French department is recognized as one of the top undergraduate French
programs in the country. It has been called “a jewel
of a program” and “one of the mainstays of French education” in
the States.(1) The excellence of the program and of the students it
attracts can be gauged by the latters’ success in winning postbaccalaureate
awards: Every year but one for the past fifteen years, at least one
of our senior majors has been awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship
in France. In 2004, five students won this coveted award. Eight recent
alumnae are recipients of Rhodes, Watson, Mellon, and Jacob K. Javits
Fellowships for subsequent study. Every year, two or three of our
majors who are interested in university teaching are accepted by
the top doctoral programs in French, comparative literature and political
science. They often have been admitted to our demanding four-year
B.A./M.A. program, which is one of few in this country and hence
attracts gifted students of French to the College
Many of our majors apply for entry-level positions in international affairs (e.g., ElfAquitaine, Certainteed) and international relations (e.g., the U.N., where two of our B.A./M.A. students have interned or work, and The Center for Reproductive Law and Policy). Many opt to prepare for careers in the international arena by applying to graduate programs in international studies or public health and to law school; in the latter area, our graduates have found that the rigorous training they have in dissecting texts and analyzing discourse is excellent preparation. One or two majors each year head to medical school, where the need for bilingual doctors is more and more apparent in this hemisphere and in world health organizations active in Francophone Africa, Eastern Europe and the Far East. Often our graduates have chosen a double major, e.g., French and Political Science, French and Economics, French and Anthropology, French and Comparative Literature, or French and a hard science (Physics and Mathematics most recently); some opt to minor in a related field (Art History) or concentration (International Studies: Economics, Politics or Ethics).
One of the reasons our French students fare so well in the competition for positions in the job market or in graduate school is that our program is known for its rigor: since we also have a graduate (Masters) program, our undergraduate offerings profit from the presence of a faculty fully equipped to teach both undergraduate and graduate courses and from the presence of graduate students in our most advanced courses. Unlike Ivy League institutions and large research universities, our undergraduates in French, and in languages in general, are not taught by graduate assistants. For example, a faculty member often teaches a senior or graduate-level seminar in the same semester that s/he teaches elementary, intermediate or third-year French.
In other words, we offer the best of both worlds to students interested in language acquisition: intensive language learning tracks (for those beginning a second or third language) or, in some cases, the possibility of earning a B.A./M.A. in four or five years, both possibilities offered by a dedicated faculty expert in teaching French language, literature and culture from the beginning to the most advanced levels.
Yet one other component of our French program is the well-known and highly selective Institut d’Etudes françaises d’Avignon, our summer institute in France which annually admits five to ten Bryn Mawr students among its 40-50 advanced undergraduates and graduate students from American and European universities. The Institut is designed for selected undergraduates and graduate students with a serious interest in French literature and culture, most particularly for those who anticipate professional careers requiring a knowledge of the language and civilisation of France. The curriculum includes general and advanced courses in French language, literature, social sciences, history, and art. The program is open to students of high academic achievement who have completed a course in French at the third-year level or the equivalent. The graduates of this program are at the forefront of their profession, as professors in top college programs, and as leaders in international business, banking, and commerce. In forming the latter, the Institut shares a connection with Bryn Mawr’s minor in International Studies, by offering students preparation in economics courses on the Bryn Mawr campus and practical internships in Avignon, France, complemented by two courses in European economic relations and commercial French.
Most French majors spend either their sophomore or junior summer at the Avignon Institut or one or two semesters of their junior year at approved programs in France, Canada, or Francophone Africa. Students on the Bryn Mawr campus can reproduce this immersion experience by choosing to live at Haffner in the Maison française, or by participing in the weekly film series, conversation groups, and goûters, and by profiting from the resources of our Language Learning Center, which is equipped with interactive technology and a satellite dish that beams in French news and cultural programs daily.
Founders Hall 122
tel.: (610) 795-1756
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