Definitely! French made it easier for me to learn Latin when I decided to study medieval history, and I focused my studies on Normandy during the Hundred Years War. A solid grounding in Romance languages makes it much easier to describe and interpret library and archival materials from many time periods, and gives me a broader understanding of the secondary literature than I would have if I only read English. The first time I flew on an airplane was to travel to France, and I always enjoy “dusting off” my very rusty conversational French when I encounter French speakers. Most recently, I was able to diffuse a potentially nasty encounter with a taxi driver in Florida by attempting to talk to him in French!

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

If you don’t use it, you will lose it. Continue to read in the language(s) you are learning, and converse whenever possible with other speakers!

Deborah Streifford Reisinger

Deborah Streifford Reisinger (B.A. French, East Asian Studies, 1992)

Speaking another language gives me fresh eyes to see the world around me. It's helped me be a more curious, as well as a more tolerant and flexible person, which has served me well both personally and professionally.
 

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Deborah Streifford Reisinger

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

KU's study abroad program changed everything for me! We were a very small group of American students, living in the relatively small town of Besançon, and my French improved dramatically over the course of the year. When I returned to KU, I knew I wanted to pursue my studies in French. After graduation, I completed a doctorate in French Literature and Cultural Studies (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2001) and discovered that I love to teach. Since then, I've devoted my career to sharing my passion for French and Francophone language and cultures. I am now on the faculty in Romance Studies at Duke University, where I direct the Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum program. My current work focuses on Central African refugee resettlement and community-based language learning.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

French is spoken on every continent, and it's brought me - and often my family and students - across the world, from France to Fez, from Montréal to Martinique. Speaking another language gives me fresh eyes to see the world around me. It's helped me be a more curious, as well as a more tolerant and flexible person, which has served me well both personally and professionally.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

Go abroad, and stay as long as you can! Get uncomfortable and take classes you're not sure you're ready for; interesting things happen when you stretch yourself. Find a mentor -- a professor or administrator that you admire, and with whom you can have lunch, call upon for a letter of recommendation, and get solid advice. Finally, have fun! Speaking another language offers endless opportunities that you can never anticipate. As the linguist Frank Smith wrote, "One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way."

Brad K. Mazon

Brad K. Mazon (B.A. French, Political Science, 1986)

"Foreign language study offers you a leg up, and differentiates you from others, in the job market. It indicates that you value other cultures, and that the US view is not the only one of value."


 

 

 

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Brad K. Mazon

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

My French studies linked nicely with my interest in International Relations, which led me to my Master's studies in International Relations at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service. From there, life has been a journey of professional and personal international adventures.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

In ways too numerous to mention. Professionally, my French studies helped in my communications with new and emerging leaders participating in the US Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. Personally, my French studies enhanced my global view and sense of being a citizen of the world.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

Foreign language study offers you a leg up, and differentiates you from others, in the job market. It indicates that you value other cultures, and that the US view is not the only one of value. I would advise to engage in your language studies with great passion, since doing so will open up new worlds, enable you to make connections, and help you to make sense of history, global relationships, and international and business affairs.

MaryAnn Diorio

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio (M.Phil. 1974; Ph.D. 1977)

Fluency in both French and Italian has greatly enriched my life through personal relationships that came about precisely because of my knowledge of these languages.

 

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Years you attended KU, including graduation year(s)

1970-1977 I was on campus for the academic year 1970-1971 for my course work, after which my husband and I moved to New Jersey where I wrote my dissertation. On a personal note, at the time of my written exams, I was “great with child" and not permitted to travel. I will be forever grateful to KU’s language department for allowing me to take my written exams through a special monitoring arrangement with the language department of the University of Pennsylvania, close to my home. This kindness on the part of KU still resonates in my heart.

What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

During my time at KU, I was blessed to have outstanding professors who provided a learning atmosphere conducive to critical thinking. Since leaving KU, their influence remains a part of my life. Of particular mention is the fact that I was one of the first students to participate in the then nascent Comparative Literature program. As part of this budding program, I had the privilege of working with professors from other departments—Classics, American Literature—who helped me to design a wonderful program suited to my interests. Thus, I was able to graduate with the PhD in French with a concentration in Comparative Literature. At the time, there was no official degree in Comp Lit.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

For several years, I taught either Italian or French at the college and high school levels. I later started a translation business where I was able to use my language skills to translate French and Italian documents in several fields, including business, history, literature, and government. Today, I am a published author who writes fiction and non-fiction. My latest novel is titled A Sicilian Farewell. It is the second book in my trilogy titled The Italian Chronicles. The first book is The Madonna of Pisano. My fluency in Italian has been of tremendous help in doing the primary research for this trilogy set at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course, fluency in both French and Italian has greatly enriched my life through personal relationships that came about precisely because of my knowledge of these languages.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

I would advise students to appreciate and take advantage of the language department’s interdisciplinary program whereby language study is combined with another discipline. Unless one teaches or translates, one’s professional options are somewhat limited when language study is seen as an end in itself. So, I would suggest that students combine their language studies with other disciplines, such as international studies, business, political science, or other areas in which knowledge of a foreign language will enhance their opportunities.

