Enhancing the Midwest Knowledge Ecosystem (EMKE)

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In a program called Enhancing the Midwest Knowledge Ecosystem (EMKE), the ACM has partnered with the Big Ten Academic Alliance, which is an academic consortium comprised of universities in the Big Ten Conference, and the University of Chicago to explore areas of common ground and the potential for collaboration between the two groups.

Supported by a $109,000 planning grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, faculty and campus leaders from institutions in the ACM and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) — the CIC became the Big Ten Academic Alliance in June 2016 — gathered at planning meetings in 2013-14 focused on two areas in the humanities and arts that seem promising for collaboration: Digital Humanities and Languages, particularly less commonly taught languages, language pedagogy, and opportunities for language sharing.

Discussions at the planning meetings led to a recommendation to provide support for collaborations by faculty from the liberal arts colleges of the ACM and the research universities of the CIC, giving priority to two areas:

  • Partnerships in the burgeoning field of the digital humanities; and
  • Creative ways to share languages across campuses, especially for languages where student interest and teaching resources are not matched, or lack critical mass, on individual campuses.
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Faculty project funded in 2015

In spring 2015, the Mellon Foundation authorized the ACM and the CIC to use the modest funds remaining from the planning grant to pilot competitively-funded faculty initiatives for collaboration across the two consortia. The EMKE program issued a Call for Pre-Proposals inviting ideas from ACM and CIC faculty teams interested in designing and piloting ways for liberal arts colleges and research universities to collaborate in digital humanities or sharing languages, including, but not limited to, less commonly taught languages.

The selection committee awarded the remaining EMKE funds to Sharing the Bounty, a project for sharing languages.

Sharing the Bounty

Sharing the Bounty: Increasing Access to Language Learning through Language Sharing and Faculty Collaboration, was awarded $42,448 in funding from the EMKE program. The project aims to make Hindi language instruction available to students at colleges that do not offer it.

Macalester College professors James Laine and Arjun Guneratne will collaborate with professor Sungok Hong from the University of Minnesota to lead Sharing the Bounty. The project is aimed at developing resource materials for teaching Hindi, creating a textbook and online course, and then offer a pilot online course through the University of Minnesota in fall 2017 for students at Macalester. Over time, the group plans to offer the course to other ACM and Midwestern colleges and to foster language sharing in other less frequently taught South Asian languages.

EMKE Program Background

Reaching across two sectors of higher education

The EMKE program’s name grows out of a report for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs by James J. Duderstadt, president emeritus of the University of Michigan, titled A Master Plan for Higher Education in the Midwest: A Roadmap to the Future of the Nation’s Heartland. In this 2011 report, Duderstadt recommends that the Midwest, as a region, needs to develop and support a “knowledge ecology” that can adapt to address the challenges of a rapidly-changing world. Colleges and universities would play an important role in this effort.

The ACM and the CIC, both established more than a half-century ago and with membership mostly located in the Midwest, have strong institutional structures to support EMKE. There also is an ongoing web of connections among the members of the two consortia arising through their students and faculty. Many students from ACM colleges are attracted to graduate study in CIC universities, and many CIC graduate students have gone on to teach at ACM colleges, comprising 30-40 percent of the full-time faculty at many ACM institutions.

These connections make clear that liberal arts colleges, which are especially known for their teaching, also are sites of excellent research. Research universities, seen as hubs of high level research, also sponsor excellent teaching, as well as research into good teaching.

For both types of institutions, collaboration across sectors fostered by this project could promote greater financial and curricular flexibility, and the sharing of costs, specialized resources, and institutional learning among a larger group of institutions in the Midwest region.

Read about:

Sharing the Bounty

Increasing Access to Language Learning Through Language Sharing and Faculty Collaboration

Lead Partner

James Laine
Professor, Macalester College
Religious Studies

Collaborating partner

Arjun Guneratne
Professor, Macalester College


This collaborative project of Macalester College and the University of Minnesota seeks to develop online course materials and create a pilot online course to teach Hindi long distance for institutions where they are not currently offered.

