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Professors trade places in McDaniel-Brussels exchange program

Martine Motard-Noar and Isabelle Ost
May 01, 2014

Martine Motard-Noar and Isabelle Ost followed the trans-Atlantic path of more than 30 students to be the first faculty participants in McDaniel’s Brussels Exchange Program with Université Saint-Louis.

For McDaniel French professor Motard-Noar, who studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, the European university experience wasn’t brand new. Still, the much larger classes and emphasis on notes taken in class presented a different teaching environment than that of McDaniel.

“The students (in Brussels) are intellectually curious – very serious and very bright,” says Motard-Noar, who earned her Ph.D. at University of Nebraska and has been teaching at McDaniel for 25 years. “I was told the students may not be used to responding in class but they did respond.”

The experience was completely different for Ost, professor of French Literature and Philosophy and dean of the faculty of Philosophy, Languages & Literatures and Human Sciences at Université Saint-Louis.

“McDaniel students are very friendly – very interested – and they say ‘thank you’ after class,” Ost says of her first experience teaching in English, although she has traveled to the U.S. several times. “Here is like a big park. Your campus is kind of a whole city. Students live here, eat here and they have their lives here.”

In Brussels, students attend classes at the university in the city but there are no residence halls, no dining halls and no athletic fields and teams. European students, Ost says, have more freedom and more independence in their coursework – and that means also more freedom to fail. They are expected only to work toward the final exam. Whether or not they come to class is up to them, although it is quite impossible to pass without class notes since professors do not routinely post online or give students supplemental materials.

Just as it often is for exchange students, Ost and Motard-Noar both found the experience offered new perspectives on teaching.

“It is good for your pedagogy to get out of the box,” she says, hoping McDaniel will continue the exchange every year and eventually extend it from one week to an entire semester. “I can easily see how this partnership could lead to a research collaboration.”