Examining the World Through CLAS Centers
UF receives federal funding to boost international programs on campus
When Leonardo Villalón arrived at UF in August 2002 to serve as the new director of the Center for African Studies, he knew he had a daunting task in front of him. He had less than three months to prepare an in-depth, million-dollar grant proposal for the US Department of Education's National Resource Centers funding program. "I wouldn't have come to UF if I hadn't thought African studies was well placed to receive the funding again," says Villalón. "UF has a longstanding program in African studies, and our goal now is to take it to new heights."
Villalón's intensive effort paid off in June 2003 when the DOE announced the Center for African Studies (CAS) had received another three-year grant, with $459,000 for the first year. In all, CAS will receive $1.4 million to support African language instruction, faculty hiring, research and outreach programs to secondary-school teachers, the center's annual Carter Lecture Series and graduate student fellowships.
Villalón was not the only center director pleased with the DOE's announcement. The Center for Latin American Studies, directed by Charles Wood, also received another three-year commitment, totaling $1.4 million. Nearly half of the center's 120 affiliate faculty members are from CLAS. Perhaps the largest coup for UF are two newly-funded centers: the Center for European Studies (CES), led by Assistant Political Science Professor Amie Kreppel, which will receive $700,000 during the next three years; and the Transnational and Global Studies Center (TGSC) led by Dennis Jett, dean of UF's International Center (UFIC). This new center, which will be housed in the UFIC, has approximately $690,000 available through 2005. Jett says the new programs are part of UF's continuing effort to internationalize. "All four of these centers will give our international efforts a big boost," Jett says. "The fact that UF has five centers funded through the DOE, including the Center for International Business Education and Research, is an indicator of the strength and depth of our international programs."
Every three years, the DOE solicits proposals for its National Resource Centers (NRC) program, which provides grants to institutions of higher education to establish, strengthen and operate comprehensive and undergraduate language and area/international studies centers. Last year, 121 centers from 63 universities across the US received a three-year NRC grant. A three-person panel of faculty experts reviewed the grant proposals and rated the centers on everything from how many languages are taught in a certain area to library resources.
The new Transnational and Global Studies Center is one of 11 of its kind that received funding this cycle. It is actually part of the Florida Network for Global Studies, which includes the Center for Transnational and Comparative Studies at Florida International University in Miami as well as the University of South Florida in Tampa and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The funding will be used to support new course offerings and research on problems dealing with humanitarian assistance, human rights, global governance, technology, communications, terrorism, identity and diasporas that affect people around the world. "I believe the reason UF received funding for this center is the strength of its faculty and the projects they proposed," Brown explains. "We had faculty input from across campus, including CLAS, agricultural and life sciences, journalism and communications, law, business and the libraries. To have this proposal accepted on our first try shows how brilliant our faculty are in their respective areas."
The TGSC also plans to work with the Center for European Studies on language training and other projects. Amie Kreppel and her colleagues in the college have been working to build European studies at UF for more than three years. These efforts have included a workshop on researching and teaching on the European Union and the development of the European Union Studies Program. Even though the ultimate goal has been to establish the CES, Kreppel was somewhat surprised the center received funding on the first try. "This does not often happen, but it was extremely gratifying that all of the hard work in developing European Studies leading up to the application has paid off. Obtaining this funding has been a joint effort across CLAS, and this collaboration made the grant's success possible."
UF's CES is one of 11 centers in the country that received funding this cycle, and Kreppel says she expects to work closely with the directors and faculty affiliated with the other NRCs on campus, including sharing resources. "TGSC and the CES are already working together and planning joint events together," says Kreppel. "We will be working with the Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER) to provide business training seminars on conducting business in the new Europe and join in the efforts of TGSC and others in providing outreach to the community through local and regional teacher training workshops. We will also be working with the library to enhance the European collection, especially through the addition of more European language resources."
Kreppel says there are a number of tasks to accomplish during the first year of funding. A top priority is to build the European language resources on campus. "The CES, together with the Center for Modern Greek Studies and the Department of Classics, has hired a new lecturer in modern Greek," says Kreppel. "We hope to add a lecturer in Polish and Hungarian and work to integrate these lesser and least commonly taught languages into the curriculum."
This is the first time in UF's history that four centers have received NRC funding during the same three-year cycle, and UF was the only institution to receive funding for two newly created centers. Of the 63 universities to receive funding, 19 have four or more NRCs on campus, with the University of Wisconsin-Madison having the most with eight centers. Other universities with four centers include Duke, Harvard, Michigan State, the University of North Carolina and the University of Texas.
As for the next funding cycle, starting in 2006, Villalón says he plans to get a head start on writing that proposal. "This time, I have a couple of years to write it instead of a couple of months," he says. "It's an intensive process, but when the funding comes through, it's a mark of approval and excellence on our international programs."
--Allyson A. Beutke