Mary O’Donnell earned a Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition specializing in Language Program Direction from the University of Iowa. She also has a MA in Spanish literature from the University of Notre Dame. Most recently she coordinated the PreK-12 Foreign Language Teacher Licensure program at James Madison University and was the Director of Intermediate Spanish at Purdue University, where she trained, supervised, and mentored teaching faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Her areas of academic interest include theories of second language acquisition, foreign language assessment, teacher training and supervision, and the intersections between the preparation of high school and college-level foreign language teachers.
What was your journey to Ball State?
I’ve taught in many places including Indiana universities such as Purdue and Notre Dame but, two years ago, I decided to semi-retire. I found, however, that I missed the classroom and the interaction with students, so I looked for employment close to home. Ball State had a fulltime teaching position in Spanish, which was exactly what I wanted, so I applied.
What is your favorite research topic?
My Ph.D. is in Second Language Acquisition. In my last place of employment, I coordinated a foreign language teacher PreK-12 licensure program. Up to that point, I’d always worked preparing college-level foreign language teachers, so the K-12 experience was new to me. I was so impressed by the rigorous preparation of middle and high school foreign language teachers that my research turned to the similarities, but more importantly, the dissimilarities between how secondary and college-level language instructors are prepared. I worked with the College of Education at my last institution and hope to eventually work with colleagues preparing foreign language teachers here at Ball State.
How would you describe your perspective on teaching?
Teaching, or rather learning, should be a cooperative effort between instructors and students. Students must have input in how and what they are being taught. Students have as much to teach me as I they, perhaps not in regard to the Spanish language, but in which methods of instruction are most beneficial to their acquisition of the material.
What are some of your goals for your first year here?
That’s easy… survival! I’m unfamiliar with BSU, Muncie, Canvas, Zoom, and the textbook with its auxiliary materials. The list is long. But next week is week 6 so, so far so good!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I own a farm with my siblings about 1.5 hours from Muncie. That’s where I like to spend my free time.