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L to R: Western Illinois University Anthropology Professor Heather McIlvaine-Newsad, Educational Studies Professor Gloria Delany-Barmann and Study Abroad Director Pedro Bidegaray. After reading about the opportunity to apply for a Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Grant in a U.S. Dept. of Education newsletter, the three applied for the grant. They were notified this fall that Western and Spoon River College were awarded $407,463 to fund and support the project "Communities as Agents: Language and Area Studies for a Sustainable Future." Delany-Barmann is the project's director, Bidegaray serves as the project's co-director and McIlvaine-Newsad is the project's academic advisor.
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WIU, SRC Awarded $400K+ Grant to Enhance Latin American Study Abroad Opportunities for Faculty, Students; Three-Year Project to Support Internationalization Efforts

October 19, 2016

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MACOMB, IL — A nearly $410,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education will support innovative study abroad and international learning opportunities for faculty and students on Western Illinois University's Macomb campus, at Spoon River College (Canton, IL) and abroad. Recently, WIU faculty and staff were notified of the award for the Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Grant to implement the proposed project, "Communities as Agents: Language and Area Studies for a Sustainable Future."

According to Grant Director Gloria Delany-Barmann, bilingual/bicultural professor in Western's educational studies department, the grant application was a collaborative effort between WIU and Spoon River College. The award of $407,463 will support the project over the next three years. The UISFL Grants were awarded to approximately 12 educational institutions nationwide.

"We requested the funds over this time frame to develop, implement and assess an academic project that will strengthen and integrate international perspectives and provide opportunities for students and faculty," Delany-Barmann said.

Project Co-Director Pedro Bidegaray, who serves as the director of the WIU Office of Study Abroad and Outreach, and Heather McIlvaine-Newsad, who serves as the project's academic director and is an anthropology professor at Western, composed the grant application with Delany-Barmann after they read about it in a U.S. Dept. of Education newsletter.

One of the project's main objectives is to expand and enhance study abroad opportunities in Latin America, where students can engage deeply in the Spanish language and Latin American cultures, while implementing discipline-based knowledge.

"We will be coordinating much of our recruitment efforts through Western's Peace Corps Prep program, which emphasizes that 'leveraging concrete knowledge and skills is central to on-the-ground international and community-development work,'" Delany-Barmann added.

WIU Peace Corps Fellows Program in Community Development Director Karen Mauldin-Curtis will serve as the Peace Corps Prep liaison on the project, and Study Abroad Advisor Ehren Kezekov, as well as Michelle Terry from the WIU College of Business and Technology, will assist with recruitment efforts of students who desire this kind of discipline specific "hands-on" experience in an international setting.

"The funds will be used to enrich our curriculum with an international perspective. There is support for eight faculty members to participate every year of the project; the faculty members will each receive $3,000 for curriculum enhancement. There are also some additional funds for faculty to travel to Latin America, specifically Ecuador and Puerto Rico," Bidegaray explained. "Outcomes we would like to achieve for this particular objective include: to increase the number of WIU and SRC students studying in Latin America by 50 percent; creation of an internship initiative (the Western Illinois Global Corps); and improvement of intercultural competencies among students."

The grant funds will also support scholarships for 12 students each year who wish to study abroad and complete internships in those countries. Students from all majors are encouraged to apply for these scholarships, he added.

Other project goals include: expansion of language training; development of partnerships with community-based organizations abroad, through which students can complete internships and experiential learning opportunities; and creation of faculty development opportunities to support and enhance area and regional studies.

"This innovative academic approach will result from collaboration with communities abroad through virtual technology, such as podcasts and Unleesh (an international education app), as well as capacity building for undergraduate students and community members in public health settings, business and K-12 teachers," Delany-Barmann explained.

"Through the implementation of this experientially based approach, Western and Spoon River College will deepen international studies and the impact of foreign languages across our campuses," Bidegaray said. "Through this project, students and faculty will become actors learning through interaction with real-life problems and people at the community level, while their academic experiences will be globally grounded."

Additional outcomes of the project include the design and launch of an intensive language course for each year of the project, as well as three workshops a year for Spanish in the areas of "Public Health," "Business in a Global Context and "Teachers." These will be open to students from WIU and SRC, as well as to the community. WIU Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures Associate Professor Guada Cabedo Timmons, WIU Department of Health Sciences and Social Work Professor Fetene Gebrewold and Delany-Barmann will conduct thee workshops.

"As we begin this three-year grant project, we invite faculty, staff, students and community members to join us in a series of guest speakers and films we will be hosting throughout the duration of the project. Exposure to cultures and languages other than our own is one of the most useful things we can do to broaden our understanding of our world's interconnectedness," McIlvaine-Newsad said.

For more information, contact Delany-Barmann at; Bidegaray at or McIlvaine-Newsad at

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