In order to provide novel opportunities for collaboration, the University of Virginia has placed the learning of languages as central to the educational mission.
In partnership with Duke University, The Institute for World Languages has now been launched, to allow for UVa students to acquire skills and abilities in the extremely challenging global environment of the 21st century, making use of the most up-to-date tools for information technology and communication..
The institute offered an inaugural symposium today in Newcomb Hall, which featured a keynote address from Michael Geisler, vice president for Middlebury College’s Language Schools, the Schools Abroad, and Graduate Programs; followed by a second keynote address from Scott McGinnis, professor of German and the academic adviser for the Washington office of the Defense Language Institute. Dr. McGinnis is also a member of the Languages Advisory Board of the Georgetown University Press.
Dean Geisler favors integrating the study of language in a holistic approach, with a greater understanding of a people's history and culture, with both the economic and geographic factors that are influential in the society.
Cristina Della Coletta, UVa professor of Italian and associate dean for humanities and the arts serves as the co-chair of the institute’s steering committee, and in an interview with Jane Haley from UVa Today, Professor Della Coletta explains that the Institute will look at languages through a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, and will strive to integrate connections among the various language departments within the University, fostering greater visibility and seeking to move forward to "enhance access to ideas as well as resources:"
The institute is an initiative of College and will capitalize on common practices used in language instruction and cultural understanding.
The way we engage with the technologies, the structures and the tools we use to teach languages, the ways we engage our students with the individual cultures that are represented through languages constitute the riches that can be shared and disseminated across different areas.
The Institute is making use of advanced videoconferencing technology to provide a unique experience in the teaching of both the Creole and Tibetan languages. Through the innovative partnership with Duke University, students in each of these two schools is given instruction in the Creole language from Duke, and instruction in the Tibetan language is provided by UVa.
The University of Virginia has offered a concentration in Tibetan language and culture since the 1970s, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama, other lamas and many other Tibetans have visited the University Grounds since that time, and the Charlottesville community is home to a significant presence of Tibetans who have relocated to the area, over the years.
Dean Coletta suggests that the time has come to offer a broadening of language-related outreach activities for a global approach to education, for modern times:
An institution that is really global needs to offer a kaleidoscope of linguistic options – options that do not flatten the world into a few major linguistic clusters, but reflect linguistic and cultural diversity.
The spacious teleconferencing room in UVa's Clemons Library currently has the capacity to monitor participants in three additional locations in real time, allowing those in widely-dispersed geographic areas to convene and communicate effectively, in one place, and at a fraction of the cost of precious resources.
Here are some essential aspects of the Institute's mission:
Prepare students to be linguistically proficient, culturally competent, and thoughtful global citizens.
Strengthen research and collaboration across language programs and interdisciplinary areas through programmatic, departmental, and institutional initiatives that will further enhance language teaching and learning at UVA.
Create, exchange, and expand language resources and innovative technologies for language learners and educators in the international language community at UVA and beyond.
Organize activities promoting world languages and second language acquisition in order to support prospective and current language educators in enhancing their professional development
The technology now allows for the immediate transmission of both audio and video with no lag-time, and a threshold for quality that includes image clarity and bright, “crisp” sound, for an environment that is admirably-suited to the demands of speakers and listeners.
This is especially useful in the area of language comprehension, which should greatly help to educate the next generation of "global citizens."