France Honors Cheryl Toman

France Honors Cheryl Toman

On August 16, 2021, Guillaume Lacroix, French Consul General to the Midwest awarded Cheryl Toman the title of Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques at the Consulate General of France in Chicago.

Mrs. Cheryl Toman was french language and literature professor at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), one of Ohio’s top private universities and ranking within the top 50 universities in the United States. She taught there between 2003 and 2021 and was director of the department of modern languages and literature, the women’s and gender studies program, and a french study abroad program for students. She is now a french professor and chair of modern languages and classics at the University of Alabama.

Cherly Toman received her masters in french from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1989, completing a masters in linguistics the following year at the University of Chicago. She also studied in France, at the Sorbonne and the Sorbonne-Nouvelle, between 1984 and 1988, during which she acted as a language assistant in both parisian universities. In 1996, she received her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a thesis on women writers in Cameroon. Her field of research encompasses francophone women’s literature in the continent of Africa and in the Middle East. She has written an impressive number of publications, many of which have become references on the subject. She is regularly invited to give conferences not only in the United States, but also in Europe and Northern Africa.

At CWRU, she led a team of about thirty professors and promotes foreign languages, french in particular, incorporating a multidisciplinary approach. She has notably, with the help of two collegues and a partnership with the chamber of commerce and industry of Paris, opened a training and exam center for french professionals, having perceived the highly strategic aspect of this discipline for the future of the French language in the United States: as a complement or alternative to the teaching of “traditional” French, this center, rare in the Midwest region, responds to a real need of students who wish to position themselves on the job market and leads to an increase in enrollment in the French department. In this area, she is also a valuable partner of the embassy’s cultural service, which can use her expertise to encourage other american universities to follow suit.

In addition to her duties at CWRU, Cheryl Toman is, since 2016, president of the Biennale de la Langue, a French association of international scope which, since 1963, “coordinates the efforts of the various French-speaking countries to safeguard a common linguistic heritage”. She is both the first woman and the first American to hold this postion, embodying the new direction of the association which now wishes to promote a less “romantic”, more diverse and more current image of the French language. The next edition of the Biennial will be held in Chicago, with the theme of bilingualism, a priority of the Embassy’s cultural services in the field of educational cooperation.

Charyl Toman’s communicative energy, entrepreneurial spirit, strength of conviction, and the high esteem in which she is held by her academic peers make her an exceptional ambassador for the French language, which she promotes in all its diversity in the United States and around the world.