Très Bien! Wooster Seniors Excel Once Again at French-Language Competition

French majors Joe Dziedziak and Eowyn Groves recognized for language proficiency

April 24, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Seniors Joseph Dziedziak and Eowyn Groves extended a College of Wooster tradition by capturing top prizes at the Concours de la Maison Française in Cleveland (a contest for college and university students of French in northeast Ohio) for a 16th consecutive year.

Dziedziak, a double major in French and English from St. Augustine, Fla., captured the $1000 grand prize (Prix Wurzburger), while Groves, a French major from Abington, Pa., won the $400 third prize. Both students made use of their Independent Study (I.S.) projects (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed senior research experience, in which a student works one on one with a faculty mentor to produce a written work, performance piece, or studio art exhibition).

Dziedziak spent a year in France with the Sweet Briar Junior Year in France program, which enabled him to develop his French language skills. “I owe a lot of my personal development to that experience,” he said. “My I.S., ‘Cracks Between the Cobble: France and the World Out There,’ (also) greatly influenced my performance in this Concours. I wrote a travel memoir relating the cultural experiences of my year in France and traveling in Europe. At the Concours, I was able to incorporate my I.S. and discuss my travels and the cultural impact they've had on my identity.” He also attributed the success of his I.S. to his advisors and mentors, including Carolyn Durham, the Inez K. Gaylord Professor of French.

Groves wrote her entire I.S. in French, with a title that translates to “The Equalization of Secondary Education in France: Equality for Everyone?” She said that the high standards of Wooster’s French Department pushed her to work hard and to excel in the language. “Studying abroad was (also) instrumental in securing the level to which I am comfortable speaking in French,” added Groves, who was advised by Harry Gamble, associate professor of French. “Adding vocabulary and cultural nuances to my understanding of French, not to mention solidifying my grammar was also helpful. The I.S. process has undoubtedly been most influential in terms of my writing in French.”

Durham said that the Department of French is honored by the accomplishments of this year’s winners. “Although one might think that following in the footsteps of so many past winners would be intimidating, from the beginning Joe and Eowyn were delighted to be selected as candidates and confident that they could meet the challenge,” she said. “The Maison Française competition not only honors outstanding academic and linguistic achievement, but also evaluates students by asking them to write a timed essay in French without prior knowledge of the subject and to hold an extemporized conversation with a native speaker of French.”

The Maison Française de Cleveland is an American non-profit organization in Greater Cleveland that promotes Franco-American cultural activities, including French conversation. In order to compete in the Concours Annuel, students must be recommended by a member of the French faculty from the educational institution they attend. Each college or university may nominate up to two contestants for the competition.

— Story by Libby Fackler ‘13