Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Supports America’s Languages Online Guide to Language Access in the U.S.

April 28, 2021
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to American Councils for International Education on behalf of the America’s Languages Working Group and its ongoing effort to expand equitable access to language education in the United States.

Working with American Councils and the University of Texas at Austin, the America’s Languages Working group is building the Guide to Exemplary Programs and Practices in U.S. Language Education in order to demonstrate that increased access for all of America’s learners and languages is possible in the U.S., and that it is ready for expansion.

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, 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.” 

“We are enormously grateful to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its interest in language education, and for its confidence in our work,” said John Tessitore, chair of the Working Group.

Mellon’s investment signals that the Guide will be an important tool for equitable access to language education. It also signals that the Working Group’s experiment in cross-sector collaboration, unprecedented in the language field, has been and will continue to be a great success. 

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. 

“This is an unprecedented effort of hundreds of educators across the nation to identify exemplary language programs that are successful at attracting and accommodating the nation’s marginalized bilingual and disadvantaged monolinguals, programs that peer institutions can emulate, and educational stakeholders will see as sound investments,” commented Dr. Richard Brecht, Co-Director of the American Councils Research Center and Project Lead for the Mellon Grant. "Our ultimate goal is to see language education available to all of America’s learners and languages at a time when such access is just and needed more than ever."

“American Councils is pleased and honored to host this important initiative on behalf of be America’s Languages Working Group and the growing national movement to expand access to language education to all Americans,” noted Dr. Dan E. Davidson, Emeritus President of American Councils and Member of the American Academy Commission which produced the America’s Language 2017 Report. 

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, American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
  • 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, JNCL 
  • Bill Rivers, Association of Language Companies
  • Antonia Folarin Schleicher, Executive Director, National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages and Indiana University 
  • Amanda Seewald, President, JNCL
  • 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,