Cuillé founded Le Centre Francophone and the Transcultural Language Studies programs at Webster for students who have an interest in French language and culture.
By Breanna Peirce
Webster professor Lionel Cuillé spoke at Biennale de la langue
à Chicago. Cuillé presented his paper, titled “Learn French, and find a job!: l’impact des initiatives en français professionnel,” explaining the benefits of being proficient in the French language for job applicants.
Back in 2012, Webster created a position was for someone who would not only teach and research the French language, but could also promote French culture. That year, Cuillé founded Le Centre Francophone at Webster University to promote francophone, or French-speaking, culture. The Consulate General of France in Chicagomhas categorized the Centre as a center of excellence, alongside counterparts at ivy leagues.
According to Cuillé, the number of students studying French has significantly dropped.
“Students, especially since the recession, want to major in something that’s going to get them a job,” Cuillé said. “We need to be sensitive to the fact that they want the study of language to be a plus.”
He said he understood that in order to get American students to be interested in French again, he had to prove students will learn marketable skills.
As a response, he created a partnership between the French and Biology departments at Webster. Biology students participating in the program can intern at French bio-engineering company, Biomerieux, which has offices in Hazelwood and a headquarters near Lyon, France.
“This student will stand out,” Cuillé said. “Not just because of the French, but because you show that you are able to adapt to a new culture of doing research.”
Webster alumna Shelby Wratchford double-majored in art history and French, which she said came after some convincing from Cuillé. She was later hired by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). This agency transcribes geospatial information visually for the Department of Defense and the U.S. Intelligence Community.
“Shelby got a job there and was told it was not just because of her artistry, but because of her French education,” Cuillé said.
According to its mission statement, Webster students learn the advantages of becoming a global citizen. Cuillé argues that one cannot be a global citizen without knowing at least one foreign language.
“It is through language that you represent the world. It’s very enriching,” Cuillé said.
Cuillé also created a new program, Transcultural Language Studies (LTS). Students taking TLS classes learn about foreign languages in English.
“Usually people take one semeseter and they stop. We’re trying to mediate that. Should we want a world where English is entirely spoken? We are not alone in this world,” Cuillé said.
Cuillé also works to help Webster students apply for internships at the French embassy.
Susan Rother, an alumna and previous student of Cuillé, graduated in 2017. She said learning French has benefits over other languages for St. Louisans because of the French influences in St. Louis, and the connections that Le Centre Francophone has to offer.
“I give kudos to Dr. Cuillé and how he pushed his students to go in that direction,” Rother said.
Rother said she learned more than the French language in Cuillé’s classes. He granted her the ability to recognize the differences people have and appreciate the world better.