Editor’s note: This sponsored post was written by Kristy Winkler, managing director of CULTR at GSU.
Going virtual for the second year in a row, World Languages Week at Georgia State University attracted a record number of students and educators from around the world to learn about the skills in highest demand from employers looking to hire culturally competent young people.
Organized by the Center for Urban Language Teaching and Research, or CULTR, the seventh annual event was attended by more than 1,000 high school and college students from around Georgia as well as 38 other states and 38 countries.
Throughout the week, this global career expo brought representatives from 212 schools together with leaders from the public and private sector to discuss the internationally relevant skills — from foreign languages to empathy — vital to their industries. Some of the biggest names in the Georgia business world, from UPS to Truist, complemented nonprofit leaders and government agencies like the U.S. Department of State and the Peace Corps.
Diverse speaker panels covering a variety of topics highlighted the value of world-language capabilities, cultural experiences and a sensibility valuing diversity, equity and inclusion for all learners in an increasingly global economy.
“Intercultural Competence is not a soft skill, It’s a must skill,” says Soumaya Khalifa, a cultural consultant in Atlanta who has participated in World Languages Week consistently.
Originally held on a single day at Georgia State University’s campus, the move to a virtual, weeklong format during the pandemic expanded the reach and impact of the series, generating a positive response from interested and attending students, teachers and organizations. Eighty-eight percent of first-time attendees said World Languages Week has made attendance accessible to a broader audience and showed the importance of exciting opportunities presented through the study of languages.
“CULTR’s World Languages Week has become an event that language students and members of Atlanta’s global community look forward to each year,” said Diana Wrenn-Rapp, assistant director at the Atlanta Global Studies Center at Georgia State University. “It amplifies the message that proficiency in a foreign language enhances the ability of students and graduates to thrive in global workplaces, to work on global teams, and to solve the global challenges we face.”
More than ever amid a broad labor mismatch in the U.S. economy, it is vital for students to hear directly from the employers who will make use of their language skills, study abroad experience and cross-cultural competencies.
While CULTR tends to highlight a broad array of industries, this year included a new addition with Voices From the Teaching Field panel. Given the impact of COVID-19 on teachers, students and educational settings at large, it felt necessary to hear from teachers, and focus on the positive outcomes and impact of this profession.
Further distinguishing this panel was the inclusion of Midtown High School’s American Sign Language teacher, Erica Miley, and long-time language teacher advocate, Jon Valentine, Director of Foreign Languages and Dual Language Immersion at Gwinnett County Public Schools.
Farrah Bernardino, senior director at the Office of International Initiatives at Georgia State University, noted that diversity of perspectives is a hallmark of the event, helping students envision themselves in the fields that are presented while asking direct questions of some of the
“CULTR does an exceptional job of connecting students to a diverse group of professionals who each share in their own way how language learning and cultural competence has better prepared them for their careers,” Ms. Bernardino said. “The Office of International Initiatives values our partnership with CULTR on this important contribution to international education by opening the doors for students to globally-focused career possibilities.”
Located at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, the Center for Urban Language Teaching and Research (CULTR) is the first Title VI LRC in the Southeastern United States. Led by its core values of access, advocacy, outreach, and research, CULTR’s mission is to promote and enhance global skills opportunities for all learners and educators to establish diverse, enriching, and successful career pathways. The Center has created a unique identity around serving “Languages For All!” through initiatives supporting language proficiency, cultural competence, and professional development initiatives across urban and underrepresented communities. To learn more about CULTR and explore its upcoming initiatives, visit cultr.gsu.edu.