Government of France honors ASU professor

By

Iti Agnihotri

In recognition for her contribution to the French language and culture through scholarship and education, the Government of France has inducted Aleksandra Gruzinska, professor of French at Arizona State University’s School of International Letters and Cultures, into the prestigious Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of the French Academic Palms) at the grade of Chevalier.

Gruzinska is the fifth faculty member at ASU’s French program to be honored as Chevalier in the order. Professors emeriti William Hendrickson, Deborah Losse and David Wetsel, and current faculty member Sylvain Gallais have also been awarded the Palmes Académiques, the latter with the distinction of Officier.

"It is a real pleasure to see the French Government acknowledge the contributions of Dr. Aleksandra Gruzinska,” said Joe Cutter, director of the school. “The School of International Letters and Cultures has an outstanding and dedicated group of French professors, and we are all delighted at Aleksandra's achievement.”

Gruzinska grew up in Poznan, Poland, and studied in Barcelona, Spain, before immigrating to the United States in 1951. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in French from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Before pursuing her doctoral degree at Pennsylvania State University, she received a yearlong Fulbright Research Fellowship to Paris where she researched the writings of Octave Mirbeau, a nineteenth-century French writer. Mirbeau later became the focus of her doctoral dissertation.

She joined ASU in 1973 as an assistant professor of French, and has served as director of the graduate program in French during her tenure and as head of the French Section.

Gruzinska’s research interests include French literature from the nineteenth century, women in French literature and Franco-Polish relations. In addition to research, she is currently working on creating a website focused on the homelessness, repatriation and immigration of a special group of children of World War II.

“Dr. Gruzinska has taught French for many years, created in collaboration with Deborah Losse and the French faculty an interdisciplinary course on Women in Science, Society, Culture and the Arts taught by French and guest faculty, and has led a number of study abroad programs in Lille, France, and Quebec, Canada,” said Helene Ossipov, associate professor of French and faculty head of the French and Italian programs at the school. “In 2012, she organized the Women in French conference to great acclaim from the participants. Her research on E.M. Cioran, a Romanian who wrote in French, expands the scope of French studies beyond the traditional canon.”

During a career spanning almost five decades, Gruzinska has authored or contributed to 11 books, published nearly 60 scholarly articles and reviews, and presented her research at renowned international, national and regional conferences and meetings.

Among other honors and awards, she has been listed in the eleventh edition of “Who is Who of American Women,” and received an award from the American Romanian Academy of Arts and Sciences for her contribution to scholarship in humanities. She has also served on the Women and Gender Studies, and Student Financial Services Advisory committees at ASU, and has been an affiliate faculty member in the Women and Gender Studies program and at the Melikian Center at the university.

“For me, many good things have happened at ASU,” said Grunzinska, who also speaks Polish, German and Spanish. “I’ve been able to create courses in 19th century French literature, immerse myself in scholarship and convey my love of the French language and culture to my students, many of whom have become French language scholars. I hope that they become valuable citizens and use their knowledge of the French language and culture in their lives and careers.”

Les Palmes Académiques was founded by Napoléon in 1808 to honor educators, and is the oldest non-military decoration in France. The distinction recognizes the significant contributions of academic professionals through their teaching, scholarship and leadership over the course of their careers. The Prime Minister of France awards the honor upon the recommendation of the French Minister of Education.