"Students should be exposed to courses that teach them how to live a meaningful life."
Feat doesn’t use regular textbooks in her classes and has moved away from what she perceives to be a rather functional, expositional approach in favor of a more physical, participatory pedagogy. “For instance, we use drama in my Conversation and Phonetics course, role-playing simulations such as re-enacting the French Revolution in my Introduction to French Culture class, or we recreate the 1889 Paris World Fair in French 202.”
She believes this approach makes her classroom a more interactive and stimulating environment. “Most importantly, I see it as the crucial element of play and creativity in language learning.”
In college, Feat was a classics and philosophy double major with a concentration in Irish literature. “I view myself as an interdisciplinary scholar, drawing on my literary and philosophical training to focus on the Early Modern period in Europe as well as on the Francophone world,” she says. “I work in the field of diaspora studies and am particularly interested in the construction of identities, particularly for minority groups in transnational contexts.”
The common denominator for her research is textual analysis of representations of homelands by displaced groups and their part in individual and collective identity discourses. “My research informs the content of my courses at the intermediate and upper levels. For instance, I recently taught a junior-senior seminar on ‘Francophone African immigration to France’ which focuses on identity, marginalization, and cross-cultural realities through the analysis of discrimination and otherness,” she says. “Similarly, I try to broach the questions of identity formation and belonging in cinematographic and musical (i.e., rap, slam) representations of the banlieue (a French word for outskirts of a city) and its many experiences of exile and alienation.”
Even when teaching abroad, Feat favors a participatory teaching style. “I regularly teach Introduction to Commercial French abroad, which is an internship-based January experience and is primarily designed for French minors,” she says. The class is alternately based in Quimper and in Tours, France.
“After a few days meeting with business professionals and French career counselors, students do individual internships connected to their major or majors,” she says. “The goal for the course is to encourage students to engage directly in the community and by doing so to try to discern their callings to eventually serve the wider world.”
Feat encourages students to appreciate the subjects they study not merely as a means for their profession but as something of intrinsic worth to be enjoyed on its own account. “I attempt to show them that a pragmatic approach to their professional goals does not mean renouncing their personal interests,” she says.
Feat believes this is what the liberal arts is all about. “Students should be exposed to courses that teach them how to live a meaningful life,” she says. “This approach will ultimately make them more successful in their professional and personal endeavors.”
I ride my two horses every morning before class. It’s a great way to enjoy the wonderful parks and trails in the Decorah area!