French Professor Promotes Culturally Diverse Education

by Alex Keys

Recognizing the benefits of a liberal arts education, Dr. Simonetta Cochis always tries to keep things “fresh and new.”

“Learning another language is about exchange and intellectual engagement with the culture,” Dr. Cochis said.

Cochis, an associate professor of the French program at Transylvania, believes that it is important for students and faculty to constantly challenge themselves.

“I went into French because it was hard for me,” she said. “I tend to extend myself beyond my comfort level.”

After pursuing an education in French, Cochis obtained her doctorate from New York University with a specialization in Medieval and Renaissance literature.

As a native-born Italian who spent much of her youth in Venezuela, Cochis realizes the benefit of a culturally diverse education and tries to apply that experience to the courses she instructs. Having recently led a sustainability workshop, she has begun to find ways to incorporate that experience into her classes. Additionally, Cochis enjoys the interdisciplinary courses that Transy offers because they “allow faculty and students to break out of their comfort zone.”

This May term, Cochis, along with associate chemistry professor Dr. Bob Rosenberg, is teaching a travel course on Galileo, which will travel to Italy.
However, Cochis also prefers to offer a diverse education within the French program itself.

“In the foreign language programs, we do what an English program would do but in another language,” said Cochis.

The French program offers a view into the culture of the language by reading and analyzing the literature, history, cinema, art and other sorts of cultural production that the language offers. Next semester, when she instructs a course in French theater, Cochis plans on collaborating with the drama department to stage one of plays that the course covers.

“It’s hard to have a dialogue if you don’t understand where they’re coming from,” Cochis said.

Beyond simply instructing courses, Cochis attempts to bring the history of the French language to life in a couple of different manners. In addition to her work on a translation of Antoine de la Sale’s “The Paradise of Queen Sibyl,” Cochis brings scholarship to the stage through her co-direction of La Compagnie Gaillarde. This medieval troupe performs French farce in order to entertain while also presenting a scholarly perspective not otherwise available to the audience.

In Cochis opinion, the troupe’s work helps to “bring to life what, many times, is otherwise just a flat text.”

Cochis enjoys teaching at Transylvania University because the foreign language department is allowed to extend beyond a purely monolithic form of education. Due to the freedom that Cochis and Dr. Brian Arganbright have been given to teach courses that engage their own academic interests, the French program has been able to offer many unique opportunities to Transy students. The program encourages independent research, discussion in French and participation in the French club, as well as internships and study-abroad programs that focus on the use of the French language.

“Learning another language is about exchange and intellectual engagement with the culture,” Cochis said.


One Response to French Professor Promotes Culturally Diverse Education

  1. Pingback: Professor McEuen finds niche in early 20th-century United States « The Rambler

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