As a first-year student, the thought of taking a foreign language in college was paralyzing. I spent the next three years trying to avoid the inevitable. After a mandate from my advisor my senior year, however, I enrolled in Dr. Jim Tomek's Elementary French course. The first day of class, Dr. Tomek greeted the group and began speaking to us in French...entirely in French! As opposed to feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, I felt as if he was issuing a challenge to me, personally. I left class that day on a quest to master the language my professor spoke so beautifully. The next two semesters, Dr. Tomek skillfully used the methods of immersion and challenge and support to make me want to learn more about the French language and culture. Through rigorous writing assignments and oral exams, I was able to hone my skills and gain a conversational command of basic French.
Tomek also took a personal interest in my life, encouraging me to stay in my chosen field of mathematics. "Math is a language in itself. It is one of the only truths in our society," he commented. Only after completing my graduate work have I come to realize that my professor was correct.
While I very rarely have the opportunity to use my second language in my everyday life, I use the skills that I learned in Dr. Tomek's course quite often. I even find myself using the same pedagogy in my own classroom, issuing similar challenges to my students through immersion in the materials presented and support as they explore the unknown.
Tomek is an excellent instructor and a fixture on campus. I consider it an honor and privilege to call him my professor, colleague, and friend.
Jason W. Umfress
Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs,
Director of Career Services & Placement,
& Instructor in