French Students Compete at Embassy




“Imagine being a first-year or a second-year student and being at the French Embassy on 5th Avenue. Imagine a beautiful room, lined with books in French, filled with parents, professors, embassy personnel, journalists and classmates.” Lise Schreier, associate professor of modern languages and literature at Fordham University, said.

In this room, 18 Fordham students competed at the French Embassy, showing members of the French speaking community in New York City, “eloquentia perfecta in action, it totally marveled the judges and public who witnessed their performance.” Andrew Clark, associate professor of french and comparative language, said. April 22 was the first date of the Prix d’Eloquence and Prix de Culture competitions for Fordham students.

Fordham had 14 finalists competing for the eloquence price and four for the culture price. The first place winner of the Prix d’Eloquence was Cathlene Centeno FCLC ‘17. Second place went to Teagan Reese FCRH ‘18 and third was split between Jasmin Castillo FCLC ‘18 and James von Albade, FCRH ‘17. The first place winner of the Prix de Culture was Clare Bollnow, FCRH ‘18, with second place going to Sanjana Rajagopal, FCLC ‘18.

Other students from Lincoln Center competed including Francesca Aton FCLC ‘17, Annalise Caviasco FCLC ‘17, Margaret Sanford, FCLC ‘17, Robert Van Fossen FCLC ‘18 and Alaina Yuresko, FCLC ‘18. Also among the audience were some of the student’s professors who helped to coordinate the event.

One eloquence finalist, Teagan Reese, FCRH ’18, discussed her experience, she said, “Before I decided that I wanted to do the Prix d’Eloquence, I was talking to my professor about a possible subject. I told her that the idea of having to speak in front of a large crowd of native French speakers was really nerve-wracking, but if I had to give a speech about something in French, I would be most comfortable talking about dance. So that is kind of where the whole idea for the speech came from. Madame Lise Schreier, my professor, was so helpful and encouraging throughout the entire process.”

In the eloquence competition, 14 Fordham students were given two minutes to talk about why being bilingual is important to them. For the culture portion, they were instructed to write an essay about what it means to be French today, specifically for them as American students. During the competition, they presented short summaries of the theses from their papers.

The students were judged by a jury of six representatives: Laurence Marie and Fabrice Jaumont representatives of the French government’s Cultural Services, Emmanuel Saint Martin, founder of the online magazine French Morning, Francois-Xavier Schmit director of the Albertine library in the French Embassy, Isabelle Frank, dean of Fordham College of Liberal Studies (FCLS), and Shoshana Enelow, associate professor of English at Fordham University.

Clark said next year they will open the competition to four other New York universities stating that “We look forward to next years event and to the first Fordham play in French which will be directed by Hélène Godec in the fall and will be part of her ‘Molière: From Page to Stage’ class.”

For both the culture and eloquence competition, the first place prize was $200, the second place was a book from the Albertine library “the library in the consulate where the competition was held.” The third place prize for the eloquence competition was a gift card to Canele by Celine, a French bakeshop on the Upper East Side.

“I had such a great experience with the Prix… I could talk forever about how positive this entire experience was,” Reese said. “I don’t know if I would do another one. I might want to give other people a chance to surprise themselves.”

Schreier stated her pride for the competing students, she said “They worked incredibly hard and amazed the members of the jury, who did not expect first-year and second year students to be able to perform at such a high level.”