Betty J. Kagan

Betty J. Kagan (B.A. French (Honors), 1973)

I had studied Spanish all the way through junior high and high school and declared a Spanish major. My KU Freshman advisor suggested I take another language. So I signed up for Honors French, 5 days a week at 8 am - some honor!? I found I really enjoyed French, quizzed out of the 2nd year never learning subjunctive nor passe simple, ended up graduating with a dual major in French and Spanish. I also studied Italian and German while at KU.

 

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Betty J. Kagan

I had studied Spanish all the way through junior high and high school and declared a Spanish major. My KU Freshman advisor suggested I take another language. So I signed up for Honors French, 5 days a week at 8 am - some honor!? I found I really enjoyed French, quizzed out of the 2nd year never learning subjunctive nor passe simple, ended up graduating with a dual major in French and Spanish. I also studied Italian and German while at KU. I applied for a Fulbright, but as did not receive it, decided to study in France anyway. Professor Emeritus Dr. Bryant Freeman suggested I apply to the Sorbonne. So I spent a wonderful year in Paris, studying at l'Institut de Professeurs de Francais a l'Etranger, Paris IV and received a Maitrise deCulture Francaise avec honneurs for $100 tuition. I purchased a VW that I picked up at the factory in Wolfsburg, Germany and travelled throughout Europe, returning to NY via La France on a transatlantic voyage with my car and a friend from KU, Barley Mallett who was on Junior Year Abroad in Bordeaux. I then decided to continue my studies, came back to the US and received my MA in French Literature and Linguistics from UC Santa Barbara (due to previous KU Chair Ronald Tobin now being at KU). I was a teaching assistant and upon graduation took a group of high school students to live with families near Nantes with The Experiment in International Living (now World Learning). My French really got a boost that summer, as I had to navigate through a small patelain Basse Indre, exposed to full life cycle events including my host's daughter's baby's birth as well as making funeral arrangements for a neighbor while there. After traveling through Europe on a EurailPass, then ending up in Israel, studying Hebrew at an ulpan, working in the travel industry for a Spanish travel agency Melia receiving foreigners, using my Spanish and French. The following year I ended up in New York and found a job in reservations at Air France, an excellent use of my language skills, where I gained computer skills that I would use for the rest of my working career. It also persuaded me to study at night for an MBA in Computer Applications and Information Systems plus International Business at NYU. I put my computer language skills and my foreign language skills together for a career in systems analysis and design at American Express in both global financial and HR systems, working in Brighton, England; Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. After several years in enterprise software implementation consulting at Price Waterhouse, I got my dream job of living and working as a local in London, England. I had European responsibility so traveled around the continent using my French and Spanish, as well as an occasional conversation with clients in Italian or German. I stayed in London for 12 years, obtained my British/EU citizenship, working for Oracle as Senior Director Product Management with responsibility for Human Resource Management Systems in 33 countries. My final role was as CIO of London Metropolitan University before returning to the US to live near my parents in St Louis, Missouri.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

As indicated above, my combination of language skills and technical skills combined to make me an effective global leader in several large multi-national companies. Communication skills are key to all managers, especially those working abroad. My experiences living, working and studying abroad were integral to my understanding of other cultures that was significantly deeper than what I learned travelling abroad (although that's another bonus of this kind of career). I have friends and colleagues now around the world who help me understand world affairs better and make me an informed global citizen.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

If you have the chance to study abroad for a summer, semester, or a full year, DO IT! The experience is incredible both personally and for your future professional career. If you have a chance to meet international students and their families in the US, even hosting them, DO IT! Consider it as part of your global education.

Jean Hardy Robinson (B.A. in French and English, M.A. French 1969, Ph.D. French 1976)

Jean Hardy Robinson

I knew at the end of my undergraduate experience that I wanted to learn much more about French literature. Course work, part-time teaching and the departmental community at KU were central to my life for a number of wonderful years.

