I have been participating in the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association’s annual conference for several years now. As a Senior Lecturer with limited university funding options for attending conferences, I choose them very carefully. I attend the ones where I would learn and benefit the most from presenting papers, attending sessions, and engaging in productive conversations about teaching and literature with colleagues from across the nation. Due to the special spirit of sharing among the participants, the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association’s annual conference provides the opportunity for brain storming and exchanging of best practices. As it has a wide scope that includes sessions on American, British, Canadian, and foreign languages and literatures, it provides an opportunity to speak to and learn from colleagues outside of one’s field. The French language is well represented by allied MLA organizations such as Women in French and Conseil international d’études francophones.
Without exception, every year, I come away from this conference reinvigorated and ready to continue my research and teaching. The benefit of what I experience and learn in the conference is far-reaching for it applies not only to my own professional development but to the improvement of our lower division program and our students in general.
For my presentations, I alternate between literature and pedagogy. This year, I presented a paper on the role of women in Michel Butor’s oeuvre, and attended many interesting sessions. Due to the rich variety of the program, it is difficult to single out one outstanding presentation among the many thought-provoking sessions I attended on literature, linguistics, and pedagogy. In literature, the sections on “French Cultural and Literary Theory” and “Representations of Immigration in French and Francophone Literature and Film” were outstanding. In pedagogy, three sessions were of particular interest: “Practical Approaches to Teaching Literature through Travel and Off-campus Study,” “A Round Table on Intercultural Competence,” and “Analyzing, Rethinking and Promoting Innovative Foreign Language Undergraduate Curricula.” Despite their differences in approach, the underlying theme in all three pedagogy sessions was the promotion of an interdisciplinary approach encouraging cooperation and team teaching between language departments and other disciplines such as political science, history, and business.
The Keynote Speaker this year was Professor Nelly Furman, Professor Emerita of French at Cornell University, Director of the Office of Foreign Language Programs and also of the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages. She gave an informative lecture on the state of the modern language studies that included both the good news and the crises facing us. She emphasized the importance of rethinking our undergraduate majors to correspond better to global changes and to attract graduate students whose numbers have not increased since the mid 1990’s.
I am grateful to campus organizations such as the Berkeley Language Center and the Institute for European Studies for providing lecturers with opportunities for professional development and conference attendance through the travel grants.