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Culture Lab parlays students’ experiences abroad into curriculum

March 13, 2012

International education has always been a major component of a Beloit College education, but the new Francophone Culture Lab offers even more opportunities for students to broaden their worldly experiences.


Currently in its pilot year, the Francophone Culture Lab developed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Nataša Bašić (pictured above) has several main goals: one is to help students who study abroad in a French-speaking country to increase their awareness of their experiences and their ability to communicate what they have learned by focusing on a cultural aspect of their host culture.

Possible topics students may explore include contemporary cultural myths, cultural misunderstandings/differences, religious practices, education, and politics among others, and students can also select their own topics.

Upon return, the students enroll in a special project course and produce materials to be used in French 215 (the advanced french course). Thus, the second goal of the Francophone Culture Lab is for the students enrolled in French 215 to benefit from the up-to-date and in-depth examples and analyses of Francophone cultures.

The first student to complete the Francophone Culture Lab was Ariana Anderson’12, who studied homosexuality in Senegal. This semester, Bašić is working on campus with Ashley Pettit’13 who is studying Muslim Brotherhoods and with Aurora Cauthers-Knox’12 who is exploring power and gender in DakarfFamilies – both in Senegal.

Bašić is also coordinating projects with two students while they are abroad in Senegal this semester, who will then enroll in the course when they return next semester. These students are Angeline Peterson’13, studying oral tradition, women, and education and Valmai Hanson’13, researching senegalese literature.

These and other students who enroll in the Francophone Culture Lab will also be able to fulfill their Liberal Arts in Practice requirement.   

“For me, an important aspect is that they are able to teach my 215 students,” Bašić said. “Everyone studies something different, and every French 215 course can continue to benefit from the materials.”

The Francophone Culture Lab is part of the campus-wide Labs Across the Curriculum initiative that was implemented in the fall 2011 academic year. Funded by a $507,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, these are unique course projects that put the liberal arts into practice.

For more information on Labs Across the Curriculum, visit here.