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What Alumnae Have Done with French Studies

Those majoring in and studying French can pursue many different careers. Our majors have gone on to teach at all levels, from elementary education to college; to work in the foreign service and the Peace Corps or in the arts; to study law, business and medicine; and to pursue advanced degrees in French literature, music, translation and theatre. Some have returned to France or Geneva to continue their studies or to work.

Alumnae Spotlight

This year, we asked alumnae to give us updates about where the major in French Studies has led them. Here's a selection of some of the responses we've received:

  • Barbara Fried '49
    "I rarely respond to any requests for updates, but it happened that your email arrived just after a very recent, and rather nostalgic, trip to France. ... [I] was in the first group of Smithies to spend the junior year in France after the war, the 1947-1948 year, when the bread was black, the electricity often en panne and hot water a rare luxury. Nonetheless, our quarters in Reid Hall were comparatively luxurious and like my fellow students I fell in love with the language, Paris and all things French. The language served me well and continues to do so. I worked for a few years in the UN as an assistant in ECOSOC, got my MA at Columbia's Teachers College and taught French for 30 years at the Dalton School in Manhattan. I still do translations, which come to me through friends, although for the past 15 years I have added to my retirement funds by modeling for print and TV. The trip to Paris was my sixth time there, three of them chaperoning groups from Dalton with a school in Grenoble and then Paris, and somehow I was always too busy to make a pilgrimage back to Reid Hall and the Sorbonne. But this time I was there with my eldest daughter and I wanted to show her both, so back we went and, amazingly, after 65 years, I traced an unerring route from the Sorbonne back to rue de Chevreuse. Reid Hall was the same and yet different. A lot of white paint had brightened the dark wooden stairways and walls, and my little chambre 13 (which I located by looking for its window's specific angle on the adjacent buildings) contained a few computers and a very nice young woman at work on one of them. "Cette pièce était une fois ma chambre!" I cried. I confess I felt it necessary to point out to her and my daughter the former location of my bed, my desk, my little réchaud électrique and the sink with its discreet curtain screen. By this time the concierge had made known our presence to the Director and Assistant Director at Reid Hall who welcomed us most graciously and with whom we spent a wonderful hour chatting. But it was the building itself that moved me to tears: I stood in the library looking down on the Great Hall, now a conference/study room and I saw again a fire in the huge stone fireplace, lit for the occasion but barely warming the room, where girls in evening dress danced with the young men judged suitable to be invited by Madame Guilloton. The dining room contained a long conference table, but I remembered mornings holding a mug of café au lait against my chest to warm myself under those same chandeliers as I looked out the tall windows on the courtyard. As we left, we passed a sign in the courtyard: "Dans cette cour on parle français." It could have been Madame herself encouraging in us that earnest desire to master French, to think French, to feel French, yes, be French! To this day, I am grateful for the way that long-ago year enriched my life."
  • Yolanda Astarita Patterson '54
    "I went from doing an Honors thesis in French on Baudelaire at Smith across the country to Stanford, where I did my Master's thesis on Simone de Beauvoir and my Ph.D. dissertation on Sartre and Camus and was a Teaching Assistant in French for a number of years. After teaching both French and Spanish at San Jose State University, I joined the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at California State University, Hayward (now East Bay), where I taught French, Spanish, Women's Studies, and History of Western Civilization for over forty years, and was named Outstanding Professor of the Year in the 1980s. In the summer of 1989, I joined a colleague from the English Department teaching in a CSUH summer quarter abroad program in London. That led to organizing a group of about eight Cal State Hayward colleagues to offer a 1990 summer quarter program in Paris, which was a huge success. I so enjoyed that experience that I asked the colleague who had helped us with housing arrangements and other practical details if he knew of a way that I could continue to teach in Paris in the summer. He quickly said, "Why don't you just teach for me, Yolanda?" He had been running a one-month summer program in Paris for several years. I immediately took him up on the offer and have been teaching in July in Paris ever since. July 2013 will be my 23rd year in a row with the European Studies Association summer program...A colleague once said to me "Since you are so interested in this Simone de Beauvoir, why don't you see if you can interview her while you are in Paris this summer?" I decided I had nothing to lose but a letter and a stamp, got an immediate response from her telling me a time to call to set up an appointment when I was in Paris, and had two interviews with her in her apartment on the Rue Schoelcher. I was also a founding member of the Simone de Beauvoir Society, which is an allied association of the Modern Language Association, and have been its President for several decades now. We have approximately 150 members from all over the world, publish an annual journal, Volume 29 of which is currently under preparation, and two newsletters a year, and have an annual conference, with our 21st coming up in June 2013 in Alicante, Spain. ... Et voilà!"
  • Sheila Crane '90 teaches the history and theory of modern architecture and urbanism at the University of Virginia and recently published a book with the University of Minnesota Press entitled Mediterranean Crossroads: Marseille and Modern Architecture. She never would have guessed that the day she spent in Marseille with her host family while living outside of Aix-en-Provence for the orientation session of her Junior Year Abroad in Paris would have led to years of research trying to understand what makes Marseille such a fascinating, dynamic, and unique city.
  • Deirdre McAnally '99
    "In 2011 at Penn State, I defended my doctoral dissertation on the representation of sexual violence in French naturalist fiction. Since then, I have lectured at Gettysburg College and Penn State, and I am currently on the job market. I'm currently researching the links between the criminal "fait divers" in the French press and novels of the Belle Epoque. I hope to see some Smith faces at future conferences!"
  • Julia Hladky '13
    "Under the direction of Denis Crouzet at Paris IV, I am writing my master's thesis on Mathurine, the female jester of king Henri IV of France. While her dates and origins are unknown, she was a public figure and common feature of the royal entourage and the Pont-Neuf in late sixteenth and early seventeenth century France. The last and most politically powerful folle, she was a frequently seen character in the streets of Paris, riding a horse, crossdressing in masculine clothing and carrying a sword. At least eight libelles, or polemic pamphlets, were published in her name, presenting controversial opinions on topics ranging from the war with Spain to misogyny. While their authorship is impossible to determine, their use of vulgar language and references mark her role as a court fool fully integrated in popular culture. While her challenge to gender binaries presented a transgression of social order, she also functioned as an important liaison between Henri IV and the peuple, reinforcing hierarchy and the new monarchie absolue. For such a fascinating historical figure, there exists an astonishing lack of scholarship, most historians dismissing Mathurine as an idiosyncrasy, or "simple figure excentrique." However, several recent analyses demonstrate that her presence at court was complex, and the traces she left offer a rich foundation for the deconstruction of early modern culture and society."

