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Modern Languages Department Showcases Refurbished Conference Room Space

Amy Williamson, left, associate professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages, and Ashley Krason, assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages, enjoy reminiscing about their longtime colleague, Emily Fokeladeh, during the ceremony in Jennings Hall.
Amy Williamson, left, associate professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages, and Ashley Krason, assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages, enjoy reminiscing about their longtime colleague, Emily Fokeladeh, during the ceremony in Jennings Hall.

Faculty and staff in the Department of Modern Languages at Mississippi College unveiled new furnishings and state-of-the-art technology installed in conference space in Jennings Hall that serves as a “window to the world” for students studying a variety of cultures and languages.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, comfortable furniture was provided in gratitude for a former faculty member who spent more than four decades building the German Studies Program at Mississippi College.

A plaque on the wall signifies the contributions of Emily Fokeladeh. The retired professor’s trademark warmth and liveliness was apparent throughout the Feb. 17 ceremony that was attended by dozens of her former students, colleagues, and admirers.

“Over 40 years of teaching, she was our German program,” said Amy Williamson, associate professor and chair of Modern Languages, who emceed the event. “She was the first professor students met when they got on campus, and she took them all the way through their advanced classes. She guided many of them to go to a Study Abroad Program in Germany. We have outstanding alumni in this room with us today that demonstrate the impact that she had on so many people’s lives.

“We are so grateful for her devotion and dedication to the department and to the students.”

Fokeladeh earned her B.A. in English and Modern Languages at Mississippi College. A Fulbright Scholar, she traveled to Vienna, Austria, where she fell in love with the German language and culture.

“She grew up in the old white house across the Parkway,” said Beth Stapleton, professor in the Department of Modern Languages. “She’s a Mississippi girl who got the Fulbright and spent her time researching in Austria. Her love of German developed over that.”

Fokeladeh returned to her home state and obtained her M.A. in German from the University of Mississippi. She joined the Mississippi College faculty in 1971 and taught classes in elementary and intermediate German, German composition and conversation, German civilization, German literature, and advanced German grammar, among other subjects.

She directed MC’s German Exchange Program and Salzburg College European Studies Program, and in 1985, cofounded the Developmental Studies Program, now called Foundations for University Success.

“She and a psychology professor created and developed the program to help at-risk students,” said Ashley Krason, assistant professor in the Department of Modern Languages. “At the time, it was a very cutting-edge, new idea, especially at a place like Mississippi College that always brought in strong academic students. She started seeing a need for that.”

“That program was near and dear to her heart,” Williamson said, “to be an advocate and an encourager to those students that needed any kind of resources that she could pull together for them.”

Fokeladeh became a cherished adviser in the department and was named MC’s Distinguished Professor of the Year in 2012. Many of the students in the German Exchange Program she championed called her “Frau,” and the children of her colleagues referred to her as “Oma,” the German word for grandmother.

“I have clear memories of her connecting students with the university in Germany and getting phone calls in the middle of the night asking, ‘How do I turn on my electricity?’ and other foundational things,” Williamson said. “They knew they could call her. Students would check in with Emily.

“She advised many music students in her classes and spent a good bit of time going to senior recitals. Her legacy in our department is ongoing. She built many long-lasting relationships with the students here and invested in them.”

One such student, Jonathan Grein, now serves as MC’s German professor. Grein and his wife, Amelia, an MC alum, connected to the ceremony from Kaiserslautern, Germany, to demonstrate the department’s Owl communication device that makes long-distance language instruction possible.

“She is a great teacher, a great professor,” Grein said. “I know many exchange students that came here throughout the years that have learned their German through Emily Fokeladeh. She will always be the foundation of the German program that I remember and try to model my classes after.

“If you look at language learning as a house, she always laid the best foundation. She was the one that would enable students to learn the language and build the house brick-by-brick on that solid foundation that she taught at MC.”

He turned to his wife as an example.

“Amelia was able to learn her first German words from Professor Fokeladeh,” Grein said. “She did quite well. Amelia is working a job in Germany, working in German, and she has been for a few years. She has a few degrees that she was able to pursue in Germany that speaks for the quality of the foundation laid by Emily Fokeladeh.”

The conference space hosts German, Spanish, Chinese, and Latin classes. It is also used for departmental meetings, senior seminars, and faculty and staff gatherings throughout the School of Humanities.

“This room, due in large part to the beautiful table and chairs, is a fantastic space with a welcoming feel – consistently sought after for use by Modern Languages instructors and students,” said Madison Pelt, administrative assistant in the department.

A striking wood-tone relief map of the world adds to the room’s informative, international décor.

“This map represents many things and is my favorite part of this room,” Williamson said. “We have some exciting ideas about integrating it into where our students are studying and making this a room that represents the heart and soul of our department.”

The room’s most exciting feature is the Owl. From half a world away, Grein demonstrated how the technological marvel allows him to interact with students, observe their conversations, and pick up on their gestures – a fundamental part of teaching a foreign language.

“I can overhear the conversations between the students as they talk to one another,” he said. “They profit from this approach to German conversation. We have a student who is in Austria and is fending well for herself, and we have another student who’s about to go to Germany. I am very confident that he will also be able to master that time abroad.”

“With this technology, our language students can engage reliably and creatively with their instructor anywhere in the world,” Pelt said. “This is one of the most exciting contributions to student success that we’ve been able to implement.”

Krason said it's fitting that Fokeladeh be recognized in space that is used for MC’s German program.

“Exchange students in the German program have come here for years,” Krason said. “She not only brought them here, but she was also their mentor for their whole time. They went to her house, and they became part of her family.

“She always added that special motherly touch.”

Williamson closed the ceremony by revealing one of Fokeladeh’s lesser-known talents: she was an accomplished writer of limericks. “It was always the highlight of any departmental event when Emily wrote you a limerick,” she said.

Several of Fokeladeh’s colleagues contributed original limericks for the occasion. Some of the better offerings:

"There once was a fraulein named Emily,

Born and raised in Mississippi,

Who devoted her life to teaching,

And always of her time was giving,

And made of MC her extended family."


"There is a magnificent colleague we know

Who devoted her brains for to sow

Seeds of German knowledge

In language students of Mississippi College,

Then delightedly cheers as they grow."


"Frau Fokeladeh was known far and near.

She shared knowledge to all with love and cheer.

My kids called her Oma,

Jennings Hall was her home-a,

And we’re delighted to honor her here."