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Mission and History

Jones Hall
Jones Hall - home to the CLA Language Center since August 2005

The mission of the CLA Language Center is to advance second language, literature and culture education by providing leadership in integrating technology with instruction and learning in the College, the University, the state of Minnesota and beyond.

The Center is committed to staying abreast of developments in second language education and technology and to maximizing teaching and learning experiences by:

  • Providing technology facilities and services
  • Offering training, classes, events and publications
  • Supporting curriculum and materials development
  • Cultivating programs and services to cultivate connections with local and global communities
  • Developing and administering second language assessment measures
  • Promoting research on educational technology, second language acquisition and related disciplines

To fulfill its mission, the Center's knowledgeable and friendly staff strive to make technology accessible to all, to connect language departments, instructors and students, and to foster a culture which empowers individuals and values diversity, multiculturalism and internationalism.

A Brief History of the CLA Language Center

The Language Center (LC) arose in the pre-digital early 1980s from an existing language technology
resource center located in Folwell Hall. Originally a small unit, staffed by part-time, contract, and
graduate student staff, it had a clear focus on language education by providing the analog technology
required at the time, such as multi-standard VCRs, monitors, slide and film projectors, and audio
recorders. By 1986, the LC had installed its first Sony analog audio lab and the unit began to grow.

In 1990, LC hired its first non-student full-time Coordinator (later Director), Jenise Rowekamp, and in the
early 1990s, the Language Testing Program joined the Language Center. The number of analog language
labs and other reservable spaces grew, and by the mid-1990s, the unit had its first walk-in computer lab
and reservable computer classroom, along with more technical and support staff. In 1997, the LC
strengthened its connection to language programs by hiring three liaisons, who worked 50% for the LC
and 50% for a language department, with the goal of helping to expand the use of technology in language
education, and begin offering more training opportunities.

In 2000, a fourth liaison, representing Asian Languages and Literatures, joined the unit to deepen the
connections with non-Roman and critical languages. In 2002, LC transformed its first analog language lab
into a PC-based digital system by ASC. The renovation of a second lab quickly followed, and the unit
added a portable PC lab for use in a multi-purpose classroom. In 2004, the LC, having long outgrown its
current space, began planning a move to the recently renovated Jones Hall. In March 2014, the unit also
collaborated with all CLA language programs, the Office of Admissions and other stakeholders to offer
the university’s first World Languages Day (WLD) an annual outreach event for Minnesota high school
students, which became a signature event for the college.

With the move to Jones Hall in August 2005, the unit became more focused on helping students directly
by creating more welcoming spaces and services for them and by launching the TandemPlus program to
pair language learners. In 2008, faced with declining use of its PC-based labs, the center renovated one of
its labs with a MacDiLL system, which reinvigorated computer classroom use. A second room was
renovated soon afterwards. In 2007-2008, the LC undertook a major conversion of the LPE from a desktop
application to a web-based system. In 2008, Jenise Rowekamp, the long-term Director announced her
retirement. A major effort to reorganize the unit stalled due to economic concerns, and an acting Director
was appointed while the position was unfilled.

In 2010, Dan Soneson was hired as the Director. By 2012, all four computer labs were converted to an
open floor plan and the MacDiLL system was installed in all LC computer labs and remains popular
today. During this period, the LC turned with renewed focus to computerized proficiency test
development, with a particular focus on less commonly taught and critical languages. The unit also began
experimenting with self-assessment as a way for students to take charge of their own language learning,
and the Language Testing Program became more integrated into the unit overall. At the same time, the
old language department liaison model was transformed to a more flexible system in which the 
individuals, now called Education Program Specialists, serve language programs overall, instead of
maintaining a strict tie to a particular department. The unit also began working on providing more holistic
professional development opportunities with an eye towards curriculum redesign. The unit partnered with
the department of Spanish and Portuguese to design the first of several Certificate of Advanced-Level
Proficiency programs available at the university. The unit also offered its final WLD after eleven
successful years.

In 2014, the unit's new focus on assessment, self-assessment and professional development culminated in
the Flagship PACE project, a two year grant, with the potential of renewal. This project, along with the
SLA Working Group report, has driven the department to focus its energy on helping programs develop
student language proficiency and supporting students towards self-directed learning.