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Christopher Rivers

Professor of French and Chair of French Department


From the Princeton Review:

Christopher Rivers, a professor of French at Mount Holyoke College, tends to center his teaching around his desire to help students foster as deep and as genuine a desire to learn as possible. “I want them to want it,” he says.


Professor Rivers has carefully sifted through the best traits of his former professors and discovered the importance of communicating one’s own enthusiasm and passion, not only for the subject being discussed, but also for the process of discussion itself. “From my colleagues in the French department at Mount Holyoke, I have learned the importance of following through on the oft-stated claim that a seminar is not a lecture course, and of insisting that students be genuinely active and engaged participants in what happens in the classroom.” This principle certainly resonates with students, who note that the professor “really cares about whether or not you feel like you gained something from his class.”


Students are appreciative of his intellectual nature and the fact that he “considers the academic enterprise a serious one, but also a pleasurable one.” Not only does he insist that students talk in class, he listens carefully to what they say and responds directly, maintaining an atmosphere of complete respect and courtesy.


“I think this makes them feel confident and ‘safe’ about speaking their minds, which can be daunting, especially in a foreign language.” Students agree: “He brought my hope back about speaking French confidently,” says one. “He gave me so much confidence that I actually started speaking French,” says another.


This year, Professor Rivers will be teaching a course on contemporary French media and culture (such as recent bestselling novels, movies, and popular music, in addition to more social and political topics), as well as an introduction to French literature and a seminar on the “femme fatale” in nineteenth- and twentieth-century French novels. His courses are carefully designed to be intellectually seductive, thereby “motivating both the professor and the students to share their curiosity, enthusiasm, and fascination for the subject matter.” He likes to ask questions to begin a discussion and encourages students “to talk to each other as well as to me. I also like to incorporate humor where appropriate,” he says.

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Taken on April 4, 2012