Honored to be part of Switch & Shift's Pivot Point series on Women in the Workplace -
Jessica Esch (frequent poster here) introduced me to Anita Verna Crofts a couple of years ago at BIF. This is one amazing lady who is taking education to new heights - Flying Lessons. There is hope for higher-ed! Thank you Anita! Come meet her at BIF-9!!
The University of Washington Announces Flying Lessons
I have never flown a plane or sat in a flight simulator, but I’ve been teaching people how to fly for years. This spring the Department of Communication at the University of Washington made it official by naming me their Flight Instructor.
Everyone has wings. Sometimes you need to be reminded to use them.
Choosing to be named the Flight Instructor reflected my approach to teaching, which encourages students to lead and soar higher than they ever imagined possible, inside and outside of the classroom. In addition to the classes I teach, my punch card includes:
- Encouraging students to see their education as an opportunity to build knowledge and relationships that spread their wings. A degree isn’t just about making the grade, it’s about making a network that lasts a lifetime.
- Reminding students, faculty, and staff to seek the perspective that comes with altitude gain. The broader landscape looks different and reveals patterns that are invisible from the ground.
- Supporting faculty efforts to move students from co-piloting planes to taking over the controls themselves. Everyone has the ability to pilot their own plane.
- Championing opportunities for students to lead in class, on campus, and in the community. The sky’s the limit.
The vision for my role reflects the entrepreneurial instincts of the Communication Leadership graduate program, where I teach and serve as Associate Director, and the department as a whole. Our program houses two unique degrees in digital media and community/networks, both aimed at creatives who are on the frontlines of shaping superb communication strategies through story-driven content, audience engagement, and insightful analytics. The freedom faculty, staff, and students enjoy to dream, build, and grow is my fuel.
As the Flight Instructor, I help students navigate takeoffs, weather turbulence, and stick their landings. Last week an incoming student tweeted to me, “I would love to talk to you about my flight plan.”
Buckle up. It’s time for takeoff.
The Fall is upon us - routines, school, 'hectivity' of life returns...so enjoy some remnants of summer by some fabulous people! These were the top posts of August (mine was this...just kidding...kind of)
- Changing One Thing Changes Everything by Jessica Esch ~ As usual, whenever I post anything by my epiphanator and dear friend, it tops the charts! Am I blessed or what?
- The Economic and Social Impact of Language by Amelia Friedman ~ Language and Culture are so inter-related and yet we remain 20th C in how/what we teach our kids...we need to listen to Amelia!
- What I wish I’d Known 20 years ago compiled by Barbara Laskey Weinreich and Karen Berlin Ishii ~ At a regular gathering of Brown alumnae from the '70s, '80s, '90s, women from the '00s and '10s asked for advice - and here it is!
- The Time is Now to Become an Entrepreneur by Ilan Saks ~ can't wait for The Founders Project to get to the USA!!
- 21st Century Leadership Learnings from 2500 years ago in Smartbriefs Smartblog on Leadership
I'm off to my 'retreat' at home in Maine on Friday September 6th and heading down to BIF9 on the 17th. If you haven't yet signed up - do so now! And don't forget to sign up for #Innospirits on the 17th
With the rise of China, India and other Asian countries, what languages do we teach in school? Bengali? Punjabi? Nope. Think this is a bit of an issue for our economic and political future? Ayup! So does Amelia Friedman. That's why, she founded and runs the Student Language Exchange. As she starts her senior year at Brown, her sense of urgency is increasing....as should ours! This has profound implications for our innovation and economic success and national security. You can read more here about the impact of not changing our education and economic systems.
Six months ago, I decided that I wanted to learn Bengali. It’s not offered at my school, nor is it offered at any other college or university in Rhode Island. There’s no Rosetta Stone or Pimsleur or Livemocha or BBC Languages or Babel or LingQ. I’ve resorted to Skyping with a tutor in Dhaka.
Maybe you’re not shocked. Nobody learns Bengali.
In 2009, 97 American undergraduates studied Bengali, the 7th most spoken language in the world. Translation? Less than 100 American students were studying a language spoken by 193 million people in the world. Consequently, we aren’t being prepared for engagement in a country with a $2,100 per capita GDP. Some major news stories about Bangladesh have reached my Twitter feed in the past few months: A factory collapsed and over a thousand lives are lost. Hundreds of thousands are suffering due to groundwater contaminated by nuclear waste. Hundreds died in a killing spree committed by police and other government officials. We can report on these tragedies in our news outlets with some interpreted interviews, and perhaps send basic aid, but we face a stiff language barrier when we communicate with those that are most affected. And, without open and honest conversations, is it appropriate for us to try to help?
Bengali, Javanese, Lahnda (Punjabi), Telugu, Vietnamese, Marathi, Tamil. A year ago, I hadn’t even heard of some of these languages. Now I know that they’re among the 20 most spoken worldwide, and they’re not offered at most American universities. And, in 2010, Arne Duncan announced that 95% of American college students in language classes were taking European languages.
This is paralyzing. It doesn’t promote growth in our global economy, it’s not supporting global politics and communication, and it’s a major concern for our nation’s security interests. We are also not preparing to engage with some of the world’s poorest populations.
But what does that mean for our future?
95%. That does not reflect the skills the next generation will need as we face the political, social, economic and environmental battles of our shared future
What do you care about?
Our generation faces a society that has adopted English as a global language, but we cannot forget that learning other languages initiates deeper connections and more trustful relationships between diverse communities. Language is more than a pragmatic communication system. Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Through shared language, students can become sensitive global activists and pursue productive community partnerships.
You may ask yourself: Why should I learn one of these underrepresented languages? Why should my child be studying Vietnamese instead of French? Guaraní instead of Spanish? What is the value of learning Punjabi or Bengali when the educated elite already speak English?
For a moment, discard the notion that everyone speaks English. Ask yourself: Who is “everyone” in that scenario? In many of these communities, the people who would most benefit from an outreached hand aren’t the people who learned fluent English in school.
For one final comparison, compare our map to a map of the Human Development Index:
In these maps, we see that most American students study languages that are associated with high human development indices.
How are we going to contribute to solutions without communicating with those who are most affected? How will we even be able to identify the struggles that plague these communities? Will we be able to understand how to find sources of problems and support communities as they seek change? Can we empower communities with a hand up instead of a handout?
In 2004, the Modern Language Association noted a sense of crisis in higher language education driven by what was called “the nation’s language deficit.” Students are not learning languages at a rate that supports global interests, even those labeled “critical languages” by our State Department— Bengali, for example, is among these 13 languages. How can we begin to address this deficit if we cannot even find opportunities to learn these underrepresented languages?
Right now, there are people across the world who are left out of the conversation. They’re forgotten. It is time for us to transform our perception of language, culture, and engagement in this ever-shrinking world.
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