KU foreign language centers win $8 million in federal grants, plan to hire more faculty, increase study abroad

photo by: Chris Conde

The World War II Memorial Campanile on the University of Kansas campus is pictured on Jan. 19, 2022.

Four University of Kansas centers that teach foreign languages have won a combined $8 million through a competitive federal grant program, KU announced on Tuesday.

The Kansas African Studies Center, the Center for East Asian Studies, the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, and the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies were awarded grant funds through the U.S. Department of Education’s Title VI foreign language education program.

Combined, the centers will receive $3.8 million over the next five years to help fund operations, while receiving $4.3 million to award over four years for scholarships. KU leaders said the funds would allow for new faculty hires, instruction in less commonly taught languages and expanded study abroad opportunities, among other initiatives.

The federal grants build upon KU’s efforts to strengthen its reputation as a center for foreign language instruction. The university already serves as a significant foreign language instructor for the U.S. military, and KU leaders said Tuesday that strong foreign language programs also would help civic and industry leaders expand international partnerships.

KU leaders touted how competitive the grant process was and said the new grant money likely would be beneficial to KU’s research reputation as it seeks to maintain its status in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

“That all four centers won this designation is a tremendous boost to KU’s AAU status,” Melissa Birch, director of the KU Institute for International & Global Engagement, said in a news release.

The KU Institute for International & Global Engagement is a fairly new KU entity that was created to oversee and conduct strategic planning for all of KU’s area studies centers. KU leaders said that new level of coordination was a major selling point in the grant application sent to the Department of Education.

In addition to the new institute, KU also has created a new “senior internationalization officer” position that is responsible for creating international strategies for departments all across the university.


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