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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI's first winner of the competitive Mellon Fellowship found himself drawn to the humanities

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 5, 2004 -- Logan Connors is concerned that thereís a shift away from languages in school curriculums. That doesnít bode well for living and doing business in the global community. "The best way to get a real understanding of another culture is to learn its language," says the University of Rhode Island senior who will graduate this month.

Connors knows of what he speaks. He can verbalize his point in both English and in French. The history and French double major hopes to create more Francophiles in the U.S. The recently awarded Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies will help him turn that goal into reality.

The fellowship, designed to help exceptionally promising students prepare for careers in teaching and scholarship for humanistic studies, will cover Connorsí tuition and fees for his first year of graduate school, including a one-year stipend of $17,500. The URI student is one of only 104 students from colleges across the country to be awarded the competitive fellowship. And he is URIís very first Mellon Fellow.

Lars Erickson, assistant professor of French, had to convince Connors to apply for the Mellon. Connors was reluctant. "I thought it would be a waste of time, because only Ivy kids win these fellowships." But Erickson who had taken note of Loganís critical eloquence persisted.

Surprised when he made it to the semi-finals, Connors drew on his debate experience for the interview portion of the fellowship competition, which was held at Harvard University. Five professors questioned the URI student about his interests and his research.

"The Mellon Fellowship is the most prestigious and advantageous award for emergent humanists in America," says Cheryl Foster, associate director of URIís Honors Program. "No one will make more of the opportunity it provides than Logan Connors, who has developed his talents so well as to be recognized as one of the nationís most promising young scholars."

This August, Connors will enter Louisiana State University to begin his Ph.D. tract studies in French and Francophone literature. For those of us who donít know a cream brulť from a French pork pie, French literature is written by authors in France. Francophone literature is written in French by authors who live elsewhere. Examples are French Canadians, West Africans, Vietnamese, Cajun/Creoles, and so forth.

Studying language and culture wasnít even part of the picture when Connors, who grew up in Belle Mead, N.J., enrolled at URI. He expected to major in biological sciences and knew of the Universityís fine reputation in that field. He liked science and did well in it in high school. He had even been a paramedicís assistant and an EMT and had vaguely thought of a career saving lives in rescue helicopters.

"But I found the humanities at URI too strong to pass over," he says, after taking a history course taught by Joelle Rollo-Koster and a French course taught by Alain-Philippe Durand. The rest is history with a French twist.

"There are 105 French majors at URI," says Logan who, when not in France, has worked 10 to 15 hours each week at the URI Libraryís circulation desk. "URI has the largest French Department in all of New England colleges and universities."

Connors has traveled to France at least four times, spending two weeks there when he was in high school and visited the country twice with his parents, Don and Alison Connors, who their son says are "big Francophiles."

Connors studied last spring at the Universite díOrleans and then interned in the marketing department of a Bordeaux vineyard, translating French marketing materials into English versions. He lived in one of the towers of a 15th century chateau.