Professor Kevin McKenna (German and Russian Department) has been invited to participate in a four-year “critical foreign language” initiative funded by a grant co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the U.S. Department of State. The goal of the initiative is to respond to the U.S. State Department “National Security Foreign Language Initiative (NSLI)” to increase the number of American high-school and university students learning “critical” foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. To meet this ambitious goal, the President of the U.S.; the Secretaries of State, Education and Defense; and the Director of the National Intelligence Agency have all contributed in funding close to $100 million. The DOE has proposed $24 million to create incentives to teach and study critical - need languages by refocusing Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) grants.
Professor McKenna’s work in the UVM Russian language program was cited by Modern Language Association (MLA) data as one of the more prominent college Russian programs in the country, resulting in his being selected as one of six university - level faculty members throughout the U.S. to participate in creating a language - portfolio task force for the Russian, Arabic, and Chinese languages.
The UVM Russian program will become one of a number of American universities where high-school graduates with Russian language interests will be tracked for purposes of assessing their progress and performance in preparation for language/culture study during their junior or senior years at a Russian university. McKenna hopes to be able to include Chinese and Arabic language study in this plan. In early November he attended a three-day meeting in Glastonbury, CT to develop an initial plan for determining parameters for a Russian language portfolio as well as to contribute to discussions regarding similar portfolios for Chinese and Arabic.