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Highlights for CSB Solano Graduate and French Studies Program – CSB/SJU

Olivia Solano ’22 didn’t even have French studies on her radar in the fall of 2018 when she arrived at Collège Saint-Benoît.

Four years later, she left him with considerable impact. It’s “great impact” in French.

Solano was recently named an Outstanding Senior by a national association of French teachers, was among the first eight inductees into a new chapter of a French national honor society, and is one of five graduates from Université Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s which will make the bridge with their college. education with a 2022-23 assignment under the Teaching Assistants Program in France (TAPIF).

That’s to say surprising (surprising) for someone who originally planned to become a nurse.

“The number of times we came up with a four-year plan was insane,” said Solano, who worked regularly with her advisor, associate professor Ana Conboy, who taught one of Solano’s courses during the first semester. second year.

“I had learned French in high school and I didn’t like it,” added Solano, a native of Grayslake, Ill., whose father, Adam, graduated from Saint John’s University in 1992. “But I really loved it with (Conboy) because she’s an amazing teacher. She made the learning environment so much fun. I realized that having the language in my schedule left me a little space to be creative.

The theater is one of Solano’s passions and her nursing studies program did not leave her the time to devote herself to it. She decided that nursing was not for her and worked out a double major with French and nutrition – knowledge that she combined into a single flagship project that could represent her future career. While studying abroad, she researched wellness programs and created a model that a French company could implement to help its employees be healthy through nutrition and physical activity. .

“Olivia excelled in everything she did,” said Conboy, who has taught at CSB and SJU since 2015. . She brings her all in everything and seizes the moment. And she is gifted with great self-awareness and an ability to adapt in difficult circumstances. She is an inspiration to all of us.

Read on to find out how Solano and French Studies programbloomed together last year.

Outstanding Senior

Solano is believed to be the first student in CSB and SJU history to be named an Outstanding Senior by the American Association of French Teachers. This did not happen during the careers of Conboy or Professor Karen Erickson, whose tenure predates Conboy’s arrival.

To be honored, exceptional seniors must demonstrate excellence in the study of French, an overall high academic record, and an exceptional commitment to the language through participation in extracurricular activities. Solano was a French teaching assistant, a French cultural events assistant and an active member of the French Club which later became co-president.

She said others deserved and that maybe one of the reasons she was selected was because of the pivots she had to make along the way to graduating. Solano has completed his introductory French course (French 211) and was scheduled to take the French 212 course in the spring semester of 2020. Unfortunately, the course was not available that semester.

Conboy suggested Solano enroll in French 312, and she cautiously agreed. Then COVID-19 hit, forcing everyone into remote learning.

Solano not only succeeded, she excelled, completing French 312 and French 355 (four French plays) online from her home in suburban Chicago.

“I ended up learning so much French that by the end of the semester I was writing essays in French, and we wrote a play and performed it on Zoom in French,” she said. declared. “I also had a chemistry class for my nutrition major which was really tough at the same time. It was my toughest course load ever, and it was hard to fit those two majors in, but I did it.

Pi Delta Phi arrives at CSB and SJU

In the summer of 2021, Conboy contacted the national president of Pi Delta Phi about starting a chapter in Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s. A subsequent application included a letter of interest outlining how the section would enhance the French program and promote the mission and values ​​of the department and institutions. Conboy agreed to be the chapter moderator, and Academic Dean Barb May provided a letter endorsing the installation of a new chapter. The first eight members were inducted on April 21, which coincided with the day of celebrating scholarship and creativity and the annual “Festival Lyrique” which celebrates the talents of French students.

In addition to Solano, inductees included: Alexandria Armbrister ’22, Autumn Ayer ’23, Stevie Dickison ’23, Celeste Dickson ’23, Abigail Goff ’22, Cate Luna ’23, and Sara Mayeux ’24.

“I think it’s really important because the pandemic has made it difficult to maintain our program,” Solano said. “I think having an honor society on campus shows that our department has value and that there are students who really love the language.”

Ayer served as co-president of the French Club and was a French teaching assistant with Mayeux.

Solano was supposed to study in France in the fall of 2020, but COVID forced her to redo her four-year plan. Fortunately, she was able to make it to Cannes in the fall of 2021, joined by Ayer, Dickison and Dickson. Mayeux will be going to Montpellier this fall, a new place to study abroad.

The first eight inductees of the Pi Delta Phi, Rho Alpha Chapter in Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s include (left to right): Stevie Dickison ’23, Olivia Solano ’22, Sara Mayeux ’24, Abigail Goff ’22, Autumn Ayer ’23 , Alexandria Armbrister ’22, Celeste Dickson ’23 and Cate Luna ’23.

Return to France

Conboy describes TAPIF as a function similar to that of a Fulbright English teaching assistant. She should know. She attended TAPIF in 2005-06 as a graduate of Bowdoin College, where she earned a degree in biochemistry. The experience was so transformative that she stayed in Paris to earn a master’s degree in French and followed that up with a doctorate at Boston College.

Sounds a bit like Solano, who after another year in France is looking to continue his studies – maybe in Europe – and maybe become a dietitian. She is one of five recent graduates to receive TAPIF awards for the coming year. In addition to Solano, Goff and three 2021 graduates – Ashley Dalbec from CSB and Robert Karlson and Jack Scheck from SJU – will work in France for seven months teaching English to French students.



City of France

Ashley Dalbec’21

French, secondary education


Abigail Goff ’22



Robert Karlson ’21

French, political science


Jack Scheck ’21



Olivia Solano’22

French, dietary


“We are very proud of the achievements of our students and honored to receive national and international recognition for the excellence of the French Studies program,” said Conboy. “It’s important to celebrate success and reinforce encouragement. These students have their own personal gifts and backgrounds, but their common denominator is that they all share a love for the French language and Francophone culture.

“Our students are thriving,” Conboy added. “They are intelligent, versatile and adaptable, considerate and compassionate, culturally competent and humble. They are true citizens of the world…they will make a difference, and in the French section we have a saying that we are few but mighty.

That is to say: “We are few, but we are very strong!”