French studies alumni awarded for research and graduate work

More than 220 million people on five continents speak French, and it is the second most widely learned foreign language after English. Students studying the French language and culture are uniquely prepared to engage the people and opportunities around them — as alumni Danica Eisman Guerrero '10 and Chelsea Elzinga ’13 are showing. Both alumni are completing graduate studies in French and received prestigious awards for their work in the field.

Eisman Guerrero at Chutes Montmorency
Eisman Guerrero

With her French major, English literature minor, and teaching certification from SPU in hand, Guerrero has built a reputation as a talented and creative high school modern language teacher.

She is now pursuing her master’s in French at the University of North Texas, where she has won two “Outstanding Student in French” awards, selected unanimously by the professors in her department. She first learned about her current research topic — Quebec’s Révolution tranquille (Quiet Revolution) in the 1960s–70s — as a junior at SPU.

“I liked the idea that a revolution could be peaceful, and I was curious about how America and France’s modern history compared to what I was learning about Quebec.” She now studies the under the direction of one of the world’s leading Quebec scholars, Marie-Christine Weidmann Koop.

“Seeing students of this caliber succeed in their graduate studies shows that our students can dream big and compete with the best and brightest in prestigious programs…”
—Michelle Beauclair

“SPU prepared me to teach with compassion and kindness, and to be persistent and fearless in the pursuit of my dreams,” said Guerrero, who plans on continuing in a PhD program and becoming a professor.

“It also taught me to rely on God more than on myself, because it was a financial stretch for me to attend a private university of such a high caliber, and I had to rely on him daily.”

After majoring in French and art history as an honors student at SPU, Elzinga earned her master’s in French Studies at Florida State University’s Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies and received a prestigious Fulbright award to teach in Luxembourg.

She is now pursuing her PhD in French Studies at Stanford University, where her research focuses on how the five senses are utilized in 20th and 21st century Francophone literature and culture. She also teaches French language courses at Stanford.

After a two-year intensive application process, Elzinga was awarded the Lilly Fellowship, a grant that provides mentorship, professional and spiritual development, and online classes to a select group of doctoral students preparing to teach in their fields at the university level.

Chelsea Elzinga
Chelsea Elzinga

“SPU was exactly the right experience I needed at the time: a community of people who helped me learn who I am, my values, what I want to be in this world,” said Elzinga. “My professors confirmed that I could be creative and study what I wanted to study. I wasn’t limited.”

“Seeing students of this caliber succeed in their graduate studies shows that our students can dream big and compete with the best and brightest in prestigious programs and internationally renowned universities across the country,” said Michelle Beauclair, assistant professor of French and Francophone studies, who taught both Guerrero and Elzinga. “Danica and Chelsea are part of the next generation of foreign language educators and scholars, and I am convinced that the sky is the limit for the innovation and impact they will bring to their future students and the profession.”

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