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KU international centers awarded $6.3M in grants

Thursday, October 04, 2018

LAWRENCE — Employers on the lookout for job candidates with the intercultural awareness to work in an increasingly globalized world can look to Kansas to find students prepared with linguistic and cultural knowledge necessary to succeed. With recent awards totaling $6.3 million from the Department of Education, KU will continue to play a leading role in education and research around international studies and foreign language in the state.

Several area studies centers in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at KU received prestigious Title VI grants, as well as Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships, that will enhance instruction and outreach for students enrolled at KU and in partnering community colleges and school districts throughout Kansas.

The Department of Education has designated the Kansas African Studies Center (KASC), the Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS) and the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies (CLACS) as National Resource Centers, and it has provided funds for the creation of a new Open Language Resource Center (OLRC) at KU. The four centers will receive $3.3 million over the next four years to fund interdisciplinary research and the teaching of international studies, including critical world languages.

In addition, KU will receive $3 million in Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships to support undergraduate and graduate students pursuing advanced proficiency in Less Commonly Taught Languages such as Arabic, Haitian Creole and Korean as well as other languages in which instructional programs will be developed through new funding. The National Resource Center and Language Resource Center grants, which are funded under the highly competitive Title VI program, will enhance KU outreach to K-16 constituencies and collaboration with business and governmental organizations.

“KU is well-known as a hub in the Midwest for international studies and foreign language education. These awards are significant in their size and impact and also as further recognition of the concentration of incredible scholars KU continues to attract to our state,” said Clarence Lang, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

Among the major initiatives of KU’s National Resource Centers:

  • A joint annual Global Studies Symposium to encourage student interest in international studies, foreign languages and study abroad;
  • Annual lecture series and linked educator workshops to develop curricula on international themes, including health and medicine, strong communities, technology and communication, and environment and energy;
  • A major conference on the lingering effects of colonialism/Soviet control and their implications for foreign policy and international trade;
  • Initiatives with area community colleges, minority serving institutions and K-12 public schools.

“International studies have long been a historical strength at KU, and these grants signal our continuing commitment to provide important professional and curricular development opportunities, as well as study abroad and language learning, for students in the heartland,” said Marta Caminero-Santangelo, director of CLACS.

Elizabeth MacGonagle, KASC director, said that Title VI funding “supports significant community outreach and partnership efforts and confirms the outstanding reputation of KU’s area studies centers as models for interdisciplinary collaboration.”  

John James Kennedy, CEAS director, added that “the grants reflect the outstanding outreach activities of KU area studies centers in continuing development of international studies in Kansas K-12 education across the state.”

The new Open Language Resource Center, one of only 16 such centers in the country, will focus on the creation of Open Educational Resources (OER), broadly defined as teaching and research materials offered to the public at little or no cost. Faculty in KU’s School for Languages, Literatures & Cultures will produce an array of language materials that strike a careful balance between breadth of audience (Spanish, French and German) and demonstrated need for quality materials in Less Commonly Taught Languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, Chinese, Kiswahili and Wolof).

“KU is a national leader in the open access movement and has been creating award-winning foreign language OER for over a decade,” said Jonathan Perkins, co-director of the new center. “Providing access to high-quality materials while lowering or eliminating the cost to students is a crucial step in improving foreign language study in the United States.”

The Language Resource Center grant will also provide an array of professional development opportunities for K-16 instructors and a World Language OER Conference to be held as part of broader Open Education Week events at KU.

The grants will also allow the four newly funded centers to partner with the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES), the Center for Global & International Studies (CGIS) and the Office of International Programs (OIP) to host an annual World Languages Fair starting in fall 2019 that brings middle school and high school students to campus for a day focused on exploring world languages and cultures. Sessions will include mini-lessons in a range of languages, presentations on target cultures and discussions of how intercultural competence can enhance different fields of study.