The professors leading this project are James Laine and Arjun Guneratne from Macalester College and Sungok Hong from the University of Minnesota.

Students at colleges and universities around the University of Minnesota have demonstrated interest in learning Hindi/Urdu because their area of study is India/Pakistan, their research language is Hindi/Urdu, or because it is their heritage language. Due to limited resources, their respective schools cannot offer these courses. Hindi/Urdu is a Less Commonly Taught Language (LCTL), and it is challenging to find a place where the language is taught either before or after graduation. Interested students often try to commute, but distance and weather make this difficult, wearing down their commitment to studying, and discouraging them from continuing to learn the language. Online distance education can be a solution to this. The materials we will develop in this project will be the basis for Hindi language classes taught via distance learning methods at the University of Minnesota to Macalester College students.

There is a dearth of language teaching materials for Hindi, especially materials consistent with the current pedagogy. Therefore, this project also seeks to develop materials leading to the production of a Hindi textbook at the intermediate level, which will incorporate the Communicative Teaching Approach and be designed to improve all around language skills. This will be available in two formats: online materials and in book format. The online materials will be used as the main textbook for the Beginning and Intermediate Hindi classes, and available to students free of charge. Language faculty from other universities, in addition to the University of Minnesota, will be involved in developing the textbook materials.


CIC Project Partner

Sungok Hong (Associate Lead Partner)
Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota

Additional Collaborating Faculty

Lakhan Gusain (Collaborator on textbook)
Instructor of Hindi, Syracuse University (previously University of Minnesota)

Rajiv Ranjan (Collaborator on textbook)
Lecturer, Hindi Studies, Michigan State University

Sunil Kumar Bhatt (Collaborator on textbook)
Lecturer in South Asian Civilization, University of Toronto at Mississauga

A Potential Game Changer

Language Sharing has not been an active part of collaboration and faculty development among ACM and CIC institutions, but can be a game changer in the future with the help of evolving technology. Online language courses and distance learning may help with issues such as low course enrollment, shrinking variety in university offerings, and a dispersed student population. We have seen many colleges/universities cancel LCTL courses due to low enrollment. If we utilize online distance learning effectively, we will create a better solution. When it comes to minor South Asian languages, such as Telugu, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Sanskrit and Nepali, distance learning will be an alternative that will enable us to keep the teaching of these languages alive.

This project will establish new opportunities for faculty development and collaboration among ACM/CIC institutions, especially in respect of developing course materials for language teaching. This project will engage expert language instructors from CIC institutions who have been teaching Hindi/Urdu for over 10 years at their respective universities, and provide a platform to collaborate with colleagues from Macalester. The book project will start as soon as an award announcement is made and be completed by Summer 2017. A workshop will be held at Macalester in April 2016.

It is challenging to work together toward common goals of excellent language teaching and developing teaching resources when instructors are physically apart, and when there is no incentive. This project will pave the way for other collaborations among ACM and CIC faculty.


Updated Nov 03, 2015

Innovation in Sharing Languages

Once this project’s goals of developing teaching materials for Hindi/Urdu language instruction has been achieved, we will seek to create a platform from which distance instruction can be made available to ACM institutions. Our intention is to do a pilot project at Macalester. The proposed project meets the EMKE goals. The University of Minnesota is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin to make LCTL courses available to U of M students. We will build from infrastructure already in place by solving issues and problems occurring with the distance learning classes and incorporating insights from technical teams. Given the speed of technological change, we will work to employ the most up-to-date technology, using a program called Adobe Connect. This is a web-based service that allows up to 10 connections at a time. We will establish an infrastructure that can be shared by any future distance education offering, and also make our expertise and know-how acquired from the project available to other ACM/CIC institutions who are interested in launching online courses. As for sharing languages, it is still in its infancy, and instructors face many challenges in handling in-class and online activities. We will reach out and contact those who currently offer online language courses and incorporate their feedback into executing the project.

