This is seventh in a series of Garfield Log stories through which students and their professors share the type of connections that define the ideal college just as famous Hiram alumnus President James A. Garfield did. Erin Smith, a senior double majoring in French and psychology, joins her favorite professor, Ella Kirk, Ph.D., who teaches French at Hiram, for an interview on the Garfield Log.
Erin, what was your first class with Professor Kirk?
I took Ella’s freshman colloquium class and got to work in the Terrier Bakery with her. Ella has taught me about time management and the value of hard work.
Professor Kirk, please describe the Terrier Bakery for those unfamiliar with it.
The First-Year Colloquium and First-Year Seminar, which are related to the Terrier Bakery, focus on a nontraditional approach to learning about other cultures and how making artisanal bread relates to the values of those cultures.
Erin, why is Professor Kirk your favorite teacher?
She has inspired me academically, but is also the most compassionate professor I know. She wears her heart on her sleeve and goes out of her way to help students. If a student is struggling emotionally, she will talk with them for hours and help them make a plan to get help and work things out.
Professor Kirk, how does it feel to be selected as Erin’s favorite professor?
I feel unworthy, but honored. There are numerous [professors] here at Hiram who deserve this kind of recognition.
Erin, how does Professor Kirk engage her students in French culture and language?
She loves to cook for her students! I have had so many delicious, authentic French dinners with stimulating conversation about French literature and current events. I think that [type of] outside practice has helped a lot of students.
Professor Kirk, tell me more about having Erin as a student.
I love her maturity and integrity; she is one of the kindest, warmest, honest students who have come my way in a while … I consider Erin a member of my family.
Erin, so have you always been interested in French?
Yes, but I never thought about pursuing a major in it until I worked with Ella. The language and people are incredible and she encouraged me to study something I love and helped make it possible to double major.
Erin, what are the benefits of studying French?
I want to go into clinical counseling and this allows me to work at a lot more places. Professor Kirk presented me with an amazing opportunity to work in France and teach English there this year for nine months, which is really cool.
Professor Kirk, how do you see foreign language study benefitting Erin in the future?
Being bilingual and having traveled abroad sets you apart as someone who knows what it means to adapt to new situations, manage being out of your comfort zone, accept others who think and act differently from you and understand your place in history and in the current world. These are very important qualities for anyone to acquire and especially important for someone thinking about a professional career in psychology.
Erin, what’s been the most influential part about this degree and your life at Hiram?
France! Getting to see the monuments is different than studying them in a textbook. It’s living in a moment in history; it’s awe-inspiring. Also, there are huge benefits to experiencing the culture firsthand. And, (Erin laughs) honestly, the wine was great, the cheese is to die for and crepes are good for every meal.
Professor Kirk, what are some of your favorite aspects of taking students to France?
What I love most, especially in an immersive 12-week experience, is witnessing the transformation students undergo. They develop self-confidence, a sense of how they are seen through the eyes of the “other” and they begin to formulate a philosophy of life that they will take with them long after they leave.
What are your favorite French words?
Professor Kirk: Pamplemousse, it means grapefruit. I love it because it sounds so beautiful.
Erin: Toujours, it means forever.
Learn about Hiram College’s Modern Languages and Classics Program at http://www.hiram.edu/modernlanguages.