AATF Exemplary French Program with Honors

Valparaiso University (IN)
AATF member: Timothy Tomasik



Valparaiso University French Program

April 2017

Valpo's French program offers its students courses and activities that develop their language skills, their ability to analyze both literature and culture, and their awareness of how they can incorporate French into a fulfilling career. We see our French program as a community of students and faculty. Although we have faced enrollment challenges over the past eight to ten years, we have responded by focusing the program and working deliberately to help our students feel that they are part of a supportive yet challenging community. We believe that a result is our rebounding enrollments and the energy and enthusiasm of our students who move to a variety of careers and graduate programs.

We have developed and adapted our curriculum so that it builds consciously from one level to the next in all areas, not just language, and so that it integrates the traditional study of literature with culture. Our curriculum thus offers multiple opportunities for students to hone language skills and develop analytic skills. Committed to creative pedagogy, we have thoughtfully incorporated innovative teaching techniques. For instance, we have implemented "flipped classroom" techniques where appropriate, using FlipGrid and SmartPen technologies among others. We connect our students via Skype and letter exchanges with classes in France and Senegal. And we regularly incorporate undergraduate research opportunities including most recently a digital humanities project studying a Renaissance cookbook that was featured in a national newsletter.

Nearly all of our French majors are also majoring in another field, and we have deliberately developed options for various student academic interests. We offer the Valparaiso International Engineering Program (VIEP) - France, where students major in engineering, take advanced French courses, live in our French House, and spend a year studying at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne and doing a co-operative education work experience in France. Business students may study at our partner Sup de Co school, La Rochelle International School of Business.

The vast majority of our majors, and many minors, choose one of our five study-abroad opportunities in France. Partnership agreements with three French institutions bring exchange students from France to VU each year, and we have created occasions to deliberately integrate those students with our French-student population. Our innovative "conversation partner" program pairs a native speaker of French--often one of our exchange students--with a US student for an hour of informal conversation each week.

On campus, we sponsor a French House residence opportunity (with a native speaker student director). And we offer multiple co-curricular activities, including an orientation to the French major, an opening picnic, film series, crêpe evening, cheese-tasting, "Fête de la musique," theater festival/poetry recitation event, and so forth. We have also offered many occasions for current students to hear from our alums about their careers, inviting some grads to campus and holding Skype sessions with others. We connect our current students with grads who are pursuing careers with NGOs, corporations, and institutions of higher education. We have had a chapter of the French Honor society Pi Delta Phi since 1981.

Participation in AATF has also been central to our success. Faculty members have provided leadership on the chapter level for many years and have also served at the national level. This contact has stimulated our thinking, provided models and ideas for curricular and co-curricular initiatives, and kept us in touch with the state of the art.

We are thrilled to have received this honor from AATF, and are excited to continue to work closely with our community of students, so that we may provide them with the best possible education and prepare them--as our University's Mission Statement puts it--to lead and serve in the future.

For full information on applying for Exemplary Program status, click here.  

Created: May 29, 2017
Last Update: May 29, 2017