Area Studies, Language Programs Win Almost $11 Million from Education Department

Area Studies, Language Programs Win Almost $11 Million from Education Department

Graduate students Romy Guzman (left), Ziad Abu-Rish, Maura Dykstra and Amy Malek--all featured in video profiles on this website--are past recipients of U.S. Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships.

Over the coming four years, the UCLA International Institute's renowned programs on East Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Near East, Southeast Asia and heritage language education anticipate federal support of $6.7 million for language instruction, public programming, outreach to local schools, and more. Five centers will distribute nearly $4.3 million in Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowships to UCLA undergraduate and graduate students.

It's very important for us to train specialists. You see the need for it every day.

At the conclusion of a competitive process that takes place every four years, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $6.7 million to UCLA programs in international area studies and language instruction. Over the 2010–14 cycle, the department will give UCLA International Institute programs almost $4.3 million to distribute to graduate students and, for the first time, undergraduates in the form of Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships.

At nearly $11 million, the grants represent a 12 percent overall increase in federal funding compared with the previous four-year cycle. They will go to International Institute units dedicated to teaching and research on Europe, Latin America, the Near East, and heritage language education, and to dual-campus consortia on East Asia and Southeast Asia. The funding is subject to annual congressional approval of the department's budget; in a resolution passed last month, the U.S. House of Representatives honored the 50th anniversary of the international education programs that are authorized under Title VI of the Higher Education Act.

"UCLA is interested both in broad issues of internationalization and globalization, and the study of specific regions," said Professor Randal Johnson, the new interim vice provost of international studies at UCLA. "It's very important for us to train specialists. You see the need for it every day."

For the second time, the Education Department funded UCLA's National Heritage Language Resource Center (NHLRC), endorsing its innovative approaches to instruction for students who have been exposed to target languages other than English at home.

NHLRC Director Olga Kagan said that the center, one of 15 U.S. Language Resource Centers devoted to various approaches and sets of world languages, will use its four-year, annual grant of $329,950 to continue teacher training programs and to expand research projects that describe the differing arcs of language acquisition for heritage- and foreign-language learners. One project will establish standards for rating the language proficiency of heritage speakers.

"This is not an easy task because these learners are so heterogeneous and a common measuring stick is not immediately obvious," Kagan said.

The NHLRC will produce language-specific materials for K-12 schools and a general guide for teachers that, according to Kagan, will "make it clear that a heritage language curriculum needs to be rooted in the community."

1st Undergraduates to Receive FLAS Fellowships

Along with their awards, five UCLA international area studies programs and consortia received recognition as National Resource Centers, a designation that some of them have enjoyed for decades. The Education Department provides separate funding for NRC programming and FLAS fellowships.

NRC funds support the full range of activities in area studies, including instruction in modern languages, course development, outreach to K-12 schools, conferences and public programming, library collections, and joint projects on multiple campuses. The Institute uses Title VI funds, for example, to maintain the Outreach World website, which offers lesson plans for social studies and history along with other content for K-12 schools.

Johnson points out that the mandate of the NRCs goes well beyond disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, to include issues addressed at UCLA primarily by professional schools. Under his leadership, for example, the Latin American Institute wrote into its grant proposal a research project on intellectual property issues and government policies affecting "creative industries" in the region. The project aims to involve faculty members from the Anderson School of Management, the School of Theater, Film & Television, and the School of Law.

UCLA International Institute centers covering Europe, Latin America, the Near East, East Asia and Southeast Asia will administer the annual competition for FLAS fellowships, for study in the United States on selected languages and countries of those regions. Because of cost-sharing arrangements with UCLA academic departments, some centers are able to award more fellowships than the Education Department nominally assigns to them. In past cycles, FLAS awards went exclusively to students pursuing advanced degrees; but starting in 2010–11, the four centers will support about eight UCLA undergraduates per year with the grants, along with some three dozen graduate students.

NRC awards constitute official recognition by the Department of Education of academic units which exercise national influence, judged by the size of their faculties, the scope of the courses offered both in modern languages and a broad range of academic disciplines, outstanding library collections, and active outreach programs for K–12 teachers and students in Southern California. The separate LRC program confers similar official recognition upon centers of excellence in language education.

Two of UCLA's federally funded NRCs operate as dual-campus consortia. The University of Southern California shares in the grant for East Asian studies, administered on this campus by the Asia Institute. UCLA and UC Berkeley Centers for Southeast Asian Studies also apply jointly for federal funds. 

Updated Aug. 30, 2010: The Latin American Institute received late notification last week of its four-year, $930,000 grant for FLAS fellowships. The additional grant brought the total of federal funding for UCLA International Institute units in 2010–14 to nearly $11 million, up from just over $10 million as originally reported.

Published: Monday, August 09, 2010