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Bonnie Youngs

February 2012

2012 Elliot Dunlap Smith Award Winner

The 2012 Elliot Dunlap Smith Award for Distinguished Teaching and Educational Service in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences is Bonnie Youngs, teaching professor of French and Francophone Studies within the Department of Modern Languages.

A 1984 magna cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the State University of New York at Albany with a BA in French (where she also received an M.A. in French Literature), Bonnie went on to receive a Ph.D. in French Literature/Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. She arrived at Carnegie Mellon in 1993 as a Lecturer in French, at just about the time when Modern Languages was re-emerging as an independent department in the college. She has been an integral part of the French program and, more broadly, the Modern Languages Department’s remarkable growth and success story ever since.

Semester after semester, year after year, Bonnie’s teaching performance at every level of the French and Francophone Studies program has been outstanding. She has created and taught a range of innovative courses and is a master teacher of beginners and advanced learners. She understands well how to promote students’ progress through the levels of learning to support not only their skill development, but also their acquisition of cultural knowledge of the diverse populations of speakers of French throughout the world.

Students describe Bonnie as engaging, passionate, challenging, and caring as a teacher, advisor and mentor. They appreciate the feedback she provides them to support their academic progress and personal development, and many comment on her special combination of rigor and high expectations with approachability. As one student wrote:

“Bonnie possesses a wonderfully effective (yet so difficult to sustain) combination of high expectations with the understanding of competing demands in students’ lives, academic seriousness and rigor with enthusiasm and praise, consummate professionalism with approachability, clear instruction with humor, gentle correction with encouragement, and concern for individual learning with classroom dynamics.”

In addition to teaching and advising undergraduates, Bonnie is deeply involved in the Department of Modern Languages’ new MA program in Applied SLA, launched during the current academic year. It is an intensive one-year program to prepare students for careers in second language teaching. Through her teaching the program’s anchor methodology course, and through extensive individual and group mentoring, Bonnie has worked very closely with the first cohort of six MA students. Their expression of satisfaction with Bonnie’s teaching and support is inspiring. Like her undergraduates, they too note the rigor of Bonnie’s standards, along with her meticulous, expert mentoring and unfailing support. Praise from Bonnie must be earned, but when it comes it is highly prized and deeply moving for those receiving it.

Highly regarded as a colleague, Bonnie is seen as indispensable to the French group. Her contributions to the university community have also been outstanding. Dr. Amy Burkert, Vice Provost for Education, indicates that “Bonnie is prominently on that list of faculty members who are asked to do many things – especially for student-initiated events -- and she does them with joy.”

While carrying a demanding teaching load, Bonnie has been a very productive contributor to the profession at large. She has served as President of the local chapter of the Pennsylvania State Modern Languages Association. Also, for several years she has coordinated for the local chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) the annual Grand Concours, competitive examinations of high school students. At the national level, she is an active participant in the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium (CALICO), and has contributed to the visibility of the Modern Languages Department in the fields of computer-aided instruction as well as in peer tutoring for students who require help in all aspects of their language learning experiences.

Her nominators conclude by saying, simply, that Bonnie is “an extraordinary individual with an almost magical teaching talent and a dedication to advancing our field.” We certainly agree, and ask you to join us in congratulating our 2012 winner of the Elliot Dunlap Smith Award for Teaching and Educational service, Professor Bonnie Youngs.

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Other sources of Carnegie Mellon news include the university news service website and the Carnegie Mellon Today magazine.

Contact Shilo Rea, Director of Public Relations at or (412) 268-6094.


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