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College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Top Teacher in College of Liberal Arts Teaches French, Pushes Students to Learn

At age 11, Daniel O’Sullivan had nuns at his school, Worcester Central Catholic in Massachusetts, tell him he should study French. As it turned out, it wasn’t a hard sell.

“I immediately took to it, pursing advanced French in high school and then college,” O’Sullivan said. “I haven’t looked back since.”

Now assistant professor of French at the University of Mississippi, O’Sullivan has been named the 2008 College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

Glenn Hopkins, dean of liberal arts, said O’Sullivan is deserving of the recognition. “A scholar of first rank, Dr. O’Sullivan receives effusive praise from his students for his deep knowledge of his subject and his caring concern for them,” Hopkins said.

Regarding the honor, O’Sullivan said, “One of my professors told me long ago when I decided to pursue a doctoral degree, ‘Push your students only as hard as you push yourself.’  Because I am passionate about my field, I push my students pretty hard. The fact that they see beyond my demanding schedules and expectations means that I’m getting through, and that’s all a teacher really hopes for.”

One student who nominated O’Sullivan for the honor has taken two classes under him and traveled with him to Paris last summer in a study abroad program.

“Dr. O helped expose me to the best of French culture and life,” the student said. “He was always there on our bad days when we felt exhausted and overwhelmed, and he was there when we triumphed over language and cultural barriers.

“He encouraged us to read and speak French without fear of embarrassment. He helped me come out of my shell in a big way.”

Employing a two-fold approach to teaching, O’Sullivan said he reveals his enthusiasm and excitement for the language, which increases his students’ interest. Secondly, he shares his current research projects to show students that he still is and always will be a student, not just a teacher.

“Dr. O’Sullivan is the consummate educator,” said Donald Dyer, chair of modern languages. “He is engaging, exciting and he brings the subject matter alive. He is highly deserving of this award.”

O’Sullivan earned his doctoral degree in French from Boston College, his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his bachelor’s degree from the College of the Holy Cross. He joined the UM faculty in 2002. His areas of specialization include medieval Romance philology, music and culture.

Previous honors for O’Sullivan at UM include receiving four summer research grants and twice being named a faculty research fellow. He also received a Mississippi Humanities Council grant.

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