The proposed project of digital material development is in line with the EMKE goal of establishing tools that will contribute to developing and sustaining resources that will be valued and which can evolve over time. Some online materials for Hindi/Urdu are available, but they are fragmentary and not well structured. The materials developed in this project will differ from the available conventional books in that it will be comprehensive, focused on improving overall language skills, and will address content from various disciplines of the target country. In this way, students will not only be versed in the language, but also have broad knowledge of the target country. The online materials will be open to students and the public, and is sustainable in that the site will continue to be managed and updated at the University of Minnesota whenever necessary.

Engaging Undergraduates

This proposed project engages undergraduates in various ways. The language sharing this project has in mind is mainly designed for undergraduate students who have no access to language instruction in particular languages at their institutions. Acquiring linguistic and cultural proficiency while they are immersed in learning is important, especially since they may not have a chance to study any of the less commonly taught languages after graduation. Obtaining one of the LCTLs will make students more competitive in the job market and may improve their chances for acceptance to graduate school.

Additionally, students have the opportunity to contribute to the project, thereby offering them valuable experience. Undergraduate students will assist their faculty members with material development, such as collecting data, organizing materials and typing, etc. In addition, undergraduate students, preferably juniors or seniors, will be asked to work as Liaison Officers, assisting teaching staff by helping to manage online language classes at Macalester, such as collecting exam papers, homework assignments, and so on. Student assistance will be an essential component of the project.

In addition to the above, we will hire an undergraduate IT assistant, who will begin to work as soon as the award announcement is made. There will be two components to this individual’s work: creating a website for the project and a separate webpage for the online material project. The latter might be a bit challenging, as it has to deal with the non-English alphabet issue. We estimate this work will take three semesters to complete.


Updated Nov 03, 2015

The project will start as soon as a grant award is announced. Spring of 2016 will be spent laying the foundational work for online language courses. We will use as many pre-existing resources as possible. Our aim will be to produce theme-based instructional resources that use current teaching methodologies. These resources will include various themes/aspects of the target culture, and will focus on increasing proficiency in speaking, writing and reading Hindi. Faculty who currently teach at colleges/universities in the Midwest will be asked to collaborate. To achieve the goal of producing quality materials in line with the Standards, a workshop will be held in the spring of 2016 at Macalester College. This will enable faculty who are involved in the project — both Macalester faculty and Hindi/Urdu language experts from several CIC institutions — to gather and exchange ideas and insights, elements that are crucial to the success of the project. This activity will be initiated immediately following the award announcement, and will be completed by the end of 2016.

Following the successful development of materials, and the resolution of any logistical concerns, we hope to teach the first online language course, offered in the fall of 2016 for students at both the University of Minnesota and Macalester. After the inevitable tweaks, we hope to offer these online courses to other colleges in Minnesota and the Midwest. We anticipate that this project could be replicated at other ACM/ CIC institutions for language sharing to include other less frequently taught South Asian languages.

Dissemination Strategies

This project will lay a foundation for Hindi/Urdu teaching that will be shared by other colleges/universities in the Midwest, and yield materials that are sustainable. When establishing a network for language sharing, we will use the resources that are already in place at CIC/ACM. We will first launch language sharing for students at Macalester. After acquiring expertise in implementing online instruction, the language sharing project will then be expanded to other interested colleges in Minnesota, such as Carleton College, St. John’s University, St.Olaf College, and Augsburg College, as well as any other colleges in the Midwest that are interested in making online language courses available to their students.

This project also aims to share language materials developed through collaboration with faculty members at various universities that are members of CIC. These online materials will be available to students at University of Minnesota and Macalester College, as well as other colleges/universities in the Midwest, and will be made available to the public. The structures and outcomes can be replicated to broaden the availability of South Asian languages among colleges/universities in the Midwest and nationally.

