Federal Grant Funds Kent State Summer Foreign Language Academy for 10th Year
A Kent State University summer program that teaches foreign languages to high school students has received federal funding for the 10th consecutive year.
Professors Brian Baer and Theresa Minick of Kent State’s Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences received two grants totaling $180,000 to host the 2017 Regents STARTALK Foreign Language Academy at Kent State.
The STARTALK grants, funded by the National Security Agency and the National Foreign Language Center, provide $90,000 each for two academies that immerse juniors and seniors from regional high schools in four-week intensive residential programs, where they learn either Russian or Mandarin Chinese. Students must participate in a follow-up academic year session consisting of distance learning and monthly Saturday sessions. The program is completely free for participating students, who can earn both high school and college credit upon completion.
“By getting an entire year of college-level study before they enter college, students are able to test into intermediate when they enter college,” Baer says. “This makes it much more likely that they will major or minor in the language or study abroad, and we’re able to set them on the path to advanced-level proficiency.”
During their time at the academy, students are exposed to a variety of career paths in the public and private sectors, paths that require advanced-level proficiency in a foreign language. Baer added that many of the participants end up coming to Kent State to pursue their undergraduate degrees.
STARTALK is a post-9/11 initiative by the federal government to address a lack of language experts to translate the intelligence reports received by U.S. agencies.
“There were piles of transcripts in Arabic that weren’t being translated because they didn’t have enough translators,” Baer says.
Kent State boasts the nation’s only bachelor’s-to-Ph.D. Translation Studies program.
The academy — now in its 11th year of operation — began when Baer and Professor Emeritus Gregory Shreve, then-chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies, submitted an application that won funding from the Ohio Board of Regents for the first foreign language academy in 2007. The program obtained STARTALK funding the following year and has been funded consistently ever since. At its largest, the academy offered five languages: Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Hindi.
The program also has provided support for foreign language teachers in Summit County high schools and primary schools. In 2009, Baer and Minick were awarded a Foreign Language Assistance Program grant through the U.S. Department of Education to fund salaries and professional development programs for instructors of critical-need languages.
“From that, we created the teacher-training component of the STARTALK summer program, the Teacher Leadership Academy,” Baer says.
The teachers are trained in STARTALK best practices, as well as Kent State’s best practices for implementing technology.
“We were one of the first programs that heavily embedded technology into the teaching and the learning of our program,” Minick says. “This helps students to make a smooth transition from the academy into the academic year. Our online learning program has many social aspects to it. The participants create digital stories and use different voice tools — tools that help them to be collaborative and creative.”
Applications are now being accepted for the 2017 academy.