Modern Languages Prof Goes Global
August 30, 2016
Dr. Karen Cody’s educational influence will soon reach well beyond her Angelo State classes following her completion of a Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad Program this summer in the West African nation of Senegal.
An ASU faculty member since 2001, Cody teaches French, Spanish and linguistics. She was one of only 16 faculty from universities across the U.S. chosen for the Fulbright-Hays Seminar in Senegal.
“This Fulbright was to study linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity in West Africa,” Cody said. “I’ve taught about West Africa all my career in French, I’ve taught about the diversity of language in my linguistics classes, and I’ve known about Islam from my own college classes. This was my opportunity to go to Africa and see it first-hand, so I couldn’t have designed a better program for me personally or professionally.”
“We are required to upload a curricular unit to the Department of Education website,” she added. “My unit is on teacher education because that’s one of the things I do at ASU. I’m teaching the future teachers of Spanish and English as a second language.”
Through the Department of Education website and its links to the U.S. State Department website, teachers all over the world will be able to access Cody’s curricular unit, expanding her reach on a global scale.
Based at the West African Research Center in Dakar, Cody’s Fulbright group traveled around Senegal visiting with scholars, government ministers, heads of NGOs, village elders and religious leaders to gather information and research for their curricular units. They also visited tourist sites and game preserves and attended an international conference.
“We were all looking at everything from different perspectives,” Cody said, “and we all agreed that we learned so much more as a consequence of that. We think that as a country, Senegal has been spectacularly successful at setting up a society that will serve the majority of its citizens in the long run.”
“We are a big human family, and we can’t discount the role that access to education plays in that.”
Cody also had the advantage of being the only one in her group who spoke French. Though it is not the native language of the region, it is the official language of the education system. That meant Cody could communicate with just about everyone except the smaller children who were not yet in school.
“I could work independently with the people,” Cody said, “and I could go into the schools and look at what was happening in the classrooms and also how they were training their teachers. All of their teachers deliver their content in French, which is not the home language of any of their students, and they are doing it successfully.”
Now that she has returned to ASU, Cody is hard at work completing her curricular unit for the Department of Education. But perhaps her biggest personal benefit from the trip is the reinforcement of ideas she had formed through previous sociolinguistic study and research.
“Essentially, we are a human family who all want the best for our children,” Cody said, “and we do what we need to do to provide the most opportunities for the next generations. There are different factors that influence that, like politics and social advantages people may or may not have, and different environments. But we are a big human family, and we can’t discount the role that access to education plays in that.”
Students in Cody’s ASU classes this fall will have first access to her African experience.
“They have always heard about these topics from me,” Cody said. “What will be different is that I now have first-hand knowledge of things that I had been taught, read in books or seen in videos and movies. In my sociolinguistics classes, there will be additional first-hand things I can share. In my French classes, I’ll be able to give more specific examples of different things. That will also carry over into my Spanish classes.”
“The other requirement from Fulbright is that we disseminate the information we learned to as wide an audience as possible,” she added. “So it’s not just in my classes where I’m expected to share. I’ve also had requests to go talk to history, political science and security studies classes and to speak to the Honors Program students. There will also be some additional larger public forums where I will speak, including around Texas and out of state.”
“Fulbright Fellowships are extremely competitive awards, so I’m extraordinarily grateful to have been given this opportunity.”