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Morgann (Lyles) Hagan

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Morgann (Lyles) Hagan, A.B. in French and African-American Studies, 2012. Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in France, M.A. in Education from Stanford University, high school French teacher. Department Chair in Continuing Education at Fayetteville Technical Community College (NC) and current Interim Dean of Career and Community Enrichment. 

A memorable international experience at Georgia was the month I spent in Bénin, a French-speaking country in West Africa, in 2010. Thanks to the Foundation Fellowship at UGA, I was able to travel to nine countries during my undergraduate years at no cost to my family. In Bénin, I spoke exclusively French while staying with a host family and volunteering at a hospital. As a Black American, I was particularly intrigued by this initial opportunity to spend time on the African continent, and I ended up declaring an additional major in African-American Studies after this trip.

 Studying language, literature, and culture at Georgia prepared me to navigate uncertainty with patience and grace. During my first year as a French teacher in southern California, one of my students who aspired to go to college asked me: "Why do we have to learn another language?" My immediate response was that, no matter what she chose to study in college, she would likely be inundated with a high volume of new information and would have to be okay with not knowing everything. The world language classroom is a great context in which to develop these academic coping skills. I continue to highlight this concept of navigating uncertainty now as I teach non-credit French classes to adults of all ages in the community college setting.

I would also say that adding a third language – Spanish – to my tool kit through classes at Georgia and a study abroad experience in Guatemala has helped distinguish me in my work settings. Even now, 10 years after graduating from UGA, I am sometimes called upon to provide language assistance to Spanish-speaking students who call or come to our registration building in search of information about our continuing education course offerings. Thankfully, I have been able to maintain my Spanish by enrolling in classes at the very community college where I work as an administrator.

I encourage students at Georgia today to take advantage of the array of study abroad opportunities that are available. Explore your options early and don't be afraid to make atypical choices as far as countries and experiences are concerned. Yes, Athens, Georgia is a wonderful place, and I still cherish a lot of memories from the UGA campus and surrounding community. However, there is a whole world of exciting possibilities awaiting you outside of Athens, Georgia, and you will have a greater appreciation for the rich diversity of our society if you take the time to learn additional languages and appreciate other cultures.

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