Faculty Spotlight: Kathryn Murphy-Judy

Associate professor of French Dr. Kathryn Murphy-Judy was the president for the Foreign Language Association of Virginia (FLAVA) for two years. During that time, she instigated important changes for the organization whose membership touches every level of foreign language education statewide.

“We’re invested in doing professional development for language teachers, and making sure that there’s articulation so that grade school people can talk to middle school people – can talk to high school – talk to community college – talk to university.”

FLAVA ensures foreign language curricula flows from the earliest stages of language learning through college. “So when students reach VCU,” she said, “they can keep moving forward.” Strong professional development is key. This is achieved through panel discussions, seminars, webinars, workshops and even social networking throughout the year but especially during the annual conference. FLAVA helped create and hosts the Virginia Foreign Language Professional Development Framework, as it builds on the robust, national Teacher Effectiveness in Language Learning (TELL) project.

Dr. Murphy-Judy recently oversaw the annual FLAVA conference, topping almost 600 registrants – nearly the full body of about 800 members.

“Our annual conference for Virginia is bigger than some of the regional conferences,” she said.

She credits much of the conference’s success to Isi Kessel, FLAVA’s conference coordinator.

On top of her 3 courses each week (9 credit hours) – about 100 students – Dr. Murphy-Judy was putting in at least an additional 20 hours per week of work for FLAVA.

“Sometimes when you’re an association President, you’re mainly a figurehead – you conduct meetings and represent your group – but with the Foreign Language Association of Virginia – I’ve also been the Executive Director so I’ve been running the whole thing. It’s been an awful lot of work, but good work.”

Dr. Murphy-Judy boosted FLAVA membership by inviting community college faculty to hold their professional development peer group meeting with FLAVA. She also helped teachers of Arabic form a VA chapter, joining other languages at the FLAVA table. However, the sudden growth of membership meant changing the conference venue. Dr. Murphy-Judy, formerly a purchasing manager, negotiated a better contract with a bigger venue, saving the organization about $5,000 in spite of its increased size.

FLAVA broadcasts between four and six free webinars each year, recorded at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.

Although her time as FLAVA President is just now behind her, she will continue working for the organization indefinitely. Dr. Murphy-Judy is scheduled to record a new webinar November 7.

“I think we’ve got 15 or 16 sites throughout the state where the webinar is telecast. So we probably end up having about 250 teachers participating, which is really good for professional development.”

Dr. Murphy Judy and others believe the major emphasis on education is of a global focus.

“The importance of FLAVA is that we are a tight, articulated community that’s working together all the way from pre-K through university studies to improve the strength, the breadth, the scope of language and cultural study.”

FLAVA, she explained, is a national model demonstrating how much can be accomplished by a volunteer organization guided by a clear “mission, passion, and belief” for what its membership is doing.

“Frequently, language and art programs are first on the cutting block,” Dr. Murphy-Judy said. “Well, we’ve managed to keep our programs strong because we have a voice. We have advocacy because we are a strong, sustainable, dedicated group.”

With the FLAVA presidency behind her, Dr. Murphy-Judy will continue working with other language professionals nationally to create and improve online learning infrastructure in world languages.