Sharing the lessons of Paris
Three College of LAS alumni collaborate to run a successful study abroad program in Louisiana
Kate Pedrotty (MA, ’10, history), director of strategic communication for Centenary College of Louisiana; David Bieler (PhD, ’83, geology), chair of the Department of Geology at Centenary; and Jeff Hendricks (MA, ’76; PhD, ’83; English), the George A. Wilson Eminent Scholars Endowed Chair of American Literature at Centenary, all graduated from the College of LAS and work together to coordinate and teach classes in the Centenary in Paris (CIP) program.
CIP is a collaborative course program between departments that sends incoming students to Paris during their very first days of college. This academic year, faculty from a wide range of disciplines were involved, including philosophy, geology, mathematics, history, music, psychology, theater, French, and English teaching.
Earlier this year, the CIP program completed its fourth year. CIP courses have focused on history and memory, creative writing, STEM, art history, and the African-American experience in Paris. The three LAS alumni taught three of the seven courses in the program: Pedrotty taught “Historical Sites in Paris;” Bieler taught “Great Events in STEM: The History of Science Revealed in Paris;” and Hendricks taught “Writing Paris/Writing Home.”
The LAS alumni said that their time at Illinois helped shape their roles at Centenary and the CIP program in particular.
Hendricks and David Bieler both have been on faculty and working on a variety of intercultural programs at Centenary for about 30 years. Both had an international dimension to their dissertation research when they were completing their doctoral degrees at Illinois. Hendricks studied American literature with connections to the Spanish Civil War, and Bieler studied an ancient collisional plate margin assemblage in North Wales. For both of them, a commitment to broadening cultural and geographic perspectives was fostered by their work at Illinois.
“When I attended the University of Illinois, the Geology Department faculty had a distinctly international flavor. All of the faculty members continued to have international research or consulting projects, which gave their teaching a global foundation. This led me to my first immersive international experience in North Wales,” Bieler said. “These experiences have led me to continue international research and participating in CIP is one way I can help open our students’ eyes and help them become more aware of cultural difference.”
Pedrotty said she attended CIP in 2016 as a staff member for marketing and communication, but she left with an itch to put her graduate training at Illinois to better use. So, in 2017, she joined the CIP faculty for the first time and taught the course on historical sites in Paris.
She said that helping students think critically about history meant that she became reacquainted with much of her graduate work at Illinois, including a seminar she taught in 2006 called “The Rough Guide to History: Investigating Narratives of Modern Tourism in the United States and Europe.”
Pedrotty also credited history professors such as her advisor, Keith Hitchins, along with Diane Koenker, Mark Steinberg, and Maria Todorova.
“I’m doing something very different today than I anticipated, but I would never have been able to prepare and teach a history course in Paris with a month’s notice without their wisdom and guidance during my graduate school days,” Pedrotty said. “Illinois was such a phenomenal place to study history and I am incredibly grateful for the chance to have been a student there, and now to have passed on some of my passion for history to Centenary students."