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Visiting Scholars Provide Fresh Perspectives

Visiting lecturers and artists provide insight into diverse and sometimes global perspectives. By bringing their unique cultures, viewpoints and techniques into classrooms and studios, guest instructors introduce students to new concepts, skill sets and means of learning. This fosters critical thinking and enhances student learning.

"What I enjoy the most from visiting professors is the fresh perspective," said Elisabeth Jones, a senior majoring in German and psychology. "Sometimes discussions in the classroom can become a bit monotonous, and it's nice to have a second or even third opinion."

Jones is president of the Students and Professors Exploring All Cultures (SPEAC) club in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature. She organized a talk in 2011 by Yannick Le Boulicaut, professor of English and translation studies at the Université Catholique de l'Ouest in Angers, France. As part of a continuing exchange program, Le Boulicaut spent one week at SIUE in April 2011.

"The excitement from the interaction with visiting professors was fantastic," Jones said. "It is the enigma surrounding someone or something new that really gets my adrenaline pumping," she added.

Le Boulicaut has been participating since 1994 in a faculty exchange with SIUE's Department of Foreign Languages and Literature. He and Professor J. Debbie Mann, who has taught French at SIUE for more than two decades, have swapped classroom teaching experiences three times. This arrangement has provided students with many benefits.

"For students, the opportunity to be taught by a faculty member who is a native speaker of the language they are studying offers unique linguistic and cultural insights," Mann said. "Last spring, the students in my interpretation course needed the opportunity to practice their skills in oral translation. I observed the interaction between Professor Le Boulicaut and my students. I could clearly see how they gained confidence and further developed their listening comprehension skills thanks to the small group work they did with Professor Le Boulicaut," she said.

Because each professor has been present while the guest instructor has taught his or her class, they have "profited both pedagogically and linguistically from observing a native-speaker colleague teach and interact with their students," Mann said. "The opportunity to debrief and discuss not only the course content but also the in-class interactions provides useful insights, too."

This arrangement is a win-win situation for all involved. "We have an exchange of ideas that stem from what Americans think about the French and what the French think about Americans," Le Boulicaut said. "Each time I taught at SIUE, I stressed the fact we share a lot, culturally and linguistically speaking."

The experience also strengthened his abilities as a teacher, Le Boulicaut said. "Being an educator is about understanding the audience before you," he said. "Teaching languages is not just teaching languages - it is all about cultures. Each time I did my best to further understand how we teach, how we react to students in both countries."

"I'm impressed by the quality of the questions and the interest you can see in SIUE students' eyes during my visits," he said. "I also noticed the number of students from around the world; it is a global mix here at SIUE."

Mann and Le Boulicaut's exchanges have been reduced for each successive trip. In 1994, they were in each other's classrooms for one full semester. In 2009, it was a two-week period, while the time was shortened to a single week in 2011. Budget constraints are directly responsible for the decrease.

"I hope we can secure more funding for this kind of visiting artists/professors program, so we can bring in more outstanding scholars to SIUE," Mann said.

This visiting scholar program exists in some variation across all areas in the College of Arts and Sciences. Among other things, artists provide master classes in art, music and theater and dance; renowned scientists give lectures in their respective fields; and participants in significant events give talks in social sciences. This program needs to be solidified and expanded into a permanent commitment that will enhance learning and directly benefit students and faculty. Your contribution can make this a reality.

Find out how you can help fund visiting artists and professors.

Back to the 2011 Dean's Report >>

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