Denison University’s President Adam Weinberg very generously made it possible for five Denison faculty members to attend and to present at the Cultures and Languages across the Curriculum (CLAC) conference hosted by Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa this October 20th and 21st.
This year’s conference was organized by our very talented and generous colleague Marc Pinheiro-Cadd.
Thank you, Marc!
Nausica Marcos-Miguel, Assistant Professor of Spanish in Linguistics, Charly St-Georges, Assistant Professor of Spanish in Literature and Cultural Studies, Lori Radall, Coordinator of Multilingual Learning, Hanada Al-Masri, Assistant Professor of Arabic, and Gabriele Dillmann, Associate Professor of German had the opportunity to further learn about CLAC pedagogy and internationalizing our campus community and curriculum after they had explored CLAC at the 9th annual conference hosted by Denison University in 2015. President Weinberg was introduced to and spoke in support of CLAC practitioners during that conference as he gave a very well-received keynote address. Gabriele Dillmann then offered 2 follow-up workshops in the summer of 2015 for colleagues across the Denison campus (DIG – Denison Interest Group) to engage faculty members further with CLAC pedagogies and strategies to internationalize their courses.
The CLAC conference in DesMoines with its very sophisticated conference program, informative sessions and compelling discussions by seasoned CLAC practitioners and CLAC founding members was a very positive experience for our Denison colleagues. Denison colleagues also had the opportunity to meet colleagues across the country, across institution types, and across disciplines to exchange ideas and strategies to embed CLAC components in their own courses.
Keynote speakers Dawn Michele Whitehead, Senior Director for Global Learning and Curricular Change in the Office of Integrative Liberal Learning and the Global Commons at Association of American Colleges and Universities and Richard Kiely, Senior Fellow, Office of Engagement Initiatives, Engaged Cornell, rounded off the program with their inspiring presentations on global and local social challenges and suggested possible approaches to think about alleviating some of the most pressing problems. Richard Kiely shared many of his insights that he is further reflecting on in his forthcoming co-authored book Building a Better World: The Pedagogy and Practice of Global Service-Learning.
A special event of the conference was the unveiling of the CLAC Clearinghouse by Dan Soneson, Director of the College of Liberal Arts Language Center, University of Minnesota and Caleb Zilmer, Ph.D. Student in Second Languages and Cultures Education, University of Minnesota. The Clearinghouse is an interactive collection of CLAC-related materials curated by CARLA and the Consortium for Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum. We are all strongly encouraged to contribute to and make use of this valuable resource.
Arabic professor Hanada Al-Masri and German professor Gabriele Dillmann gave a joint-presentation on the benefits of global course connections both for students and faculty: “Fostering a Global Mindset through Globally Connected Courses: Lessons from the German and Arabic Classroom,” which conference participants appeared to find very useful in their own thinking about employing new digital technologies and pedagogies to make an international experience possible in general and especially for those students for whom study-abroad is not an option for various personal and economic reasons.
One presentation that I would personally like to highlight – among other things because it warmed my heart – was “El Puente Entre Dos Mundos: Spanish Companion Courses for Nursing Majors” by Elizabeth Fouts, Associate Professor of Spanish Studies at St. Anselm College. With much enthusiasm and passion, Elizabeth shared with the audience “how her professional and personal life has changed since she discovered CLAC”, which was reinforced when she came to the CLAC conference at Denison in 2015 and “left with a ton of ideas.” These have since culminated in a rather fast-growing, very impressive Spanish language nursing option program at her college.
Following are some of the impressions and experiences that our Denison colleagues walked away with in their own words.
After attending the CLAC conference for the first time at Denison, I was very motivated to attend the second one at Drake University, Iowa and I am truly appreciative of our president’s support. Of a particular interest to me was to learn about how different colleges proposed different approaches and different perspectives to globalizing their curricula. Some presentations encouraged community service learning on the local level, others worked more on the global level. It was a good learning experience to learn more about the incorporation of culture and how to be prepared to deal with unforeseen challenges. The keynote speakers provided great insights into how to incorporate global and international perspectives into our curriculum offerings. It was interesting to hear the challenges they faced during their process of internationalization.
The CLAC Conference provided a unique and valuable space for reflecting not only on the importance of global perspectives and experiences in higher education, but on its possibilities. So many different institutions were represented, each with their own contexts and challenges, and it was precisely this diversity in experiences wrestling with a shared goal that I found to be so fruitful. This coming together of ideas, philosophies, and experiences facilitated a cross pollination that have gotten the wheels turning in my head—and in my pedagogy—in a way that would not have been possible without carving out a space to sit down with colleagues and reflecting on the role of cultures and languages across the curriculum.
The CLAC conference at Drake University has been a great opportunity to see different approaches to incorporate language and culture across the curriculum. Since I teach language courses, for me, it is a matter of including culture and content in a language class, so it was a new perspective seeing how faculty from different disciplines incorporates language in their content courses. This is clearly a path towards recognizing the fundamental need of learning a second language and becoming aware of different cultures, different perspectives. For example, Kate Yang, from Stockton University, showed how she searched for “cross-cultural awareness and global engagement in a developmental psychology course” by, for example, making learners reflect on the different connotations that the word “adolescent” has for speakers of different languages. Her colleague Laura Zucconi explained how history majors worked with texts in their second languages. By doing so, students could find new perspectives on a topic they were already familiar with. I also had the opportunity to catch up with my colleagues and learned more about the shared language project they are working on. There were many other interesting presentations and conversations at the CLAC conference, and I came back to Granville with new ideas for my classes. The take-home message for me was: we need to give our students the tools to be global citizens.
The clear focus of the CLAC conference made it easy to find relevant, engaging sessions. Indeed, for the first time in my conference-attending experience, I found it difficult to choose between sessions. Each session promised to provide valuable pedagogical ideas and social, pedagogical, or ethical issues to consider. Each session that I attended lived up to that promise. High quality sessions were not the only positive aspect of this conference; the duration and size of the conference were likewise ideal. Attendance was small enough and the events of the conference were condensed enough to foster a genuine sense of community. Yet attendance was large enough to ensure diversity. Attendees represented a variety of institutions, from the Defense Language Institute and the US Air Force to the K-12 public school system, to post-secondary institutions of all types. All of these factors – high quality sessions; small, yet diverse participants; and a condensed, efficient schedule – combined to create a rich, invigorating atmosphere for sharing ideas, strengthening existing relationships, and creating new ones. I, personally, was pleased to have this opportunity not only to connect, share ideas, and plan for the future with colleagues from Denison but also to connect with staff members from the Defense Language Institute, learning from their expertise and sharing my own with them.
Three cheers to CLAC for reminding me of the true value of academic conferences, collaboration, and lifelong learning!