University News:

Mellon Foundation Provides $2 Million Grant to Expand Language Study

December 23, 2014

Denison University is a partner in a $2 million grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand options for language study. The Five Colleges of Ohio (Ohio Five) consortium, comprising Denison, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University and the College of Wooster, was awarded the grant. The grant is a response to the rising interest by undergraduate students in an increasing number of world languages such as Mandarin and Arabic, as well as Hebrew, African and Latin American indigenous languages.

The goal of the grant is to broaden, transform or update the curriculum in existing language programs. Each college will hire two postdoctoral fellows who fit its department’s needs, whether that is to strengthen a fledgling language program or to provide language courses as part of an interdisciplinary track of study. The grant encourages participating colleges to find efficiencies and share resources in languages, as well as to offer professional development involving both teaching and scholarship.

“This is an exciting opportunity that will benefit all involved,” says Susan Garcia, professor of modern languages and associate provost at Denison. “The Ohio State postdocs will gain closely mentored teaching experience at prestigious liberal arts institutions while advancing their research agendas. At the same time, our Ohio Five students will benefit from enhanced curricular and co-curricular experiences afforded by the presence of the postdocs, whose interests and areas of expertise will be matched with the needs of the language departments. Everybody wins.”

“This award provides an extraordinary opportunity to leverage the diverse resources of an R1 university and the Five Colleges to enhance language teaching and learning, while introducing the fellows to higher education in a liberal arts context,” said Susan Palmer, executive director of the Five Colleges of Ohio. “I truly appreciate the support and encouragement of the Mellon Foundation, as well as the leadership of the 70 faculty members and administrators who were active participants in the proposal planning process.”

All members of the Five Colleges of Ohio have identified internationalization as a central priority, and all recognize competency in languages other than English as a central feature of global citizenship. Over the last 10 years, the demand for language instruction among liberal arts students has been growing, along with the need for graduates with high levels of language proficiency in the workforce.

Although language and culture departments at these colleges are relatively small, the faculty are strongly interested in collaborating with colleagues, introducing innovative pedagogies, and expanding the curriculum — as evidenced by the enthusiasm displayed at the Ohio Five-Ohio State workshop held at Denison in the fall of 2013 and made possible by the Mellon language planning grant.

The Mellon Foundation supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work.

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