EMKE Meetings

Faculty and campus leaders from ACM and CIC institutions gathered at EMKE planning meetings in 2013-14 focused on two areas in the humanities and arts that seem promising for collaboration between the two groups.:

  • Digital humanities; and
  • Languages, particularly less commonly taught languages, language pedagogy, and opportunities for language sharing.

Meeting participants shared information about existing programs and the needs of their campuses, and considered ideas for collaborative initiatives, such as sharing resources and technology, teaching methodologies, and capacity.

Planning meeting: Languages

June 11-12, 2013 in Chicago, IL

At the first EMKE meeting, participants explored opportunities for cooperation in the area of language pedagogy, language sharing, and less commonly taught languages.

Meeting Participants

Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM)

  • Beloit College – Donna Oliver, Professor of Russian
  • Carleton College – Éva Pósfay, Professor of French
  • Coe College – Monica Fuertes-Arboix, Assistant Professor of Spanish
  • Colorado College – Clara Lomas, Professor, Spanish Department
  • Cornell College – Joe Dieker, Vice President for Academic Affairs & Dean of the College
  • Cornell College – Lynne Ikach, Professor of Russian
  • Grinnell College – Kelly Herold, Associate Professor of Russian
  • Knox College – Robin Ragan, Associate Professor of Modern Languages & Director of Center for Global Studies
  • Lake Forest College – Gizella Meneses, Assistant Professor of Spanish
  • Lawrence University – Peter-John Thomas, Assistant Professor of Russian
  • Luther College – Elizabeth Steding, Assistant Professor of German
  • Macalester College – David Martyn, Professor of German Studies
  • Macalester College – Kathleen Murray, Provost & Dean of the Faculty
  • Monmouth College – Carina Olaru, Assistant Professor of Modern Foreign Languages
  • Ripon College – Dominique Poncelet, Assistant Professor of French and Chair, Department of Romance Languages
  • Ripon College – Gerald Seaman, Vice President & Dean of Faculty
  • St. Olaf College – Rika Ito, Associate Professor, Asian Studies
  • ACM – Elizabeth Ciner, Senior Program Officer
  • ACM – Cara Pickett, Project Manager

Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)

  • Indiana University – Ari Stern-Gottschalk, Director, Summer Language Institute
  • Michigan State University – David Prestel, Professor and Associate Dean, College of Arts and Letters, Co-Director of Center for Language Teaching Advancement
  • Northwestern University – Mary Finn, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Distinguished Senior Lecturer
  • Northwestern University – Noriko Taira Yasohama, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Assistant Director of Program of African and Asian Languages
  • Ohio State University – Galal Walker, Professor, Director, Director of National East Asian Languages Resource Center
  • Penn State – Caroline Eckhardt, Head, Comparative Literature Department & Director, School of Languages and Literatures
  • Purdue University – Atsushi Fukada, Associate Professor of Japanese
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Ercan Balci, Associate Chair of LCTL, Coordinator of Turkish
  • University of Iowa – Russ Ganim, Director, Division of World Languages
  • University of Michigan – Julie Evershed, Director, Language Resource Center
  • University of Minnesota – Dan Soneson, Director, College of Liberal Arts Language Center
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Evelyn Jacobson, Chair, Modern Languages and Literatures
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison – Elaine Klein, Assistant Dean for Academic Planning, College of Letters & Science; Director of University General Education
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison – Junko Mori, Interim Director, Language Institute; Professor, East Asian Languages and Literature
  • CIC – Amber Marks, Associate Director

Planning meeting: Digital Humanities

October 25-26, 2013 at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN

The second EMKE meeting focused on the topic of digital humanities (DH) and ways that ACM and CIC institutions might collaborate on DH projects. The meeting began with panel discussions and presentations on digital humanities collaborations and projects already underway, which provided background for a series of discussions on possible projects to submit to the Mellon Foundation for funding.

