Alumna named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques

Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Featured this month: Kathleen Stein-Smith
Education: Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies, 2011
Profession: Fairleigh Dickinson University, Associate University Librarian and Director of Public Services, Giovatto Library, Metropolitan Campus; adjunct faculty.

Kathleen Stein-SmithDr. Kathleen Stein-Smith is an enthusiastic foreign language educator and advocate. She laments the United States foreign language deficit and warns of the negative impact on our economic and national security, and on our ability to effectively navigate the globalized world and our own multilingual and multicultural communities.

In 2018, her dedication to the French language was rewarded with the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques (Order of Academic Palms), “a national order of France for distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education, in recognition of her dedication to the French language”. It was founded by the Emperor Napoléon as a reward for devotion and accomplishment in the realm of teaching, scholarship, and research. It was extended to non-French citizens to acknowledge their promotion of French language or significant achievement in the field of education.

She is a lifelong contributor and supporter of the French language, serving as chair of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) on advocacy. She also is a member of the American Translators Association (ATA) Education and Pedagogy Committee, the CSCTFL (Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Advisory Council, the NECTFL (Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Advisory Council, and is a SCOLT (Southern Conference on Language Teaching) Sponsor. She also serves as French Language Facilitator at MLOW (Many Languages One World).

Dr. Stein-Smith is a sought-after presenter, and is the author of four books and numerous articles about the foreign language deficit. She has given a TEDx talk, The U.S. Foreign Language Deficit—“What It Is; Why It Matters; and What We Can Do about It,” and maintains a blog, “Language Matters.” She has also been interviewed on the radio in both the United States and Canada.

In the Q & A below, Dr. Stein-Smith discusses how her Union degree impacted her career and her desire to make the world a better place.

Q. What has your degree meant to you personally and professionally?
A. The process of earning the degree and, the doctoral journey, greatly changed the way I consider and study issues generally. However, even more importantly, it created within me a sense that — having been blessed with the opportunity to study at this level — it was also my responsibility to do my part, and to “give back” in terms of using my education to try to make the world a better place. That is why my doctoral research has been the foundation for my subsequent research, writing, and professional engagement.

Q. What quality do you admire most about your alma mater?
A. Union’s mission of education for the adult learner within a context of social responsibility, and its core values of diversity and social justice within a context of academic excellence, are what most resonated with me. I so much appreciate the community of fellow learners in my doctoral cohort.

Q. If you could give advice to a Union student, what would it be?
A. As education is the most powerful tool to foster both individual empowerment and social change, my best advice to any student would be to get as much education as they can, or are interested in — for an undergraduate student, it would mean to consider a master’s degree, and for a master’s student, it would mean to consider a doctoral degree. The important thing is that the desire for education must be within the learner, and an integral part of their life plan.

copy of Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques certificate

Q. What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
A. In addition to being the proud parent of three wonderful sons who supported me in every way possible when I returned to school for the doctorate and earning the doctoral degree, being recognized by the French government as a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques has been my greatest accomplishment.

Q. What is your passion away from work?
A. In addition to spending time with my family, I love meeting people from other cultures and who speak other languages, as well as meeting dedicated foreign language educators and hearing their ideas for encouraging multilingualism.

Today is the day to explore how a Union Ph.D. will expand and deepen your knowledge and career. Click here to learn more. Your Goals. Your Success. Your Union. We’ve Got U!