Professor Laurence Denie-Higney named Knight in the Order of Academic Palms and appointed new Director of the Center for Excellence at UCLA

Dr. Laurence Denie-Higney, Senior Lecturer of French in the Department of European Languages and Transcultural Studies, was named a Knight (Chevalier) in the Order of Academic Palms, or l’Ordre des Palmes académiques, on January 5th, 2023. The Academic Palms is one of the oldest civil honors bestowed by the French Republic. The awards were created in 1808 by Napoléon Bonaparte to honor university professors for distinguished service. A formal recognition ceremony will be held at the Consulate in Los Angeles.

In addition, Dr. Denie-Higney has assumed the role of Director of the Center for Excellence at UCLA. Realized through a partnership with the Cultural Services division of the French Embassy, the Center undertakes diverse programming and language initiatives that promote French and Francophone literature and culture. UCLA is part of a broader, nation-wide Network of Centers of Excellence. From 2019-2022, Professor Lia Brozgal served as the Director.  

The French Consulate in Los Angeles hosted an award ceremony for Dr. Denie-Higney on October 25th. The following are excerpts of the speech given to honor Dr. Denie-Higney:

“Today, with the careful restructuring of geopolitical balances, it is more important than ever to have a deep and reciprocal understanding between the United States and France. That’s a part of our mission here at the consulate, and dear Laurence, you have lent so much of yourself to that work with us, underlining your enthusiasm for Franco-American cooperation.

You put this enthusiasm at the service of others, and especially your students. At
UCLA, you have created and oversee the “Cercle francophone,” an excellent structure
promoting French culture on campus by organizing cultural events. The purpose of the
club is to give students the opportunity to develop leadership and organizational skills
while exploring the French and Francophone cultures. …

Concerned with passing on initiatives to support Franco-American academic
relationships, you regularly help students with their application for the “TAPIF” program,
so they can become English teacher assistants in France. You incidentally were here last
month to celebrate this program with alumni and troops of Californian students who have
since left for their TAPIF year in France.

Each year, to the great enjoyment of many UCLA students, you also organize a
summer program in Nantes, so they can learn French as they study environmental
protection and sustainable development. On top of that, they have the immense pleasure
to eat Crêpes (always crêpes !) with your parents in your native land near Nantes. Another
illustration of your love of Britany and its culture. …

Your colleagues and students consider you a keystone in the courses offered by your department;
You’ve initiated several teaching programs for 2nd year graduate students which
you designed yourself down to the smallest detail.

Moreover, you recently brought to UCLA the establishment of a certification
approved in 2022 by the State of California. This Bilingual Authorization allows schools
to employ teachers for their French dual-language pathways, opening doors to enriching
employment opportunities, and training Francophile students.

I must say I am proud and delighted, dear Laurence, that the French Embassy
supported you in this project with a grant. I believe we are all very conscious here of the
rigor and level of effort an approval from the State of California requires. We celebrated
this year’s first laureates of this Bilingual authorization, and for that you can be immensely
proud of what you have achieved, as we are.

As if all the things I have already mentioned weren’t enough to occupy your time,
you are also deeply involved in volunteer work, especially as vice president of the
Southern California branch of American Association of Teachers of French, the largest
branch in the country. We were celebrating this dynamic association with you here last
month. …

Dear Laurence, you are not only admired for your devotion to your work by your
students, but you are also admired by your colleagues, who acknowledge your strength,
your honesty, your generosity, your integrity, your loyalty and your radiant happiness, as
well as your positivity. …

But if we gather here today, it’s not just to understand the reasons behind your
affinity for education, your attachment to other cultures, your belief in the virtues of intercultural
exchange. This special moment is also an opportunity for us to celebrate your
talent and determination, which are undoubtedly at the heart of your successes. …

Today, thanks to you, we do have our hearts as light as a bubble, and we want to
express our gratitude to you, because unquestionably, dear Laurence, you embody the
values of bringing people together, of sharing experiences and knowledge, and of mutual
understanding, which all of us here strive for.”