Coe and Cornell to share grant for foreign language collaboration

Published: Jul. 24, 2017 at 9:40 AM CDT
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Coe College has received a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the development of a collaborative foreign language partnership with Cornell College.

Over the next two years, the planning grant will provide resources for both colleges to collaborate with community partners and provide opportunities for students to apply what they have learned in the world language classroom to concrete issues in the Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon area.

This civic humanities approach will give students opportunities beyond civic engagement, by infusing social, cultural and community-based topics into the curriculum and broader programs that world language departments at both colleges can provide for students.

Specific programs will include assisting area non-profits for Spanish- and French-speaking immigrants and refugees, and offering after-school programs in schools with fewer opportunities for learning world languages. In collaboration with Coe’s new Center for Health and Society and Cornell’s Dimensions program, it is also envisioned that students would be helping local hospitals and rural health care providers with training in languages and in cultural competencies. Under the program, the Coe and Cornell students will also help individuals and families strengthen their skills in their heritage language, particularly in terms of formal and written communication.

In the end, the program will allow Coe and Cornell students to develop closer ties between the international communities at the colleges and within the communities, by connecting the students and native speakers.

Other grant-funded activities will be introduced in the spring of 2018, when professors at Coe and Cornell will lead courses where curricular materials are shared, creating additional opportunities for students. The courses will include topics such as immigration, ethnic identity and challenges with integration. Further, a Summer Language and Society Institute will be held during the summer of 2018, where students from both colleges will develop practical, applied language skills.

Foreign language faculty from both colleges are enthused about the opportunities offered by the Mellon grant.

“We’ve already enjoyed working more closely with our terrific colleagues at Cornell, and our students will be energized by the real-world relevance of their language study,” said Coe Associate Professor of German John Chaimov.

“We hope that this project pushes our faculty to rethink our teaching as we prepare our students to take the classroom into the community and bring the community into the classroom,” said Cornell Professor of Languages John Gruber-Miller. “We also hope that the project motivates our students to achieve a deeper sensitivity to other cultures and to want to continue their study of languages.”

In the longer term, the grant will facilitate bolder initiatives and transformative foreign language endeavors for the colleges. The goal is for both Coe and Cornell to explore novel, bold reforms in their foreign language programs that will appeal to and benefit future generations of students.

According to the chief academic officers from Coe and Cornell, this collaborative approach demonstrates how the two colleges can work together to create beneficial synergies.

“This Mellon planning grant, which will facilitate collaboration in our foreign language programs, is an example of how Coe and Cornell can identify ways to enhance our programs through cooperation and partnerships,” said Coe Provost and Dean of the Faculty Paula O’Loughlin. “This approach will create opportunities for both Coe and Cornell to become stronger and allow each institution to better serve the needs of our students and the surrounding communities.”

“This planning grant is a wonderful opportunity for faculty at Coe and Cornell to collaborate on programs that will benefit students at both colleges,” said Cornell Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Joe Dieker.