Colgate Students Are First Undergraduates to Present at Conference for the American Association of Teachers of French

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Kaitlin Maratea ’25 and Amelia Rastley ’25 recently became the first undergraduates to present at the Conference for the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF). Their presentation on the intersections of identity and the French language, titled “Multiple Voices from the Caribbean,” was delivered in Trois Rivières, Quebec, under the mentorship of Mahadevi Ramakrishnan, DA, senior lecturer in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Ramakrishnan’s Introduction to French Language and Culture course introduced Maratea and Rastley to the history of language, culture, and colonial and post-colonial identity politics in the French-speaking Caribbean region.

“After taking Madame Ramakrishnan’s French class, I fell in love with the language,” Rastley said. 

Rastley’s portion of the presentation focused on Aimé Césaire, a Francophone-Martinican poet and politician. With the help of Visiting Assistant Professor of University Studies Aleksandr Skylar, Rastley researched Césaire’s life and influence in relation to his essay “Discourse on Colonialism.”

“I chose to explore a text that I struggled with in class,” said Rastley. “I wanted to discern how Césaire’s use of different rhetorical tools contributed to making this text a revolutionary work in decolonial writing.”

To highlight another figure in French Caribbean history, Maratea researched Maryse Condé, a French novelist and critic. Maratea’s analysis of Condé’s autobiography, Le Cœur à rire et à pleurer, served as a reference for her presentation on cultural and socioeconomic hierarchies in the French Caribbean. “My research is really focused on the concepts of internalized oppression, hierarchy, and Condé’s alienation within that context,” said Maratea.

At the convention, Rastley and Maratea met a variety of French-language speakers, researchers, and educators. “It was nice not only to immerse myself in the language but also to be with teachers,” said Maratea, who plans to fuse her interests in education and the French language into a teaching career. 

Following their presentation, Maratea, Rastley, and Ramakrishnan were invited to present their work again at the next AATF conference, taking place this summer in San Diego. A synthesized article of their work was published in the January issue of the AATF National Bulletin.

“To watch my two former students, who were both sophomores at that time, present with so much confidence was an extraordinarily proud moment for me as an educator,” said Ramakrishnan. “And this is just the beginning for them.”