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Francophone Studies PhD Candidate Receives Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award

UL Grad School -- 04/16/2021

Francophone Studies Ph.D. candidate Sarah Smith is the recipient of the 2021 Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award. Sarah Smith

Graduate students who take on teaching responsibilities make important contributions to our University’s undergraduate teaching mission. The Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Award recognizes an exceptional graduate teaching assistant who has served as the official instructor of record.

Sarah completed her MA in French at UL Lafayette in 2013, and served as an instructor with the Department of Modern Languages before beginning the Ph.D. program in Francophone Studies in 2018. She is currently completing her dissertation project, “(Re)Writing History in the Imaginary of Francophone Louisiana,” which uses theories of literary historiography, trauma, nostalgia, and postmemory to examine modern Louisiana texts written in French.

A New Realm

One of Sarah’s significant accomplishments as an instructor has been her exceptional support to the department in delivering remote teaching during the pandemic.

“Sarah immediately attended online training and subsequently put her deep knowledge of every level of our program to work in tandem with her already well-developed computer skills to invent a framework in Moodle that mirrored our approach to in-person instruction and transitioned us almost seamlessly to asynchronous teaching,” says Dr. Tamara Lindner, Granger & Debaillon BoRSF Professor of Francophone Studies II.

During the past year, students have learned French through Moodle activities with video lessons, as well as weekly Zoom sessions.

“Those best practices that I have incubated in for several years at UL Lafayette (as a graduate student and for a short period as an instructor) are what we wanted to center in the remote teaching,” Sarah reflects.

As the department began planning for the 2020-2021 academic year and refining its approach to remote instruction, Sarah took further advantage of resources from the Office of Distance Learning.

“I worked to improve upon students’ Spring 2020 experiences, bringing in insights from a Distance Learning certification for graduate students (ULearn) that my Department Head invited me to pursue, noting my interest in course design.”

“I created three semester-long master courses, each with forty lesson blocks (containing multiple activities), a full suite of custom-built assessments, and completely tailored gradebooks,” she says.

Innovative Contributions

Dr. Linder notes that Sarah regularly goes beyond expectations for delivering instruction and improving pedagogy.

“Sarah strives to make content relatable and relevant, counters mediocre activities with suggestions for improvement, assesses innovations based not on the good ideas behind them but on their success with real students, and balances a rigorous approach to student engagement with reasonable expectations of their performance.”

In addition to her in-depth teaching experiences, Sarah has served the department as the editorial assistant for the refereed journal Études Francophones, and provided extensive assistance to the organizers of the Department's 2020 French & Francophone Studies Conference (“Le Mal”/Evil) held at the Lafayette Science Museum. She also represented French and Francophone Studies for the University’s Graduate Student Organization, and currently serves as the GSO president.

Sarah’s commitment to providing effective educational opportunities has been a boon to her program, her students, and the University at large.

“To me, Sarah is the embodiment of an excellent teacher: innately talented but nevertheless always looking to improve, consistently inventive while never losing sight of the principles of second language learning and foreign language pedagogy, dedicated to her students and a true benefit to her colleagues and to the University,” says Dr. Lindner.

Students from all over the Francophone World come together at UL Lafayette to explore the rich variety, hybridity, and créolisation of the global Francophonie. Learn more about our dynamic and interdisciplinary doctoral program in Francophone Studies. →