 

 

 

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What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

Study at KU opened the world to me. The undergraduate opportunities to study and live in France were life changing (KU Summer Language Institute after my freshman year and the Year Abroad Program in Bordeaux for my senior year). I met my future husband in a French literature class. A decade later he received a Fulbright lectureship to the Sorbonne to teach in his field of communications and remains a firm Francophile (and we’ve been happily married for 50 years). I knew at the end of my undergraduate experience that I wanted to learn much more about French literature. Course work, part-time teaching and the departmental community at KU were central to my life for a number of wonderful years. Not many women writers had made it into the French literary canon by the early-1970’s but I was extremely fortunate to receive a Fulbright grant (1973-74) to study a number of living French women novelists. Genevieve Gennari became the subject of my PhD dissertation and the relationship that I developed with her was very significant and satisfying. I believe that my insistence on speaking French when traveling in France (even when my French was very poor) has contributed to the warm welcome that I have always felt there. I’ve traveled to France many times for work and for pleasure and maintain friendships that have endured for the 50 years since my study abroad year. Our two girls have both had the privilege of traveling to Europe as children and both studied abroad as undergrads: one to an engineering semester program in France and one to a liberal arts year in Bologna.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

Yes, the benefits have been numerous. I began my career as an instructor of French at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Following a move to Chicago, I joined the administrative staff of a new humanities program at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center. Through contacts made through participation in an Illinois statewide program for women in higher education administration, I was “lured away” from higher education in 1980 to join the International Treasury Management Consulting Group at the former Continental Bank. I have often quoted my boss there who said, “I’ve spent thousands of dollars teaching M.B.A.’s language and culture. I’m willing to spend thousands of dollars teaching you business.” I thrived in that consulting group and enjoyed many business trips using French, Italian and Spanish with clients. In the 1990’s I joined a not-for-profit college consortium for study abroad as Vice President for Marketing and College Relations. After being “recaptured” by the mission-driven not-for-profit sector, I returned several years later to consulting, but this time to offer management consulting to not-for-profit organizations. I’ve led my own consulting company and practice ever since the late 1990’s (www.jhrresources.com). I’m now moving toward retirement, but still giving counsel to long-term clients who allow flexibility for my travel schedule!

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

Open your minds and hearts to the insights and experiences of new cultures that you can most fully understand when communicating in another culture’s language. Don’t expect to be hired in any future job exclusively because of your language and literary skills, but know that these assets will serve you in unexpected ways, both personally and professionally. Knowing how to write well and think critically are widely appreciated in most lines of work. Graduate students are in the right place if the subject matter is compelling and the hard work at least mostly a pleasure. Deferred gratification is no reason to be in graduate school in French or Italian because full-time academic positions are difficult to secure. We all know someone who regrets the years spent in graduate school. I do not.

Arthur K. Spears

Prof. Arthur K. Spears (B.A. in French (Honors), Spanish, and Political Science (Int’l Relations Option), 1965)

I got a masters in international relations during the Vietnam War years. That political and intellectual environment let me to switch back to a focus on languages. 



 

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Career Information

I spent most of my time at KU studying languages, majoring in French (Honors) and Spanish, but also political science (international relations option). At KU, I studied French, which I studied and learned in grade school (my mother was my teacher), Spanish, Serbo-Croatian (as it was called at the time), German, and Italian. By the time I graduated, I was on track to go into diplomacy, for which languages are of course highly relevant. I got a masters in international relations during the Vietnam War years. That political and intellectual environment let me to switch back to a focus on languages—in general. This led to my studying linguistics. I got a masters in linguistics and then went on to get a Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1977, following many great experiences around the world. I got a full-time private-sector job in linguistics (at the Center for Applied Linguistics) before completing the degree and then a full time academic job in 1974 (going on duty in 1975). My longest tenure in an academic job has been at The City University of New York (CUNY), where I served as chair for many years but declined to go into higher administration. I enjoy research and publishing too much. At CUNY, I went first into an anthropology department (CUNY has many campuses) and shortly thereafter into Anthropology and also Linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center. I worked as a contract interpreter (in French, Spanish, and Portuguese), when I had the time, until the early 1980s. Actually, I did seminar interpreting also. All of the interpreting was for international or internationally-oriented organizations, e.g., the State Department, USAID, the African-American Institute, Crossroads Africa, etc. I retired about a year ago.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

If was crucial for almost all the jobs I’ve had—and the travel, for grants, internships abroad, study abroad, etc.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

The world is a very different place now, so the paths I took wouldn’t be as useful in today’s world. However, one piece of advice is always valid: study what you REALLY like; then make it work for you. Don’t worry about the low salaries in some occupations. If YOU are CREATIVE and think outside of the box, you can always generate significant streams of income.

