As I come full circle on my first year as chair and can unfurrow my brow for a moment, my newly deepened sense of FRIT is how it is a welcoming place for extraordinary people who value being polyglot and interculturally competent. We gather around many forms of beauty: words, music, cuisine… the thrill of seeing venerated monuments and the small, brave triumph when someone understands what you want to say… the companionable interactions possible in small classes alongside the interdisciplinary connections possible at our flagship university.
FRIT’s wealth is people. Our “Black France” search was successful and we are thrilled that the dynamic Dr. Johanna Montlouis-Gabriel joins in January 2024. Dr. Laura Siragusa comes as a joint hire with Slavic and Linguistics, and Rosa di Grottole will take a new role of Assistant Director of the Italian Language Program. Bittersweetly, we celebrate Prof. Danielle Marx-Scouras’ retirement and reflect on her generous and creative career here promoting topics like Global French rap, North African literature, intercultural life in Marseille. Also, we celebrate the retirement of Carla Onorato, whose dedication to the Italian program has been so long and strong. We welcome a whole lineup of terrific new program and fiscal staff this year, after adieux to Sonya Afanasyeva and Adam Keller whose time here brought them great new opportunities. New Academic Program Coordinator Matt Lang, Fiscal Officer Christiana Whitesel, and Fiscal Associate Jennifer Illes have quickly proved amazing.
Prof. Benjamin Hoffmann garnered many honors for his new novel L’Ile de la Sentinelle (Gallimard, 2022) and wrote a new one, Les Minuscules, which should appear in 2024. Prof. Lucille Toth published her new book on dance and pandemics, see here. Prof. Janice Aski is now at the helm of the Center for Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (CLLC) and innovating on many fronts, including research collaboration on Intercultural Competency with Prof. April Weintritt and others. Their goal is to provide tools for demonstrating the transferable skills acquired through studying languages and promoting the importance of world language curriculum by showing how it opens the mind to appreciating diversity. Prof. Jen Willging is leading us as we adapt to the new GE structure, creating courses in Themes categories such as Lived Environments; Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Diversity; and Citizenship for a Diverse and Just World.
I’m excited about ways that FRIT can be present in the broader Columbus community. I tried creating a “Fun with French” program for all ages at the Bexley Public Library, which attracted over 40 people. There are so many people around us who want to discover or continue contact with French and Italian. The program spun off into a conversation group meeting on Sunday afternoons (to which you are welcome!). The K-12 French immersion schools would like our help to inspire students to continue. With Professor Montlouis-Gabriel, we hope to begin reaching out to French heritage speakers in Columbus’ populations of recent immigrants from West and North Africa and the Caribbean. We are interested in reaching the large Somali community with offerings by Italian-Somali writers. Watch for thought-provoking programming from the Center of Excellence, the literary channel French Press, the Italian and French Clubs, and other public events.
It has been a year of optimistic change. We are grateful for your interest and support. Bonne continuation des études! Tante cose!
~ Professor Sarah-Grace Heller ~