To see an extended version of what our alumnae had to say, please click here.

What else do our alumnae do after Smith? Here’s a sample of careers and jobs that recent French Studies alumnae have found:

  • Christianne Beasley '12 is the new head Librarian at the Alliance Française de Washington, D.C.
  • Alison Emmerson '12 has recently been accepted into the TAPIF program, and will be living in Paris, teaching middle school and high school students.
  • Eve Whitehouse '11 Art and French Studies (JYA Paris) is currently a French Teaching Fellow at Phillips Academy.
  • Elyse Martin '11, Comparative Literature and French Studies (JYA Paris), is currently working as a Program Assistant at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She was previously an English-language teaching assistant at three elementary schools in Saint-Quentin, France.
  • A French and Comparative Literature major, Abby McIntyre '10 was recently named deputy health care editor at POLITICO in Washington, D.C., where she's worked since 2010. In her free time, she volunteers at the Alliance Française de Washington, D.C.'s French Library.
  • Rebecca Weiner '10 completed her Master's in French and Francophone studies at Penn State in May 2013. She will spend 2013-2014 as a teaching assistant in the département d'études anglaises et nord-américaines at the Université de Strasbourg before returning to Penn State to continue her doctoral work the following year.
  • After learning Italian and spending two years in Rome teaching English after graduation, Laura Izkowitz '09 entered a Master's program in creative writing at Columbia University in the fall. She is currently writing a memoir of her JYA in Paris. Check out an excerpt at http://paris.untappedcities.com/2012/01/06/left-bank-nostalgia/
  • Nadia Rivera-Nieves J'09 spent a year as the ENS fellow in 2009-10, where she found mentors who continue to guide her work. Still under the auspices of the ENS and the EHESS, she is now drafting a Master's thesis on the impact that the philosopher Derrida has had on Emmanuel Levinas’s work on alterity.
  • Erika Faller '09 is now a graduate student in the doctoral program of French Studies at New York University.
  • After spending a year in Kazan, Russia, Alyson Faller '09 has moved to warmer climes. She’s been teaching English in an international high school in Dakar, Sénegal for more than a year and thinking of undertaking a Master's in education either in Leuven, Belgium or Canada.
  • Caroline Winschel '09 recently met up with Jonathan Gosnell and Janie Vanpée at the Modern Language Association convention in Seattle this January 2012. She is an assistant editor at the University of Pennsylvania Press and has been enjoying the spare time that comes with having recently completed her Master’s in English literature, also at Penn.
  • Meredith Duncan '08, who works and lives in NYC, launched the blog, CubicleChic, in 2010. The blog focuses on fashion for the work place. Check it out: http://www.cubiclechicblog.com/tag/meredith-duncan/
  • Eileen Friedman '08, CLT and French Studies major, lived in Buenos Aires for two years where she taught English to teens and adults. Janie Vanpée met up with her for a great dinner in the colonial San Telmo neighborhood in July 2010.
  • Sarah Muffly '08 spent two productive years as an assistante d’anglais in the Académie de Versailles. She began a Master's program in international education development at Teachers College of Columbia University this fall.
  • After graduation, Mary Morgan Childs '08 spent a summer studying in Poitiers, France followed by a year in Bruxelles, before finishing her Master's at Middlebury in 2009. Since 2010 she has been teaching French at the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute in Los Angeles.
  • Korin Kane '07 obtained her Master's from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris in 2009 and is now a Policy Analyst at the OECD in Paris.
  • Eliza Zingesser '05 Congratulations to Eliza for finishing her dissertation, French Troubadours: Assimilating Occitan Literature in Northern France, which explores the reception of Occitan lyric in France in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in the period corresponding to the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) and its aftermath, which witnessed France’s political and cultural annexation of Occitania. Eliza’s other research interests include the history of the book, gay and lesbian studies, and late medieval and early modern writers including Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart and Rabelais.
