Four centers that are part of the UCLA International Institute have recently been awarded a total of $6.3 million in Title VI federal funding by the U.S. Department of Education.

These centers are the Latin American Institute ($1.82 million), the Center for Southeast Asia Studies (approximately $1.4 million), the Asia Institute (approximately $1.16 million) and the National Heritage Language Resource Center ($778,000).  

The funding, which runs for four academic years (2014–15 through 2017–18), represents a renewal of earlier funding and recognizes the four centers (and two consortium partners) as National Resource/ Language Centers. It was awarded through three programs funded by Title VI of the Higher Education Act: the National Resource Center Program, the Language Resource Center Program and the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships Program.

The three regional centers immediately began to process FLAS scholarships for competitions previously conducted for the current academic year, which were contingent on funding.

Supporting area and language studies at UCLA

Title VI funding is crucial to UCLA’s ability to promote the study of Latin America, East Asia and Southeast Asia, the languages spoken in these regions — especially at advanced levels — and the pedagogy of teaching heritage languages, which are the languages immigrants speak at home while being educated in another.

The purpose of this funding aligns directly with the mission of the UCLA International Institute: to educate global citizens for a global world. “These grants,” noted the Department of Education in a recent press release, “will enable more students and educators to gain global competencies that equip them with an understanding and openness to cultures and languages around the globe, as well as the 21st-century skills needed to preserve a rich, multicultural society and thriving democracy right here at home.”

The grants not only support courses on specific world regions and specific languages at UCLA, they provides generous scholarships that make it possible for outstanding students, particularly underserved students and those with a strong financial need, to pursue regional and language studies. They also support public outreach programs that share the most recent research on the four centers’ respective regions/topic, including workshops for K–12 and college educators.

Centers welcome Title VI funding

The National Heritage Language Resource Center — the only one of 15 designated language resource centers exclusively dedicated to heritage languages — was awarded slightly more than $178,000 a year for four years. The center’s work focuses on how best to help heritage language speakers achieve proficiency in their heritage language, thus making them truly bilingual.

“We are delighted that our funding has been renewed,” said NHLRC Director Olga Kagan. We are also pleased that some of the newly funded language resource centers are going to dedicate most of their activities to heritage education. NHLRC can credit itself for spearheading the importance of teaching heritage languages and establishing the need for heritage language maintenance and advancement.

“Our focus in the next four years will be on creating conditions that will further improve understanding of heritage language teaching,” Kagan continued, “and make heritage language education part and parcel of the American educational system.”

The research and teaching materials developed by the NHLRC, many of which address “critical languages” identified by the U.S. departments of State and Defense, are shared with schools and universities nationwide.

The Latin American Institute was one of only two centers on the West Coast to receive Title VI funding for that region. The institute received area studies funding of $215,000 per year and FLAS funding of $240,000 per year.

“This competitive grant recognizes UCLA as a National Resource Center for research on Latin America,” said Latin American Institute Director Kevin Terraciano. “FLAS funding provides scholarships for the study of less commonly taught languages in the region, in particular, Portuguese, Quechua and Nahuatl.

“I would like to thank the LAI staff, David Arriaza, Cynthia Gomez, Nancy Gomez, and our colleagues from the Hispanic American Periodicals Index, for the time and energy that they put into our successful application,” Terraciano said.

The Asia Institute, which applied for Title VI funding for the East Asia region in a consortium with the East Asian Studies Center of the University of Southern California, was awarded $106,500 per year in area studies funding and $184,500 per year for FLAS Fellowships for four years.

“The Title VI grant is a crucial source of funding for both students and for the infrastructure within the International Institute dedicated to promoting scholarship and teaching on East Asia at UCLA,” said Asia Institute Director Bin Wong.

“Without this funding one could only fear for the capacity of the university to sustain a credible commitment to excellence in this area,” Wong said. “The success of achieving the highest scores UCLA has ever received in the East Asia Title VI competition is a tribute to the skilled and hardworking staffs at both UCLA and USC.”

The Center for Southeast Asian Studies also applied for funding with a consortium partner, the Center for Southeast Asia Studies at UC Berkeley. UCLA’s CSEAS was awarded $243,000 a year in FLAS funding for four years. The consortium partners will allocate their four-year National Resource Center grant of $888,000 on a project-by-project basis, many of which involve both partners. In the current academic year, CSEAS has been allocated more than $107,000 for this purpose.

“The renewal of our Title VI grant feels like a validation of the importance of our center's work in promoting knowledge of Southeast Asia,” said CSEAS Director George Dutton. “The funding will be of critical importance in supporting our work with students and faculty at UCLA and beyond over the next four years.

“We have exciting plans for collaboration with our colleagues at UC Berkeley as well as new engagements with UC Riverside and UC Santa Cruz,” Dutton said, “all of which should help strengthen our Center and Southeast Asian Studies in the UC system more broadly.”