Francophone Seminar

Tag: Francophone Seminar

10 students heading to Senegal; one of largest groups in program’s history

Students spending Spring Term in Dakar will take classes on Senegalese culture, literature, and history; French language; beginning Wolof; and Senegalese music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s study abroad program in Dakar, Senegal—part of the school’s Francophone Seminar—is returning this spring in a big way.

Ten Lawrence students are expected to depart for Senegal on March 28, one year after the program was put on pause amid COVID-19 pandemic protocols. It’s one of the largest Lawrence groups to ever take part in the program in the West African country.

“I really think there’s more awareness about global issues,” Dominica Chang, the Margaret Banta Humleker Professor of French Cultural Studies and an associate professor of French, said of the uptick in interest. “I think the past few years have opened students’ eyes to the fact that they should be aware of things outside of America and outside of Europe.”

The 10 students are senior Kylie Zajdel, juniors Claire Chamberlin and Misha Mikhalev, and sophomores Melissa Ndabarasa, Mackenzie Petty, Lauren Chamberlain, Athea Foster, Emily Dorr, Matthew Rynkiewicz, and Marelis Alvarez.

Dominica Chang has been meeting weekly on Zoom with students in preparation for the 10 weeks in Senegal.

Learn more about the Francophone Seminar in Dakar, Senegal

Accompanied by Chang, the students will stay with host families and study at the Baobab Center while being immersed in local customs and languages and working on independent study projects over the course of 10 weeks. They’ll return to campus in early June.

Some of the students are French majors, but not all. Many are double majors, with French paired with global studies, biology, music, geosciences, and government, among others.

Participating students need to have completed French 202, just two terms beyond Lawrence’s language requirement, but otherwise the program is open to all, Chang said. They’ll speak French and Wolof languages while living, studying, and working in Senegal.

“They’ll be in a completely different space,” Chang said. “Mentally, culturally, linguistically, they’ll be pushed out of their comfort zone. It seems like students are more willing to do that now.”

Four students were part of the Senegal trip in 2019. It’s a program that is on the docket every two years. But COVID interrupted last year’s plans, pushing it back to this spring.

The four students on the 2019 trip—Greta Wilkening ’21, Bronwyn Earthman ’21, Miriam Thew Forrester ’20, and Tamima Tabishat ’20—came back from Senegal so enthusiastic that they launched into an independent study project with Chang so they could continue their studies in the Wolof language. That sort of enthusiasm gets around, and partly explains this year’s numbers, Chang said.

“The last group went out and showed that you don’t have to be a French major,” Chang said. “You can be an environmental studies specialist and you can come back and say I navigated this, I wrote a paper and did a presentation, and I did weekly service-learning internships, all at the Ministry of the Environment. We had a biology student who did work in traditional medicine while there. It’s open to all disciplines.”

Chang and the students have been keeping an eye on COVID numbers, not only here but in Senegal as well. They knew if the situation took a turn for the worse, the travel plans could be halted. As of now, all is promising, Chang said.

“As we’ve followed the COVID numbers in Senegal, they’ve been doing very well,” she said. “They’ve been handling the pandemic well. Their numbers have always been much lower than here in Wisconsin.”

And after two years in the pandemic, Spring Term couldn’t come soon enough, Chang said.

“They’re going to have this new world opened to them,” she said of the 10 students. “And it’s going to help Senegal, too. They also have struggled. They’ve been closed down and are finally starting to open up to the world. Our friends are waiting for us there.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Lawrence University French Professor Awarded Fulbright Fellowship to Senegal

Lawrence University Associate Professor of French Lifongo Vetinde has been named a recipient of a 2012-13 Fulbright Teaching and Research Fellowship. Beginning in October, Vetinde will spend 10 months teaching at the Université Gaston Berger in Saint-Louis, Senegal, West Africa.

Associate Professor of French Lifongo Vetinde

During his fellowship appointment, Vetinde will teach two courses, one on American literature by minority authors focusing on the works’ relevance to socio-political discussions of American society, particularly issues of identity and race relations. While the first course is a modified version of the course “Expressions of Ethnicity” he teaches in the Ethnic Studies program at Lawrence, the second course, specifically designed by Vetinde for his fellowship, will serve as a comparative study of the works of such American writers as W.E.B. Dubois, Alice Walker and Maya Angelou with those of Saint-Louisian writers such as Abdoulaye Sadji, Malick Fall and Abdel Aziz Mayoro Diop.

Vetinde also will devote the second half of his fellowship appointment to expanding his scholarship on Francophone African literature and cinema, focusing on the literature about the city of Saint-Louis produced by French colonial writers in the mid-19th century as well as the writings of the Saint-Louis educated native elite from the early decades of the 20th century onwards.

“I want to investigate how these writers explored the relationship between the French colonialists and the Senegalese nationals,” said Vetinde, a native of Cameroon who moved to the United States when he was 29. “These are neglected but very important works of literature of Saint-Louis, a city that is the quintessential crossroads of cultures, ethnicities, races, religions and languages. I want to study the role creative fiction played in the emergence of Senegal’s national identity.”

A member of the Lawrence faculty since 1996, Vetinde has directed Lawrence’s Francophone Seminar, a 10-week study-abroad program in Dakar, Senegal, four times, most recently in 2010.

“We are extremely pleased and proud that Professor Vetinde has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship,” said David Burrows, Lawrence provost and dean of the faculty. “As life in the 21st century has become increasingly globalized, education must emphasize the richness of cultures and countries other than one’s own and Fulbright Fellowships are a powerful way for intercultural education to occur. Professor Vetinde is a wonderful teacher and scholar and we’re happy that he is able to be part of that education.”

The fellowship, worth approximately $55,000, will cover Vetinde’s travel and living expenses while in Senegal as well as provide a teaching stipend and research support.

“Beside the principal objective of promoting international cultural understanding between the United States and Senegal, this fellowship provides an opportunity for me to give back what I’ve learned here to my native continent,” said Vetinde, who earned a master’s degree in French and a Ph.D. in romance languages with emphasis on Francophone African literature at the University of Oregon after earning the equivalent of a master’s degree in Cameroon.

Established in 1946 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Scholar Program is the federal government’s flagship program in international educational exchange. It provides grants in a variety of disciplines for teaching and research positions in more than 120 countries.

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