The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has become the first university in the United States to join the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, a network of French Speaking higher-education institutes.

The Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie is a Montreal-based network of global universities, with 1000 members in 122 countries. Founded in 1961, it supports collaboration and communication between French speaking higher education and research institutes. UL Lafayette is the first American university to be a member. 

According to the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie website, “The agency has responsibility for implementing resolutions relating to higher education adopted by the Conference of Heads of State and Government that use French as a common language.”

Dr. Jordan Kellman, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said that several other universities in the United States have applied, but that UL Lafayette has a genuine claim to be a part of the organization. 

In order to join the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, the university had to fill out an application and complete the admissions process. Kellman and Dr. Fabrice Leroy, professor of French and francophone studies, worked together to put the application together.

“We really had to demonstrate that the university had a lot of francophone interests, francophone activities and interactions with the culture,” Kellman said. “We were talking a lot about our programs with cajun and creole French, and ways we support those.” 

After applying, UL Lafayette was granted full membership into the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie. 

Joining the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie allows for an increased focus on French studies and culture at UL Lafayette.

This opportunity will help support an increase in scholarships for students at UL Lafayette, and an increase in collaboration and support of French-immersion educational programs in the region. 

Additionally, the network promotes an increase in funding for research at the university. 

“It means that UL is globally connected to a large number of institutions around the world that promote the study of French language and culture,” Leroy said about joining the organization. 

Leroy said that the network is a forward looking institution and places emphasis on youth programs and supporting students. 

He said that the addition of programs that help students find employment and join the field will become a resource to local students.

Dr. Joseph Savoie, UL Lafayette president, shared that the university’s acceptance into the network is a big step in preserving the culture and heritage of the Acadiana region.

“Being a part of this network will enable us to strengthen our historic commitment to protecting and advancing this region’s French Acadian and Creole heritage. Preserving this distinct culture is a responsibility we take very seriously,” Savoie said in a statement on the university’s website.

As a member of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, the university will have more opportunities to send and receive students partaking in study abroad programs. Opportunities will be made available to local students and foreign students looking to study abroad.