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Culture Lab parlays students’ experiences abroad into curriculum

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at dickinsonh@beloit.edu or 608-363-2849

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 below) has two main goals. The first 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. Students can also select their own topics with prior approval.

Upon return, the students enroll in a ¼ credit to 1 credit special project course and produce materials to be used in the French 215 (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 Dakar Families – both in Senegal.

Bašić is also coordinating projects with two students while they are abroad in Senegal this semester. They 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.”

Nataša Bašić 

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.

Other current lab projects include the Jamaica Field School and Philosophy and Children. For more information on Labs Across the Curriculum, visit here.

SOURCES: Nataša Bašić is a visiting assistant professor of modern languages specializing in French and German.  Bašić teaches all levels of French and German, and her teaching and research interests include 19th- and 20th-century French literature and culture, interdisciplinary memory studies, narratology, intellectual history, and European literature. Bašić earned a Ph.D. and an M.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.