Meeting Participants

Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM)

  • Beloit College – Shawn Gillen, Professor of English
  • Carleton College – Susannah Ottaway, Professor of History and Director of the Humanities Center
  • Coe College – Laura Riskedahl, Audiovisual Librarian
  • Colorado College – Steve Lawson, Humanities Librarian
  • Cornell College – Brooke Bergantzel, Instructional Technology Librarian
  • Grinnell College – Erik Simpson, Professor of English
  • Lake Forest College – David Levinson, Associate Librarian for Systems/Academic Technology Specialist
  • Lawrence University – Martyn Smith, Associate Professor of Religious Studies
  • Luther College – Rebecca Sullivan, Assistant Professor of Library Information Studies
  • Macalester College – Chris Wells, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
  • Monmouth College – Bridget Draxler, Assistant Professor of English
  • Ripon College – Travis Nygard, Assistant Professor of Art History
  • St. Olaf College -William Bridges, Assistant Professor of Japanese and Asian Studies
  • St. Olaf College – Timothy Howe, Associate Professor of History and Ancient Studies
  • St. Olaf College – Marci Sortor, Provost and Dean of the College and Professor of History
  • ACM – Elizabeth Ciner, Senior Program Officer for Staff and Faculty Development
  • ACM – Cara Pickett, Project Manager

Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC)

  • Indiana University – Jonathan Elmer, Director, College Arts and Humanities Institute
  • Michigan State University – David Kim, Assistant Professor of German
  • Michigan State University – Dean Rehberger, Director of MATRIX and Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures
  • Northwestern University – Mary Finn, Associate Dean, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
  • Northwestern University – Elisabeth Elliott, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Slavic Languages and Literature
  • Ohio State University – David Staley, Associate Professor, Dept. of History and Dept. of Design
  • Purdue University – Shannon McMullen, Assistant Professor, Art and Design, American Studies
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Ned O’Gorman, Associate Professor of Communication
  • University of Iowa -Russ Ganim, Director, Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
  • University of Iowa -Wayne Jacobson, Director, Assessment, Office of Provost
  • University of Iowa – Jon Winet, Director of The Digital Studio for Public Arts & Humanities and Associate Professor of Art and Art History
  • University of Maryland – Renee Ater, Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology
  • University of Maryland – Jennifer Guiliano, Assistant Director, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities
  • University of Michigan – Sidonie Smith, Mary Fair Courshore Professor of Humanities and Director, Institute for the Humanities
  • University of Minnesota – Michael Hancher, Professor of English
  • University of Minnesota – Justin Schell, Digital Humanities Specialist
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln -Elizabeth Lorang, Digital Humanities Projects Librarian
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln – Katherine Walter, Professor and Co-Director, Center for Digital Research in Humanities
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison – Robert Glenn Howard, Director, Digital Studies Initiative
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison –Elaine Klein, Assistant Dean for Academic Planning, College of Letters & Science Administration
  • CIC – Amber Marks, Associate Director of Academic Programs

Meetings in May 2014

At two follow-up meetings held in Chicago, smaller groups of participants from the initial planning meetings began to shape the ideas generated in those earlier gatherings into specific proposals for collaborations between the ACM and the CIC to present to The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which provided the planning grant for the EMKE program.

  • Languages meeting on May 3, 2014
  • Digital Humanities meeting on May 15, 2014

The recommendation that grew out of these meetings was to use the remaining funds from the planning grant to fund pilot projects in which faculty from the liberal arts colleges of the ACM and the research universities of the CIC would collaborate, giving priority to two areas:

  • Partnerships in the burgeoning field of the digital humanities; and
  • Creative ways to share languages across campuses, especially for languages where student interest and teaching resources are not matched, or lack critical mass, on individual campuses.

For more information about the EMKE project, contact:

  • ACM Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Brian Williams (312.561.5922)
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