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Fette knighted by French education ministry

Courtesy Julie Fette

By Kenzie Langhorne     3/5/24 9:53pm

Julie Fette, an associate professor of French Studies, was named a chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes académiques, the Order of the French Academic Palms, by the French Ministry of National Education on Bastille Day, a French national holiday, July 14, 2023. 

According to the French Embassy in Houston, the honor is given as an acknowledgment of an “individual’s merit, talent, and exemplary efforts” in providing education on French culture.

Fette said that she pursued French studies in graduate school because of its interdisciplinary nature. Her dissertation examined racism and antisemitism in French professions such as law and medicine, which turned into her book “Exclusions: Practicing Prejudice in French Law and Medicine, 1920–1945.” 

“[That] was a time in France where there was a lot of immigration. There were non-French people who wanted to be doctors and lawyers,” Fette said. “The French decided ‘Well, maybe we [don’t] want naturalized citizens to be doctors or lawyers.’”

Now, Fette is teaching a course about French children’s literature and the introductory class in French society and culture. Fette said she is working on a book about how gender is represented in contemporary children’s literature. 

“My hope was that I would find that there would be some modernity and some good change and great representations of equality, but I’m finding that it’s not yet there,” Fette said. “I don’t think it’s particularly French … I think if I took a cold hard look at American children’s literature, I would probably find some similar things.” 

Elizabeth Pan, Sid Richardson College junior, has researched French children's literature with Fette throughout her undergraduate studies and is currently taking a course about French literature for children and teens.

"Overall, [Fette’s] goal is to really study these issues to see if there are ways that we can make this literature more inclusive, especially for these younger populations who are first learning about gender portrayals,” Pan said.

Moramay López-Alonso, an associate professor of history, economics professor and management studies lecturer, worked with Fette on an online Coursera about America for foreign eyes.

"I loved working with [Fette] because she had the idea of the structure we needed to have, but beyond that, I had the freedom to find my sources and develop the module in a way that I felt comfortable with,” López-Alonso said. “So that's how we worked on this very intensively for seven months. And it was intense, but it was fun."

One of Fette’s students, William Tsai, said that Fette's mentorship inspired him to pursue a major in French studies and connected him with new research opportunities.

"Dr. Fette is a wonderful professor who is both passionate about her research and passionate about her students," Tsai, a Will Rice College senior, wrote in an email to the Thresher. "Her mentorship of students and keen awareness of placing important questions on our minds, as we go through school and life have been tremendously fruitful; without her and her colleagues, I cannot see the French department having as much growth as it has seen these past three years I've been at Rice."

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