Dept. of Education grants provide funds for international education

Title VI grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education will provide funding for scholarships that will allow students to study abroad and learn less commonly taught languages.

UWM is the recipient of two prestigious grants from the U.S. Department of Education totaling over $2.4 million to be distributed over the next four years.

That’s good news in any language.

The Title VI grants are meant to support international education programs and student scholarships. UWM’s Center for International Education (CIE) received nearly $1.8 million and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), which applied jointly with UW-Madison’s Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies program, received $600,000 in support.

That means that both programs can continue supporting community outreach efforts, teacher training, and language learning, critical missions in a global society.

“It is really the money that allows us to expand our support for research, teaching, and public engagement. It is increasingly competitive … so we’re very proud of the funding,” said Julie Kline, the associate director of CLACS. Only 55 other schools in the nation received Title VI funding, and include institutions like Stanford, Columbia, UC-Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.

The money has the potential to have a direct impact on Milwaukee, added Jeremy Booth, an administrative specialist for CIE.

“(We’re able) to bring ideas of global citizenship and learning tools around universal human rights and the United Nations framework into the classrooms in Milwaukee Public Schools,” he said. “That’s where it’s really impacting students, and as a feeder into UWM to get them interested in foreign language study and international issues.”

Support for education, training, and outreach

Both CIE and CLACS are charged with promoting international education and discourse. The Title VI funding allows CIE to host trainings to help community and technical college faculty and staff internationalize their curriculums, for instance. Funds also support UWM’s Language Resource Center and provide money to help instructors get certified in language instruction.

That money pays off in tangible ways, according Nicole Palasz of CIE’s Institute of World Affairs.

“Through professional development programs for teachers, curricular support, and student workshops, IWA has assisted classrooms across Milwaukee in helping students see themselves as global change makers,” she said. “One of the Institute’s MPS partners told us that they’re very grateful for our partnership and all the ways it is making it possible for students and teachers to see themselves and our Milwaukee community through a global lens.”

CLACS uses federal funding to train both K-12 teachers and post-secondary educators to address topics of race and ethnicity and introduce Hispanic and Latino elements in areas like children’s classroom literature. They’re also hosting new events this year, like panel discussions about Brazilian politics or American immigration policy.

CLACS director Natasha Sugiyama thinks early investment in multi-cultural education will pay big dividends in Wisconsin’s future.

“One of things I think educators in the region are thinking about is how to prepare students to be a part of this global economy and global workforce and understand Wisconsin’s role in the larger international community,” she said. “Milwaukee is a changing community. We have a growing Latino population. I would hope that better understanding of the Americas would be beneficial to the whole community to understand how and why our neighbors are coming from the Americas and the unique perspective they could bring.”

Support for students

In addition to funding education efforts, the Title VI grant will provide monies for 10 Foreign Language Area Studies fellowships each year. Allocated for undergraduate students who are taking one of a handful of Less Commonly-Taught Languages – including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian – FLAS awards give students up to $10,000 for tuition and fees and another $5,000 to cover living expenses. The grant also provides up to $7,500 for five summer intensive language awards.

Some students will use this money to study abroad, Booth said, while other students stay on home soil to take language classes they might not otherwise be able to.

“A lot of these students want to go into the world and be language teachers or work for the U.S. State Department, and they have really diverse goals. In a resource-deprived environment, this really helps them,” Booth said.

The job outlook for polyglots is bright; Booth points to increasing foreign investment into the U.S. economy leading to larger demand for culturally and linguistically competent workers. And, he added, the public and nonprofit sectors are always looking for language experts in those less commonly-taught languages.

Tools for a global society

Language and culture education has always been critical, but as debate rages about America’s place in the world and about its immigration policies, it’s especially necessary today, Sugiyama says.

“As an educator, I will always value the idea that if you have more information, you can be a better consumer of the rhetoric taking place in this highly-charged political climate,” she said. “That’s our role, is to give our students, faculty, community partners, and the public at large, the knowledge they need to sift through the language that’s taking place at the national stage.”

Thanks to Title VI, both CLACS and CIE will be able to continue doing just that.

By Sarah Vickery, College of Letters & Science