The Center for Urban Language Teaching and Research (CULTR) is a U.S. Department of Education Title VI National Foreign Language Resource Center, whose role is to promote and improve the teaching and learning of foreign languages. CULTR’s mission is to highlight career pathways for underrepresented students that open with language study and lead to more diverse employment opportunities in diplomacy, international business, education, public health, and more.
CULTR’s mission allies with a specialized focus on the prospects and challenges of foreign language learning in urban area schools. These schools, frequently under-resourced and pressured from accountability concerns, often pursue areas such as math and reading while reducing assistance to courses not deemed “essential,” such as foreign languages. To empower these foreign language educators and students, CULTR creates language learning and teaching materials, offers professional development opportunities for teachers, and conducts and disseminates research on foreign language learning.
Led by renowned researchers and educators, this LRC holds expertise and interest in three specific areas of need in foreign language education: language teacher retention, advocacy for language teaching among students, parents, and policy makers to raise awareness of the importance of language learning and its benefits to students and society, and research and development of materials and assessments for less commonly taught languages(LCTLs).
Consistently, CULTR capitalizes on the inherent advantages of a major metropolitan city in Atlanta to support and promote an expansion of language learning in urban areas. CULTR’s location at a Georgia State University, a large urban public university with a demonstrated ability to meet the educational needs of under-served students, within Atlanta, an internationally recognized major metropolitan city, places this LRC in an ideal position to be able to improve the teaching and learning of foreign languages and expand the nation’s foreign language competence.
Along with our unique story and mission, the work from CULTR extends across the same core areas as the other fifteen LRCs across the nation: research, teaching materials, digital tools and resources, assessment, professional development, less commonly taught languages initiatives, K-12 initiatives, outreach and dissemination.
Making a national impact
Through Title VI of the Higher Education Act, CULTR and the other LRCs aim to make the study of language and culture a national priority. The introduction for the NFLRC brochure highlights these aspects in the current world landscape.
Advances in technology and communications, new ways of doing business, political shifts and instabilities, and a growing multicultural population at home challenge the U.S. to develop the capacity to engage effectively with people from around the world.
For the U.S. to remain a political, economic, and social leader, it needs to tap into its greatest resource: the American people. It must help its citizens develop the skills and understanding required to prosper in this global age.
Businesses need a multilingual workforce to maintain their competitive advantage, and 23 million jobs are tied to international trade. Local businesses are also adjusting to their communities’ growing language needs. Government agencies need multilingual employees to provide healthcare, social services, law enforcement, and emergency assistance to America’s increasingly diverse population.
In addition, substantial research over the past two decades documents the personal, cognitive, academic, and social benefits of learning languages.
These benefits include:
• Strengthened communication skills
• Intellectual and cognitive growth
• Broadened career and life opportunities
• An increased understanding of other people and cultures, benefitting individuals and the nation as a whole
CULTR, operating as the first Title VI LRC in the Southeast, endeavors to enhance the opportunities of urban and underrepresented students to achieve the language proficiency and cultural competence required for success in the modern global marketplace. Through an array of ambitious initiatives that benefits foreign language education as a whole, the mission of CULTR is to promote and improve access to language learning opportunities and global awareness for all learners and educators with a special emphasis on providing prospects for urban students to explore and envision global careers in cultural diplomacy, national security, international business, public health or the sciences.
The Atlanta Advantage
As a LRC, our location in Atlanta provides access to professional development opportunities for many teachers in the US who may not be able to travel long distances to other LRCs for summer workshops. Atlanta remains a transportation hub with the busiest airport in the world through Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport and one of five U.S. cities served by three major interstate highways. The latter enables CULTR’s location to be easily accessible by car as it stands within a day’s drive from 15 states. Atlanta’s centrality makes it possible for teachers in major cities in the southeast region, many of whom have been underserved by LRCs in the past, to attend conferences and workshops in Atlanta. CULTR’s Summer Professional Development Workshops, for instance, attracts participants across the Southeast United States. Delivering K-16 language teachers the opportunity to improve their role as educators by developing proper classroom assessment, highlighting successful practices, and exploring current research in foreign language education, CULTR’s site allows these teachers to gain the skills and qualifications for today’s classrooms.
Home to more than a dozen headquarters of Fortune 500 companies, Atlanta’s internationally recognized business community also offers opportunities for vigorous collaboration with CULTR. To maintain a competitive advantage in the world economy, these businesses rely on a globally competent workforce and CULTR, through relationships across education, government, and business, promotes a talent pipeline with foreign language education. CULTR’s Global Languages Leadership Meeting, for example, assembles participants and stakeholders from a variety of spheres in order to discuss, advocate, and promote language learning throughout the continuum of learning. Invited attendees consistently include representatives among school leaders, legislation committees, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and businesses with international initiatives. Through the scope of language and cultural competency, leaders across the city’s sectors meet to discuss ways in which their organizations can collaborate on new ventures and opportunities for growth. Atlanta’s rich diversity of cultures and robust career opportunities assists CULTR in its work to take international competence and global skillsets to urban and underrepresented schools throughout the United States.
An Enterprising Urban Research University
As a large urban public university with a demonstrated ability to meet the educational needs of under-served students, Georgia State University (GSU) serves as the foundation for our active Language Resource Center (LRC).
Positioned in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, the creation of CULTR was a collaborative effort by the Departments of World Languages and Cultures (WLC) and Applied Linguistics & English as a Second Language (ALESL) in the College of Arts and Sciences (COAS), along with the Learning Technology Division (LTD) in the College of Education (COE) at Georgia State University.
Georgia State University, an enterprising urban public research university, is a national leader in graduating students from widely diverse backgrounds. Recently designated a Title III Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) and Title V-eligible institution, GSU has received national recognition for its successes in retaining and graduating students from underserved populations (The Atlantic, Sept. 23, 2013; The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013). In 2013, GSU graduated more African-American students than any other not-for-profit college in the country, had a graduation rate for Pell students that was 12% above the national average, ranked #1 in baccalaureate degrees for Latino student, and ranked in the top 50 schools in the nation for graduating Asian students. Furthermore, GSU remains centered in the historic financial hub of downtown Atlanta. Regularly, the university provides more than 32,000 students with unsurpassed connections to the city’s business, government, nonprofit and cultural organizations. With collaboration and partnerships across an array of industries, CULTR connects urban students to global opportunities.