  • Caroline Whiteman '05 received her Master's degree in Etudes Basques from the Université de Bordeaux III - Michel de Montaigne in 2006 with a mémoire de maîtrise titled "Le linteau à Ostabat: relève, lecture sémiotique et analyse socio-historique".  Following her Master's, she spent a year in an intensive Basque language school in Gernika (Guernica), Spain.  Currently in her third year of the PhD program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, her interests focus on literary regionalism; politics and sociology in literature; translation and adaptation theories.
  • Jill Falk '05 is currently completing the research for her PhD thesis at MIT. Could the internship experience she had working in Professor Verssac’s lab at INSERM in Paris during her JYA have led to her current research?
    Here is what she’s researching now: Checkpoints are surveillance mechanisms that couple cell cycle events such that one event is contingent on the occurrence of another. During mitosis, the spindle position checkpoint ensures that the mitotic spindle elongates along the mother-bud axis before mitotic exit, so that both mother and daughter cell receive one full DNA complement. One component of this checkpoint, the kinase Kin4, functions as a negative regulator of mitotic exit by blocking Cdc5 phosphorylation of Bfa1. She is interested in how Kin4 itself is regulated as well as how mitotic exit, in general, is controlled in budding yeast. 
    Jill’s sister, Zoe Falk '15, is now at Smith and looking forward to spending her JYA in Paris next year.
  • Jennifer Hadden '05, French Studies and Government double major at Smith, was a fulltime student at Sciences Po when on the JYA program in Paris in 2003-2004. She recently received her Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University in 2011 and is now Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland. Her research focuses on the role of civil society participation in climate change policy-making in the European Union and the United Nations. This work has been supported by a Fulbright Fellowship to the European Union, as well as by grants from the European Union Studies Association and the Cornell Institute for a Sustainable Future.
  • Elizabeth Applegate '02 is currently Assistant Professor of French at Saint Mary’s College of Maryland after receiving her Ph.D in 2010 in French Literature at New York University. Her dissertation focused on various modes of bearing witness in fiction and survivor testimony about the Tutsi genocide. She spent time teaching English in Rwanda in the summer of 2009, and she serves on the board of Friends of Tubeho, a fundraising organization that provides scholarships for university students who were orphaned by the genocide. She has recently published articles on the theatre of Togolese playwright Kossi Efoui and on the Rwandan novelist Gilbert Gatore. Her current research focuses on theatre and reconciliation in Rwanda today.
  • Hannah Freed-Thall '02 has garnered a prestigious Perkins-Cotsen Fellowship at Princeton University for 2011-12, where she will also be a lecturer in French and Italian. She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of California-Berkeley. She is revising her dissertation for publication and conducting research on a second book project tentatively titled "'C'est vraiment dégueulasse': The Rhetoric of Revulsion in 20th-century France." She has recently won the Malcolm Bowie Prize from the Society for French Studies for her article "Prestige of a Momentary Diamond: Economies of Distinction in Proust," New Literary History (2012).
  • Noelle Giguère '00, defended her dissertation, “Writing the Unseen: Envisioning the Face in Works of Marguerite Duras and Hélène Cixous” at Emory University in 2010. She is currently Lecturer of French at Christopher Newport University in Virginia.

French Teaching Assistantships

Every year a number of French majors successfully apply for one of the 1,500 openings for French teaching assistantships to teach English in a French lycée. Consult the "Teaching Assistant Program in France" site for the latest information on how to apply.

Recent Participants:

Fulbright Fellows

French majors and students have an excellent track record of garnering Fulbright Fellowships.

Recent recipients

 

Congratulations!

We offer congratulations to four French majors who were awarded Fulbright Scholarships for 2014-2015: