Without a doubt, since last August, FRIT has experienced another year of challenges and transitions. After overcoming the institutional tensions around the IU graduate workers’ strike which led to a long-overdue stipend raise, we welcomed a new department administrator, Ms. Connie Sue May as the head of our dedicated staff team. All of us – faculty, graduate students, and staff – have come together during this year, when all aspects of our work fully resumed in person, to face the shifting dynamics of academia while continuing to champion the core values of our department: first-rate research, innovative pedagogy, and committed service to our IU community and the world.
Letter from the chair
Among the highlights of the Fall semester, we can boast our first Open House held at the College’s Walter Career Center (in the Ernie Pyle building) to which all IU students interested in our French and/or Italian programs were invited. This event that not only confirmed our popularity on the Bloomington campus but also the impressive network of volunteers who serve as our advocates among their peers, such as the passionate and ingenious student association Les Chevaliers de la Table Française. Another first that drew wide attention on our campus and beyond, attracting many Bloomingtonians, was the exciting Italian Week made possible by our indefatigable team of Italian language instructors led by their inspiring and innovative director. Moreover, FRIT’s research power shined brightly both at the College of Arts and Sciences’ 2023 Distinguished Alumni event and at the College’s Book Exhibit where we were proudly represented by no less than eight publications, including an award-winning monograph!
Spring offered a unique series of Mélodie events that blended music and 19th-century poetry featuring a week-long master class with an internation- ally acclaimed French vocal artist and capped by a delightful student recital, held under the aegis of the Center of Excellence of the French Embassy at IU.
The bi-annual Colloquium organized by our Graduate Student Organization, devoted this year to the theme of “Patterns and Singularities”, brought together two distinguished guest speakers (one of them a FRIT alumnus!) who joined MA and PhD student presenters from IU and other institutions along with FRIT faculty for two stimulating days of plenary lectures, roundtables, and panel talks on subjects as wide-ranging as bird symbolism in muwashshahat and troubadour lyric, journalistic storytelling in postwar Italy, and high vowel laxing in Québec French! The colloquium was only one of the numerous events such as guest lectures and symposia which saw us hosting scholars and artists from the US and abroad throughout the academic year. Most of them joined us in person, but even remote events such as the virtual concert, public lecture, and small-group conversations with an Italian-Liberian rap artist deeply resonated with IU audiences.
A whole host of traditional FRIT activities, such as the French Club and Circolo Italiano or our study-abroad programs in Aix-en-Provence and Bologna, were enriched by more recent developments like the groundbreaking opportunity for our Italian students to use VR (virtual reality) devices in their language classes, an idea that stole the spotlight and attracted a large audience of prospective students and their families during our department’s participation in the College’s Direct Admit Day, to intern at the French Consulate in Chicago, or to participate in the Innovation Policy Program in Toulouse. In future years, we hope to renew two memorable experiences that bookended this academic year: hosting Indiana high-school class visits!
At our annual Awards Ceremony and our FRIT Commencement Reception we once again celebrated the remarkable work and impressive achievements of our undergraduate and graduate students, our Associate Instructors, and one exceptional faculty member who received this year’s Trustees Teaching Award. Another significant and moving event was the reception to honor the retirement of a longstanding member of our department, Senior Lecturer Kelly Sax, who in her decades of service as Director of our French Language Instruction program, educated, advised, and mentored generations of students and instructors. Both in person and in writing, students and colleagues paid tribute to Kelly’s utter professionalism, boundless generosity, and inimitable style that has always combined fashion and flair with an authentic sense of care. Her lovely watercolor paintings inspired by French themes can be found in the banner photo of this issue's index and in our Faculty Notebook feature.
On a personal note, as I end my term as Chair, I feel both humbled by the many instances of solidarity, dedication, and resilience I have witnessed from our faculty, students, and staff during the past few years while being faced with unprecedented pressures and demands, and heartened by the resourcefulness, creativity, and ambition to continue our tradition as one of the best French and Italian departments in the US and recognized worldwide. I am fully confident that, with the continued support of our extended FRIT family which includes our generous donors and alumni, our valued traditions strengthened by innovative initiatives will continue to define us under the inspired leadership of our next chair, Prof. Hall Bjørnstad.