Kenton W. Keith

Kenton W. Keith (B.A. French, International Relations, 1961)

I have studied several languages in the foreign service, most notably Arabic, Turkish and Portuguese. However, my French study at KU has been indispensable both professionally and personally.

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Career Information

Served four years in US Navy following graduation and commissioning in KU's NROTC program. While at KU took and passed written and oral foreign service exams. Spent four years in the Navy. Entered foreign service (US Information Service) August 1965. Most of my career spent in cultural and press affairs; posts in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Morocco, Syria, Brazil, France, Egypt. Final overseas post was Ambassador to Qatar. Included in my career were three Washington assignments including Director for Near East, North Africa and South Asia. Led USIA negotiating team for amalgamation of foreign service agencies. After retirement from government in 1997 spent 12 years as Senior Vice President of Meridian International Center, the largest NGO cooperating with the State Department for the design and implementation of programs for official visitors to the US under the Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. After 9/11 attacks, I was asked to return to service to set up and direct the Islamabad-based press and information center for the anti-Taliban alliance from November 2001 to February 2002.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

I have studied several languages in the foreign service, most notably Arabic, Turkish and Portuguese. However, my French study at KU has been indispensable both professionally and personally. I have used French in every foreign posting, without exception. The most rewarding assignment was as Senior Cultural Affairs Officer (Cultural Counselor) at US Embassy Paris. I consider this the most challenging and rewarding assignment of my career, including my assignment as an ambassador. On the personal side, I met my future spouse, a French woman teaching in Morocco for the French government. This was the beginning of my strong connection to France, where we have maintained a summer residence for 25 years.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

If you plan on a career in which your French or Italian will play a role, take every opportunity to put yourself in the spoken environment. Unless you are going to teach, it will be more important for you to communicate verbally on a reasonably competent level (even short of complete fluency), than to be able to read Baudelaire or Dante in the original. Draw your working vocabulary from the spoken language of those around you and newspapers and magazines that cover your area of interest. Note: I would be happy to expand on this view in some other context.

Karlan Ison Sick (B.A. French and German, 1960)

Enjoy the literature and have fun traveling even if your knowledge is not immediately applicable in your career.

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What would you like others to know about your studies at KU and life since leaving KU?

Because of my husband Gary's naval career, we lived in Morocco, Egypt and Italy where knowing French was helpful. During two years in Naples, we learned some Italian and return often since our daughter moved to Rome in 1987. We have spent a month in Bologna in the fall for the past 8 years where Gary lectures on the Middle East at Johns Hopkins.

Has your study of French or Italian benefited you professionally and/or personally? If so, how?

I became a librarian in 1972 at Columbia University and worked as a school librarian then for the New York Public Library in teen services. I still read a novel or two every year in French and Italian. I fear German and Arabic have not remained active for me.

What advice do you have to students currently studying French or Italian at KU?

Enjoy the literature and have fun traveling even if your knowledge is not immediately applicable in your career.

Paul Hansen

Paul A. Hansen (B.A. French, Sociology, 1958)

When I graduated in 1958 I was quite fluent, with an excellent accent, thanks to my professors there at KU, especially, Madame Crumrine, and Messieur Mahieu. While my fluency and vocabulary have diminished in the last 60 years, I can still carry on a conversation.

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I graduated from KU in 1958 with a degree in French and also one in Sociology, with a minor in music. While I have never been able to use the French to the degree I would wish, it has been useful so many times, including traveling in France, and also in Italy, and elsewhere in the world. I have been surprised at the odd times it has come in handy, including where, as a psychotherapist, when a client would sometimes begin speaking French and I am/was able to respond in French as well, facilitating the client's experience in the session. Most recently, I discovered my father's small diary from World War I and I have written a memoir based on his experiences in France 100 years ago. He remained in France after the war ended and attended the Univ. of Lyon for a term, where he met a young French lady. Their correspondence after his return from France was quite interesting, and I was able to translate her letters. My language skills also assisted me in my research while writing the book, as he was moved back and forth across the country during 1918. When I graduated in 1958 I was quite fluent, with an excellent accent, thanks to my professors there at KU, especially, Madame Crumrine, and Messieur Mahieu. While my fluency and vocabulary have diminished in the last 60 years, I can still carry on a conversation and my accent is still pretty good. I hope to make one more trip to France yet (I'm 82). I love the language, the country, and the culture. I was last there in 2008.


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