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Northwestern University
Past and present Weinberg College chevaliers
From left to right: Nasrin Qader, Janine Spencer, Dominique Licops and Bill Paden

A long line of Chevaliers

Dominique Licops, director of the French Language Program, wins one of the French government's highest honors

By Rebecca Lindell

Dominique Licops has spent her life building bridges between languages and cultures, from Belgium to the United Kingdom to the United States to France.

As the director of the College’s French Language Program, Licops has worked to inspire Northwestern students not only to speak French, but to think and feel in the language, too. And the associate professor of instruction in French has taught workshops to language educators throughout the Midwest, so that they can teach French in novel ways as well.   

For this work, Licops has been recognized with one of the highest honors the French government can bestow: the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques,  known in English-speaking countries as a Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms.

It is, Consul General of France Vincent Floreani says, a declaration of “admiration and thanks” to those who have dedicated themselves to advancing the knowledge, understanding, and communication of French culture.

New ways to teach French

“I didn’t expect it, but it was a joy,” says Licops, who was raised in Belgium by an English-speaking mother and French-speaking father.

“I grew up in this bicultural, bilingual environment, in a country that was divided culturally and linguistically. So I was raised with an awareness that language really is important, and so is the ability to communicate across cultures.”

In 2016, Licops sought and won a fellowship from the French government to attend an institute that exposed her to a variety of novel ways to teach French: how to adopt theatre techniques for language courses, how to use authentic documents to study French society, and how to improve group dynamics and better motivate students. She has put those new techniques to use at Northwestern and beyond, leading workshops in Chicago, Detroit and at Northwestern for fellow teachers of French.

In appreciation for her work, the French Consul of Chicago visited Northwestern in September to personally bestow the Chevalier on Licops. She, in turn, was quick to credit Northwestern for the work that led to the award — the faculty, her colleagues and especially her students.

“We are so lucky at Northwestern to have the quality and diversity of students that we have – who participate, who tutor other students, who travel abroad to practice their language skills, who publish in the department’s literary magazine,” she says. “And then you have surprises like a student who is a musician and created a song out of a novel that we studied and really enjoyed — and it’s great.”

A long line of chevaliers

Licops is not the first Wildcat to be honored as a chevalier. Professor Hollis Clayson, Distinguished Senior Lecturer Emerita Janine Spencer, Professor Emerita Michal Ginsburg, Associate Professor Nasrin Qader and Professor Emeritus William Paden have all been decorated with the honor, while former Adjunct Lecturer Margot Steinhart has been named a Commandant and Distinguished Senior Lecturer Emerita  Simone Pavlovich an Officier of the Order of the Academic Palms. The University “has a long history of collaboration with the French consulate and French cultural services,” Licops observes.

Those initiatives include institutes, internships for students, the “Marianne Midwest” series of web debates on contemporary topics, and now Licops’ workshops around the Midwest.

“I’m happy to see that Weinberg College and Northwestern are working to strengthen the University as a global institution,” Licops says. “I believe that the role of learning other languages and cultures cannot be underestimated if we want to be successful in this endeavor.

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