CUNY Graduate Center Receives Funding for National Language Resource Center

September 29, 2022

The Graduate Center joins the prestigious U.S. Department of Education program to advance the teaching of languages other than English.

A $630,000 U.S. Department of Education grant has restored the Center for Integrated Communities (CILC), run by Professor Alberta Gatti (left) and alumna Syelle Graves (right), the director and assistant director of the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context, as a national language resource center.

The CUNY Graduate Center’s Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context (ILETC) was awarded a second round of funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI Language Resource Centers program, totaling $630,000 over the next four years for its Center for Integrated Communities (CILC). The Department of Education’s competitive grant program aims to establish, enhance, and operate centers to improve the nation’s capacity for teaching languages other than English. CILC is one of only 16 centers in the U.S. to receive this prestigious award.

With the latest funding, CILC intends to improve language teaching and advance language learning and student equity nationwide, particularly at community colleges and minority-serving institutions. CILC has long collaborated with community colleges and minority-serving colleges at The City University of New York (CUNY). It will draw on those partnerships as it works to enhance language teaching practices and materials, provide language instructors with access to professional development, and strengthen the role of language programs within their institutions. 

CILC will implement five projects over the next four years:

  • Develop and disseminate training modules for instructors on how to integrate text-based activities into existing language courses in order to promote high-impact, literacy-based teaching strategies.
  • Develop and publish text-based tasks for elementary and intermediate foreign and heritage language courses in Arabic, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish, and offer a mentorship program to help instructors integrate the tasks into their courses.
  • Evaluate the outcomes of text-based approaches to language instruction at minority-serving institutions. 
  • Develop, pilot, and research the impact of an interpreting curriculum designed to address the strengths and needs of future interpreters and translators who are heritage speakers. 
  • Host a national forum on literacy focused on language learning at community colleges and minority-serving institutions, with the goal of elevating the role of language programs within their institutions. 

“Literacy-based approaches to language instruction have proven highly effective, but, so far, these methods have been used primarily in elite higher education institutions that serve a small number of minority students,” said Alberta Gatti, director of the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context and an associate professor of Linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center. “Based at CUNY, the nation’s largest urban public university, CILC is uniquely positioned to help community colleges and minority-serving institutions adapt these best practices for their teaching of heritage and second languages to diverse students. We are thrilled that the U.S. Department of Education has seen the importance of our work and has restored CILC as a national language resource center.” 

Between 2014 and 2018, with U.S. Department of Education funding of just over $685,000, CILC served as a national language resource center focused on language education in community colleges, heritage language learners, and the use of educational technology to foster intercultural connections. That work encompassed five projects and led to two forums focused on community college educators, eight workshops, four research tools, seven papers published in peer-reviewed journals, and 26 conference papers. 

Established a decade ago, the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context, which houses CILC, fosters collaboration and coordination among language researchers and educators at CUNY campuses throughout New York City, which serve over 240,000 students, 60.5% of whom are the first in their families to attend college. CUNY students report speaking 158 different languages. 

“With this renewed and deeply appreciated Department of Education funding, the Institute for Language Education in Transcultural Context will ensure that CILC again serves both CUNY and the country as it promotes effective and enriching language education programs at minority-serving colleges and universities,” said Syelle Graves, assistant director of ILETC and a Ph.D. graduate of the CUNY Graduate Center. 

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