Alumni and Careers

How do Bowdoin graduates with degrees in Francophone Studies use their knowledge and skills out in the world?

Click this link to listen to our former majors talk about what their experience in our programs and abroad brought them and how they use what they learned in a wide variety of professions today.

Rachel Lopkin

Rachel Lopkin

Class of: 2013

Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master's degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.

Where was your placement?

Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)
Subject area: French 2 and French 3

Why Education?

One of the many reasons I came to Bowdoin was for the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. The fact that I could, as an undergrad, become a certified French teacher was immensely appealing to me. Starting with ED 1101 my very first semester here, my interest in education studies only continued to grow as I learned about the vast and varied challenges of educating children. I went from simply wanting to communicate and hopefully transfer my enormous passion and enthusiasm for the French language and Francophone studies, to wanting to understand the differences and the tensions between what education should and what education does look like in America. My experience studying abroad in Paris last year only solidified this interest, as I compared and contrasted the French and American educational systems. I started to question my own definitions of education and teaching, and began to analyze my own experiences as a public school student. What does it mean to be a successful student? How do we demonstrate acquired knowledge? How do we successfully engage students with the material at hand? What is the role of a teacher, both in and beyond the walls of the classroom? And so on. As my interest in education studies grew, I knew that the only way to truly understand the issues behind these questions was to get in front of the classroom myself. I know that my experiences as a full-time student teacher at Greely will help me to answer some of these questions, but will also open up new paths of inquiry and create even bigger challenges. I look forward to tackling these challenges with the help of the Education department here at Bowdoin and of my cooperating teachers at Greely. Sometime after graduation, I hope to obtain a master's degree in Education Policy so that I can work towards solving some of these issues facing the American educational system today.

ALUMNI UPDATE: After a year of teaching English in France, Rachel has returned to the States to pursue a Master's degree in policy at Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Mary Frances Harris

Mary Frances Harris

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Francophone Studies, Physics

Minor(s): Education

Combining theory and practice allowed me to explore concepts and discover the issues students face as learners in an academic, social, and political environment in a way I could not in my other classes.

Why Education?

Before coming to Bowdoin, my education was that of a typical college-bound student. I attended early childhood development programs and a private elementary school before enrolling in a high-ranking, independent middle and high school. I didn’t know many students who weren’t academically motivated, and even fewer who did not have aspirations to go to college. My all-girls experience in middle and high school taught me numerous ways to be prepared for the next step, an academically rigorous college that would. I never considered how academically capable students can be even if they do not have college in their future, those for whom college isn’t the right answer. My classes in the Education department and my time spent in local classrooms helped me rethink that perspective.

My Education 1101 class is the reason I am becoming a teacher. Before I took the class as a sophomore, I had absolutely no intention of ever being in a classroom after college. It was the first time I had ever been in a public school classroom in my entire life. Having started to study the policies and intentions that govern public schools, I learned that schools are one of the most important places where kids learn to become people. I stepped into a third grade class where students were learning how to measure and starting to think critically about the world they live in. I knew I had to be in this kind of environment.

The rest of the courses I took in Education delved into the issues that teachers face every day with an emphasis on the aspect I find most interesting: how students learn. Combining theory and practice allowed me to explore concepts and discover the issues students face as learners in an academic, social, and political environment in a way I could not in my other classes. The moments I spent in American public schools inspired me to pursue a research project on the “extracurricular” lessons (responsibility, self-motivation, time management, etc.) taught in French public schools when I studied abroad in Bordeaux. I worked as a tutor at an after-school center, and I was able to use the lessons I had learned from Bowdoin to be an effective teaching by listening to my students’ needs and differentiating my teaching style in order to help them improve.

The last four years at Bowdoin have exposed me to many new forms of education—public, independent, domestic, foreign, charter— and I am excited to go on to combine these experiences as I travel to Jordan to teach physics at an American-style boarding school. I plan to return to the U.S. to obtain a Master of Arts in Teaching or a Master’s in STEM Education. During this time, I hope to continue to grow as a learner and further enhance the lessons I learned at Bowdoin.

Photo of Parker Lemal-Brown behind her computer

Parker Lemal-Brown

Class of: 2018

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Major(s): Sociology

Minor(s): Francophone Studies

I’m a TV development intern at a Hollywood production company. I read and review scripts sent in by talent agents and producers. I also research books and articles to get ideas for new shows!

How has your Bowdoin education and experience helped you and informed the work that you do?

The ability to think critically and write quickly is essential for good script coverage. I honed those skills at Bowdoin, thanks to all of those essay assignments! The spirit of the Common Good will definitely guide my career in entertainment. I want to create series that are both entertaining and socially responsible.

Has studying Sociology impacted your perspective?

Sociology gave me permission to be both curious and critical about all aspects of life. I love how it encourages big picture thinking and analysis of everything we usually take for granted. Sociology is how I found my way back into creative writing and validated that even entertainment can deeply impact how society works. Sociology is a special lens that forces me to consider all sides of every issue and go beyond knee-jerk judgments. The sociological imagination is a great gateway to storytelling – it’s all about getting to the root of who we are and why.

What are the one or two events, courses or people that stand out in your mind from your time at Bowdoin?

Researching, writing, and producing a performance of my first full-length play with help from Bowdoin students and faculty. And sleeping in the President’s office as a first-year to protest for divestment!

Do you have any advice for current student at Bowdoin?

Don’t be afraid to try things and don’t be afraid to quit things. Say yes to as many opportunities as possible, but be patient with yourself. You might want to do something that the College does not offer, which can be frustrating. But there are always resources available for you to use to do that thing yourself, and plenty of people willing to support / guide you. Follow your passions fully while you are in a small, nurturing space. Go abroad! Join a new club! Perform! Protest! Whatever! Define your own comfort zone and constantly push the boundaries.


Kate Emerson

Kate Emerson

Class of: 2010

Location: San Francisco, CA

Kate Emerson is a graduate of the class of 2010 from Georgetown, Maine. At Bowdoin, Kate double majored in French and Asian studies. She graduated from the Columbia University School of Nursing in 2014, and from the University of California San Francisco Nurse Midwifery program in 2016. After graduating from Bowdoin, Kate's first job was co-teaching at an elementary school in Connecticut. While Kate loved teaching, she missed the team experience she'd had at Bowdoin as a coxswain on the crew team. When she learned about nurse midwives, Kate realized how perfectly this healthcare role combined what she loves about coxing, coaching, and teaching young people. After teaching for two years, Kate took time off to complete prerequisite courses for nursing school.

More About Kate

Kate attended an accelerated Nursing program where she received her bachelors in nursing and passed the boards to become an RN in one year. After that, she spent two years getting her masters degree in nurse midwifery at the University of California San Francisco. As a nurse midwife, Kate provides patient-centered, evidence-based care both independently and alongside physicians, nurses, and specialists across a variety of departments. Kate loves being a part of team, supporting her patients in their toughest moments, and providing guidance, validation, and encouragement whether she is inserting an IUD, facilitating a prenatal group, or attending a birth. She currently works at Planned Parenthood where she is proud to support patients of all genders, ages, and backgrounds in their sexual and reproductive healthcare.