May 29, 2024

Loss of Languages Leaves Gordon College Speechless

Moises Park. Photo by Taylor Bradford.

This is one article in a series explaining changes at Gordon College, called Define: Gordon

By Madeline Linnell ‘17

Managing Editor

“She’s just this tiny little French woman, who is so passionate and the most American French woman I know,” said Emma Kaapana ‘17 about ex-Gordon College professor Emmanuelle Vanborre. “She has so much love for what she does and for sharing her own culture with her students. It’s infectious.”

Vanborre taught French courses for seven years at Gordon and served as the Languages and Linguistics Department Chair. Kaapana said it was because of “this tiny little French woman” that she  decided to stay at the college and not transfer after her first year.

Rebecca Maciuba ‘17 said of Vanborre, “She was an amazing example of what it was to be an academic woman. Very professional and very confident. She was able to connect and make you excited about learning and wanting to be there.”

She was one of four professors, alongside James Trent, Judith Oleson and Rini Cobbey who accepted the offer to leave the school in exchange for a year’s worth of sabbatical pay. Part of her negotiation included signing a Non-Disparagement Agreement (NDA), which requires her to not making disparaging comments about the college.

Professor Damon Dimauro said that a reason that Vanborre accepted the offer to leave in exchange for a year’s worth of sabbatical pay was because she was “planning on eventually returning to France anyway.”

Maciuba said, “The school never told me my advisor was leaving. I found out from her. She said in an email, “I can’t really explain much, but I’m not returning.” But the college never told me my advisor wasn’t returning all throughout the rest of the summer.”

Moises Park and Gregor Thuswaldner left the Language Department in Spring 2016. Park taught Spanish courses for five and a half years, and Thuswaldner taught German for 13. Thuswaldner earned the Junior Distinguished Faculty Award in 2006 and launched the Salzburg Institute in Austria. Park taught courses in the Communication Arts Department. He also earned the Junior Distinguished Faculty Award in 2016. The two professors left for other employment opportunities, not because of the 2015 budget cuts.

German language student Mikayla Allen ‘17 said, “I found out Dr. Thuswaldner was leaving through Facebook. There was no notification. I was a little upset about that, because I was abroad and trying to plan my courses when I came back. He never told me that he was leaving, and I understand that because he never even told Gordon. But it was very frustrating, because we put in all this work planning for my independent study, but once he left, I had to re-do everything with someone else.”

Before summer 2015, the Languages’ program had seven full-time faculty members: three Spanish, two French, one German, and one linguistics. Professor Damon Dimauro taught both French and Italian classes.

Languages now has four full-time faculty members.

“It feels like the breath has been knocked out of us, and we are still trying to catch our breath,” said Professor Leasa Lutes.

With the loss of full-time faculty, the Department had to cancel its Italian classes. Professor Damon DiMauro now solely teaches French. Mandarin is a minor taught by Lei Carter, an adjunct. The German major was officially suspended before Thuswaldner left.  Professor Margaret Ketcham teaches a few German classes, however. 

In response to these changes and trends, Professor Graeme Bird said, “I and several of my colleagues feel that the study of languages is undervalued at Gordon College, and in American society at large.”

Professor Graeme Bird.
Courtesy of Cyndi McMahon

Vanborre is French, Thuswaldner is Austrian and Park is Korean-American and has lived in South American countries for a portion of his life. These professors speak the native language of the country that they originate from. Lutes said their international perspective is a significant loss to the Department and the College.

Lutes said, “At a time when our nation is looking inward, it behooves us all the more to interact with those from other cultures. I lament their lost, not just who they were, their friendships, the scholars they were, but also for the international perspective they can bring.”

Liam Adams ‘17 and Langdon Kessner ‘17 contributed to this article.

Administration’s Response to “Define: Gordon”


**edit, July 13, 2018** – Vanborre was not asked to leave by Gordon; she accepted an offer to leave. The change has been made in the article.

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