URI students find French professor inspirational

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Alain-Philippe Durand named finalist for national award

KINGSTON, R.I.—July 24, 2008—French Professor Alain-Philipe Durand of Cranston wears many chapeaus at the University of Rhode Island. In addition to French, he teaches cinema studies and comparative literature courses. If that weren’t enough, he creates and teaches innovative honors classes.

You might call Durand inspirational. In fact, a number of his students did just that when they nominated him for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars’ Inspire Integrity Awards, the only national student-nominated faculty awards program. The award recognizes faculty members who have had a significant impact on their students’ lives and instilled a high degree of personal and academic integrity.

Durand was one of just 15 finalists for the award. Although Linda Bolton, an English professor at the University of Iowa was selected the winner, a number of URI students made Durand their top choice.

“He knows his subjects, and equally important, is passionate about them, which is contagious,” says 2008 alumna Stephanie Bramley who notes that Durand is always respectful—he once even asked her class for permission to bring another professor into class.

Bramley took a class with Durand as a freshman and his honors colloquium on “Novels of the Contemporary Extreme” co-taught by English Professor Naomi Mandel as a senior. “What a neat way to begin and end my college experience,” she says.

When 2008 alumna Emily Macaux transferred to URI, she took a French cinema class with Durand. “I was struck by his energy and enthusiasm, which seemed to spring from both a genuine passion for the material and a sincere love of teaching,” she says. She calls Durand’s French literature courses, which she subsequently took, “the most stimulating classes of her undergraduate years. He encouraged a deep level of intellectual engagement with the material being studied, which led to lively, challenging discussions.”

Under his direction, she wrote her honors senior thesis entirely in French and found the experience both intellectually illuminating and creatively exhilarating.

Durand served on URI 2004 alumna Jamie Carr’s dissertation committee. Now an assistant professor of English at Niagara University, Carr says Durand continuously supported her. “He would reply promptly to my questions over email, meet with me to discuss my progress, and thoroughly read my work, providing me with written comments about places that needed elaboration, clarification, or organization, “ Carr says. “His valuable feedback helped me to shape my argument—to consider its gaps, to strengthen its points, and to organize its structure. It is due in part to his contribution that my dissertation was recently published.”

Durand also helped Carr prepare for the job market by giving her practice interviews and offering suggestions to polish her responses. “He is unquestionably generous with his time and energy and conscientious with his commitments.”

Durand’s enthusiasm for the French and Francophone Studies program is unparalleled—the URI program is now the second largest in the nation, thanks to Durand’s unofficial French ambassadorship.

“He remains the gold standard,” says Joe Morello, chair of URI’s Language Department. “I can’t say enough good things about him.”

Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, proudly points out that Durand received URI Foundation Teaching Excellence Award in 2002 and in recognition of his exemplary contributions to the study of French, the French Government awarded him the Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Academiques medal in 2007.