Sharon Johnson receives Diggs Teaching Scholar Award

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 16, 2004 – Sharon Johnson, of Blacksburg, assistant professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, received the Virginia Tech 2004 Diggs Teaching Scholar Award.

The Diggs Program was initiated in 1992 to recognize and foster excellence, imagination, and innovation in linking scholarship and teaching. Competition is open to faculty of all ranks, and a faculty committee chooses the recipients, who receive a plaque. Both the recipient and the department receive a cash award.

In six years at Virginia Tech, wrote Jessica A. Folkart of the Scholarship and Honors Committee, "Dr. Johnson has established herself as an exceptional teacher and scholar. More impressively, she has distinguished herself in her field as a pioneer in the pursuit of innovative pedagogical and scholarly initiatives for cross-cultural communication and education." Johnson has created cross-cultural student projects "that challenge both students and professors to interrogate their own cultural perspectives as they strive to understand disparate points of view…In today’s environment of globalization, the skills of understanding foreign languages and cultures are ever more essential."

Johnson created the Images, Myths, and Realities Across Cultures project, which involves students at Virginia Tech, the Sorbonne in Paris, and the Institut National des Télécommunications, one of France’s top 10 business and engineering schools, specializing in information technologies. The students exchange ideas on a selection of themes and contemporary cultural issues by analyzing and discussing images and texts pertaining to France and the United States. They use web-based chats, email, and simultaneous, live video-conferencing, which results in "dynamic analysis and discussion of ways in which their cultural perspectives differ on a myriad of issues," Folkart wrote. The students converse in the language of the other students. This project led to collaboration among the department and the Pamplin College of Business and the French institute to combine the study of French, business, culture, and globalization. New study-abroad opportunities include the possibility of internships with French companies. The department received the University Exemplary Department Award in 2003.

Johnson wrote that her career in French "comes from and exemplifies a passion about language, culture, and society." Her own travels, she said, taught her that traveling outside one’s own environment helps to understand not only the other places, but one’s "own culture and identity."

Johnson earned a bachelor's from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and a master's and a Ph. D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught at the latter university as well as at The Colorado College and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de St.-Etienne. She also has taught on the secondary- and elementary-school levels. She has received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence and a Graduate Student Teaching Award. She has received grants from the Department of Education. She is a member of the Modern Languages Association, the Pacific Ancient and Modern Languages Association, the American Association of Teachers of French, and the Foreign Languages Association of Virginia.

The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences embraces the arts, humanities, social and human sciences, and education. The college nurtures intellect and spirit, enlightens decision-making, inspires positive change, and improves the quality of life for people of all ages. It is home to the departments of apparel, housing and resource management, communication, educational leadership and policy studies, English, foreign languages and literatures, history; human development, interdisciplinary studies, music, philosophy, political science, ROTC, science and technology in society, sociology, teaching and learning, and theatre arts.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.