Kemp brings British flair to French

Jennifer Shore

Kent State professor brings British flair and French accent to Kent State classes.

Award-winning professor Matthew Kemp brings a British flair and accent to French classes at Kent State and has become known as a distinguished teacher during his three years at the university.

“I try to bring a certain sense of humor to my classes,” Kemp said. “I would hope people would see me first and foremost as a good teacher and somebody who truly wants the best for them.”

Melissa Sekman, junior French translation major, has taken three courses taught by Kemp. Sekman said whenever you ask him a question, he does not give you the answer. Instead, Kemp gives the tools to come up with it, which helps the student answer the question on his or her own.

“He teaches about everything,” Sekman said. “You learn about yourself at the same time and what makes you a better person from how you relate to everything he teaches.”

The unbridled nature of Kemp’s teaching in and out of the classroom impressed freshman French translation major Sarah Cook.

“He always went out of his way,” Cook said. “He would walk with you to your next class to talk to you. He would go above and beyond to help.”

Kemp’s teaching style derived from his passion for French culture and language after his father took him on annual vacations to France, starting when he was seven.

“I just loved the fact that there were people speaking a different language, and it was all making sense,” Kemp said. “Just gradually being able to converse was something that the more you learned, the more you could do, the more thrill you got out of it.”

Kemp translated his French intrigue into a career. He received a degree in Modern European Studies from Loughborough University in England and a dual master’s and doctoral degree from Florida State University. He currently teaches four upper-division and graduate courses on French language and culture. During his first year of teaching at Kent State in 2007, he won the College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

“It was a great honor,” Kemp said. “It’s just lovely to hear that you’ve had a positive effect on somebody’s life. I’ll never forget it.”

Although students nominated him for the award, faculty are also taking note of Kemp’s outstanding teaching. French professor Richard Berrong was in charge of the search committee that brought Kemp to Kent State. Berrong said sometimes you bring in a teacher and things don’t work out as expected, but Kemp exceeded his expectations.

“He combines a real work ethic with just enjoying teaching,” Berrong said.

Along with the course load, Kemp still finds time to write and publish articles dealing with differences in French and American media.

“For some people, it would be just enough to get through the day, to finish the classes, but in addition, he keeps up with his research,” Berrong said. “He’s not out to prove himself, he just works hard, which of course, proves what he is worth.”

Contact arts and sciences reporter Jennifer Shore at [email protected].