Professor Profile: Dr. Kate Bonin

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 12, 2015

“Simi, present. Claire, absent. Dominique, present…,” said Dr. Kate Bonin to herself, taking attendance as her French 102 class at Arcadia University began on Monday afternoon. When she finished, Bonin began walking around the classroom, listening, and occasionally participating in the conversations the students were having about what they did the past weekend, ‘en français’. Many times during the hour long class, Bonin had the class break up into pairs, ‘bonjour partenaire’, to work on different parts in the textbook, as she walked around the classroom and conversed with the pairs to keep them talking or answered any translation or grammar questions. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Kate Bonin, age 42, a 1994 graduate of Rutgers University’s Douglass Residential College, always knew she wanted to be a teacher. However, up until her senior year of college, she thought she was going to be an English professor. “I was taking a year off to teach English in France, so I didn’t apply to grad school that year,” she said. During that year, she watched many of her friends applying, and get waitlisted, or even not get in, and it was sort of demoralizing for her. “My favorite professor in French told me that there are more places available if you teach foreign language, and I thought, I like literature, I like English, I like French, why don’t I teach French? So I did.” Bonin graduated from Rutgers with a BA in English and French. The following year she applied to grad school and got accepted to UC Berkeley, and later received her PhD in French there. This is Bonin’s first year teaching at Arcadia. “There’s a good opportunity here,” said Bonin. “It’s a small department, so I get to do things that kind of fit me pretty well.” Bonin is an Assistant Professor, so she works at the school full time. This semester she is teaching four classes, including two sections of 100 level classes, one 200 level class, one 300 level class, and she also has a thesis student. “It’s a full plate, but everything is a little bit different,” she said with a laugh. “There’s just a lot of opportunities, and there’s a whole range of courses available.” Bonin’s excitement in teaching at Arcadia comes with many reasons. Before getting her job at Arcadia, Bonin was working as a part time professor for 10 years. She taught at Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA and Widener University in Chester, PA. Then at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA she was a visiting assistant for a year, as well as being one for a year at Widener. After that, Bonin was an Adjunct until she got this full time job at Arcadia. With 20 years of teaching under her belt before arriving at Arcadia, Bonin has a lot of teaching opportunities to look forward to. “At the upper division, Dr. Jojo Lucena, the head of the department here told me I could do what I wanted and I thought ‘oh that sounds really good’, so I get to develop courses that I’m interested in,” said Bonin. “I get to teach Cinema, I get to teach Business French, Literature, and Civ, and like everything,” stated Bonin with excitement. Bonin would not have been able to get to where she is today without the help of colleagues and professors from when she was learning to be a teacher. “The woman who taught me how to teach composition Dr. Jean Schultz,” said Bonin. From 1986 to 2002, Schultz was a professor at UC Berkeley, she now teaches at UC Santa Barbara. “She helped me develop a 200 level course,” said Bonin, “I think it’s really good at meeting the needs of students who are moving from first year language study to upper division culture, literature and civilization classes. Second year is where they have to be able to make that transition and Jean taught me how to do that.” Another role model that Bonin had was at Widener University. “I had a very good colleague who hired me and sort of helped me, her name was Dr. Stephanie Schechner,” said Bonin. Schechner is currently a full time professor. “She knew I was an adjunct and she was really good about sharing upper division courses with me,” stated Bonin, “I got to teach 300 under her.” Schechner also mentored Bonin on how to become a good researcher. “I would write an article and want to give it to a small literary journal and she’d say ‘you know what, why don’t you try this bigger literary journal’,” said Bonin. When Bonin sent those articles in, they would be accepted, “I was like oh wow, because I was kind of timid about it.” With Schechner’s help, Bonin was really able to promote herself and her research. Bonin loves the modern language program at Arcadia for many reasons. “It’s big, there’s a lot of languages offered. It’s such a rich selection,” said Bonin. French is just one of many languages that can be taken at Arcadia. Included also, are Spanish, Italian, American Sign Language, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, and German. “It feels like a really healthy department, and students here all tend to be very attracted to study abroad.” Bonin finds that the Study Abroad program at Arcadia attracts more people to the language department so they can learn their prefered language before traveling to their country of interest. She likes that people will take what they learned and then go and actually use their language in conversations in the streets of foreign countries. Professor Bonin has not been on campus long enough yet to make any major changes to the Modern Language department yet. In the upcoming years she is hoping that along with the help of Lucena, they can develop things that students can do on campus using their major together with their language study in ways that she hopes will really enrich the program. Bonin’s secret advice to any foreign language student was, “If people put in the six hours that they’re supposed to be, in studying outside of class, they would find that it’s much more doable. That would be my ‘secret advice’, maybe it shouldn’t be secret.”