Dr. Sukumari Raghupathy Polavaram, of the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, has been named ‘‘Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques,’ (Knight in the Order of the Academic Palms) by the Ministry of French National Education, Paris. This award recognizing her deep interest, scholarship and instruction in the French language, literature and culture, was conferred by the Consul General of France at Puducherry, Mr. Philippe Janvier-Kamiyama, in a ceremony held at IIT-Madras on March 13, 2015.
Dr. Sukumari R. Polavaram, after a BA in English Literature from Women’s Christian College, Chennai, MA in Translation & Interpretation from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, followed by a second MA in French Literature from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, completed her Ph.D. in French Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.
With a career in education spanning over twenty-five years of teaching undergraduates and graduates, she has taught in the Université de Paris VII – Jussieu and the Université d’Amiens, in France; the University of Michigan and the Residential College at Ann Arbor, the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and the French Institute Alliance Française of New York City in the USA. She currently teaches World Literature, including Francophone Literature, in the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences at IIT-Madras.
‘L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques’ (the Order of the French Academic Palms) was founded by the Emperor Napoléon I in 1808 to honour eminent members of the University of Paris. Early Palmes Académiques were awarded to professors and teachers. Later, the scope was broadened to include major contributions to French national education and culture by anyone, including non-French citizens and French expatriates who expand the culture throughout the rest of the world. For those who are named and promoted in this Order of the French Academic Palms, this esteemed distinction acknowledges their merits, talents, and exemplary activities. Thus, the Academic Palms is the oldest non-military French decoration.
Dossiers for nominations and promotions are typically prepared by the French Consulates and forwarded to and reviewed by the French Embassy before being transmitted to the Ministry of the French National Education in Paris, which makes the final decision on French and foreign recipients. Nominations and promotions, by decree of the Prime Minister and upon proposal by the Minister of the French National Education, occur twice a year: January 1 and July 14.
This event hosted by the Office of International Affairs, also marks the end of a two-week winter school for 30 students (15 from Germany and 15 from India) conducted by the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability of IIT-M., which works on research in the area of sustainable development, with a special focus on protection of the environment. On March 13th afternoon, the last session of winter school, Mr. Janvier-Kamiyama addressed the students, faculty and community on the topic of “Climate Change – What can France do for India?” He then proceeded to explain the history and significance of this Chevalier award, following which he decorated Dr. Sukumari Polavaram with the medallion.