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Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards Grant to Support America’s Languages

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

In 2014, JNCL-NCLIS and our advocates led efforts that brought to fruition the bipartisan Congressionally commissioned study conducted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences yielding the America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century report, America's Languages Caucus, and the America's Languages Working Group. JNCL-NCLIS has continued to proudly serve on the working group and is committed to it's focus of ensuring equitable access to quality language education. We are grateful for the support of the Mellon Foundation to further this goal.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to support the efforts of the America’s Languages Working Group in building the Guide to Exemplary Programs and Practices in U.S. Language Education —a means of expanding equitable access to language education in the United States. The American Councils for International Education, one of the constituent organizations of the Working Group, was selected to receive and administer the grant on behalf of its members.

The web-based Guide identifies and describes models of access and excellence in language education, as well as programs that can be emulated and adapted for attracting more students to language learning from diverse populations. The Guide focuses on the language needs of Native American, heritage, immigrant and refugee populations, Latinx and English Learners, Black and people of color, and other disenfranchised and underrepresented rural and urban communities. To be housed at the University of Texas at Austin, the Guide is the most significant initiative of the America’s Languages Working Group, a voluntary association of leaders from organizations across the language enterprise (education, business, government, Native American communities and NGOs). The Working Group was created in 2017 to support and advance the

recommendations of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences Commission report, “America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century.”

American Councils, one of the constituent organizations of the Working Group and the logistical lead for the Mellon grant, has dedicated its expertise and significant resources to the completion of the project by 2022.

Members of the America’s Languages Working Group:

  • Mohamed Abdel-Kader, Executive Director, Stevens Initiative - Aspen Institute, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education, US Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education

  • Jurgita Antoine, Native Language Research Director, American Indian Higher Education Consortium

  • Lenna Aoki, General Counsel, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

  • Howie Berman, Executive Director, ACTFL

  • Richard Brecht, Co-Director, American Councils Research Center

  • Dan Davidson, Director of Research and Senior Academic Advisor, American Councils for International Education; Member, AAA&S Commission on Language Learning

  • Sharon Fechter, Dean of Humanities, Montgomery College

  • Don Gentile, Senior Language Authority, Office of the Director of National Intelligence

  • Joel Gomez, President & CEO, Center for Applied Linguistics

  • Trevor Gunn, Vice President- International Relations for Medtronic

  • Leslie Harper, President, National Coalition of Native American Language Schools and Programs

  • Stephen Kidd, Executive Director, National Humanities Alliance

  • Sheri Spaine Long, Executive Director, American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese

  • Dennis Looney, Director, Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, Modern Language Association

  • Tommy Lu, Coalition of Community-Based Heritage Language Schools, Chinese Community Schools of Delaware

  • Gail McGinn, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Plans (retired), Office of the Secretary of Defense

  • Wanda L. Nesbitt, U.S. Ambassador, retired.

  • Rita Oleksak, former President, Joint National Committee for Languages - National Council for Languages and International Studies

  • Bill Rivers, Association of Language Companies

  • Antonia Folarin Schleicher, Executive Director, National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages and Indiana University

  • Amanda Seewald, President, Joint National Committee for Languages - National Council for Languages and International Studies

  • John Tessitore, Chair, America’s Languages Working Group

  • Santiago Wood, Executive Director, National Association for Bilingual Education

For more information, contact John Tessitore, (508) 308-4049,

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