French Professor Aouicha Hilliard
-story by Kaitlyn Sewell '15
A desire for cultural breadth on campus led Randolph-Macon College
French Professor Aouicha Hilliard to become director of the
International Education program.
“Several years ago, I asked Dean Jerome Garris why R-MC didn't have an
international studies major, and he encouraged me to start one. He suggested
I get a committee together, which I did, and our international studies major was
born,” she says. “A couple of years later, he asked me to take the reins of the
Office of International Education.”
The international education program gives R-MC students the opportunity to embrace
foreign cultures through campus-wide diversity programs and through
January Term and study abroad.
It also provides accommodation services and a warm welcome to international students
through faculty and student International Assistants.
“We have an orientation for our
international students,” Hilliard explains. “International
Assistants help with this transition—they remind international students
to notice, to compare, and to keep asking questions—of others, but mainly of themselves.
International students are generally very insightful about their own journeys.”
Born in Algeria, Hilliard studied English and American Literature before meeting
her husband, a member of the Peace Corps. “After I arrived in the United States,
I realized I was not as prepared as I had thought,” Hilliard remembers. “It was
a big change for me: the American accents, social cues, and the size of the United
States were not easy to get used to.” Hilliard earned her M.A. at the University
of Rhode Island and her Ph.D. at the University of Rochester. She joined the R-MC
faculty in 1978 and teaches a wide range of
French courses, as well as an international studies course,
Theory and Method in the Study of Culture.
Hilliard considers the First-Year Experience (FYE)
program an excellent springboard for freshmen students.
“With the FYE program, I want students to realize that most of the situations we
encounter in life are too complex to be considered from a single angle,” she says.
“To me, that’s what being educated is about: to be able to draw on a wide range
of possibilities, to appreciate the possibilities—even if they are contradictory
to one another—and to compare, assess, and make well-considered decisions.” She
has taught several FYE courses: Wine, Science, and Society with
Chemistry Professor Serge Schreiner (and again with
Chemistry Professor April Marchetti ’97), and she has twice taught The
Stranger (with Sociology Professor Scott London).
Another one of Hilliard’s passions is the
study abroad program. “Studying abroad is a wonderful experience for students,”
Hilliard says. “It can help them figure out what they are capable of, learn their
strengths and weaknesses, and learn to take risks—often pushing themselves to their
full potential.” Every two or three years, Hilliard takes a class to France, and
she is grateful for the enriching experience.
Rachel Johnsen ’13 recalls her trip to France as a high point in
her education. “Madame Hilliard taught a course called Paris in Literature, and
the cool thing was that we were able to visit the places that we were reading about,”
Johnsen remembers. “What makes Madame Hilliard unique are the close relationships
she builds with students in and out of the French Department.”
“The atmosphere at R-MC is wonderful for building relationships with students,”
Hilliard says. “You can be honest and straightforward when you have a good, trusting
connection with students, and they can be honest and straightforward with you. Watching
my students grow and realize their maximum potential is so rewarding to me.”