Each year UIUC holds a faculty retreat to promote teaching excellence, and awards faculty retreat grants that enable recipients to design and implement an instructional enhancement that has a high probability of improving education at Illinois. The theme of the 2022 annual faculty retreat was “Breaking Down the Garden Walls: A Promise of Access to Success.” The retreat centered on the goals of:
• building on our collective knowledge about teaching and learning,
• sharing innovative ideas and approaches, and
• promoting partnerships within and beyond the campus community.
The retreat highlighted the practices and approaches implemented by faculty across campus as they work towards a campus culture that fosters student success. At the retreat I had a chance to catch up with CGS Affiliates Professor Eman Saadah, Director of the Less Commonly Taught Languages Program and Director and Language Coordinator of Arabic, and Professor Raquel Castro Goebel, the Portuguese Language Program Director, and an instructor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. While all three of us had the privilege and honor of being included in the “List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students”, both Prof. Saadah and Prof. Goebel had other accolades to share.
Prof. Saadah shared that she had been awarded the Faculty Retreat grant multiple times. The funds were utilized to provide students in the Arabic Language Program with extra conversational sessions for speaking practice. For one of her grant awards, she used the funds to develop a program that connected students with refugees from around the world to share stories and experiences, and cultural aspects in Arabic. For other awards, she was able to use the grant funding to develop programmatic events that brought in national and international guests, preparing students for their future roles as global citizens.
Prof. Saadah was also named a 2021-22 Levenick iSEE Teaching Sustainability Fellow, an award to recognize her efforts to teach about sustainable development in the Arab world. At the national level, Prof. Saadah has been serving as a board member in the American Association of Teachers of Arabic (AATA), actively facilitating communication between educators in K-12 and higher education. In addition, Prof. Saadah has been directing an Arabic High School program as part of the Summer Institute for Languages of the Muslim World (SILMW) and is running its seventh cycle this summer. The Arabic High School program has successfully hosted 82 students, who spent two weeks on campus having their first college experiences while being immersed in the Arabic language and culture. The program will welcome 20 more students in the spring 2022 cohort. She has also been successful in bringing external funds and providing over a hundred scholarships to camp participants.
Prof. Goebel was awarded the LAS Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for Instructional Staff and the Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Her nominator wrote, “Raquel’s contribution to excellence in teaching Portuguese have been recognized nationally and are manifested in several tangible ways: her dedication to students and the positive atmosphere she promotes in her classes, memorable impact on our students’ learning through curricular innovations, amount and quality of engaging extracurricular activities, productive extramural and campus partnerships.”
Prof. Goebel’s efforts to promote Portuguese Language and Brazilian Culture in the State of Illinois have also been recognized nationally by the largest Brazilian Newspaper in the US, the Brazilian Times. This Spring she was nominated for the Notable Brazilian Award, an Award that recognizes Brazilian professionals who have made a positive impact in their respective fields during the year. The ceremony will take place in Manhattan, NY, on September 4, 2022.
CGS is proud to be affiliated with language faculty who strive for excellence in teaching and optimizing access to learning opportunities for our students. CGS is also thankful for the outstanding contributions of our language faculty to our academic programs and initiatives. They demonstrate innovative and creative ways of reaching students and breaking down the garden walls.