IFLE Newsletter - March 2021

US Department of Education Newsletter

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Volume 7 | Issue 1 | March 2021

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Introducing Michelle A. Cooper, Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education 

Michelle Asha Cooper

by Cheryl E. Gibbs, senior director of the International and Foreign Language Education Office


Please join us in welcoming Michelle Asha Cooper to the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Higher Education Programs and the Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. The Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education serves as the principal adviser to the Secretary on matters affecting postsecondary education and provides leadership to three OPE program units: Higher Education Programs, International and Foreign Language Education, and Policy, Planning, and Innovation.


Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., is a strategic and collaborative leader, with more than 25 years of experience in the postsecondary education sector. Through her work and lived experience, she has witnessed first-hand the transformative power of education. Cooper previously worked at the U.S. Department of Education as director of policy research and deputy director with the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Prior to returning to the Department in the Biden-Harris Administration, she held key roles and leadership positions at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (president and chief executive officer), Council for Independent Colleges (data and information specialist), Association of American Colleges & Universities (program associate in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Global Initiatives), and King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (director of multicultural and international affairs). These positions gave her greater insight into higher education both here in the U.S. and around the world.


Cooper's experience and expertise in the international sphere include formalizing the study abroad program at King's College, leading initiatives on global awareness and global engagement at the Association of American Colleges & Universities, and sitting on a number of international advisory boards while at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. 


Equity and social justice are core to who Cooper is. A passionate advocate, experienced practitioner, and demonstrated leader for championing access and success for all students in higher education, she states, “I believe in the power of education and know first-hand how it can transform individual lives, communities, our country, and even our world.  I firmly believe that a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential can open doors of opportunity and put students on a path toward social and economic mobility.  I keep the voice of students and campus leaders at the center of my work.”  


Cooper is a proud native of Charleston, South Carolina, but has called Washington, D.C. home for 20 years. She lives in a multi-generational household with her mother and 3-year-old daughter.  In her leisure time she enjoys exploring and hiking national and state parks in the DMV region, listening to music, and reading.



Current Grant Competitions

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Program Promo Image


For more information about the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad fellowships program and how to apply, please visit the website linked below.

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Virtual Language Learning Showcase on March 30

Language Learning Showcase Flyer

Join IFLE at the end of this month for a Language Learning Showcase featuring four alumni panelists from our Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad and Title VI Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship programs. Please visit IFLE's YouTube channel (linked below) at 2 p.m. ET on March 30 to watch the event!




Virtual Exchange Program Encourages Cross-Border Collaborations Between Teachers in the United States and the Middle East

Logo for the Teachers Collaborating Across Borders Program

The Duke-University of North Carolina (UNC) Consortium for Middle East Studies and the University of Arizona Center for Middle Eastern Studies (UA CMES) have collaborated to establish the Teachers Collaborating Across Borders Program (TCAB) which provides a unique opportunity for teachers in the United States and teachers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to engage in international dialogue and virtual exchange.


The program was developed by Emma Harver, director of outreach for the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, and the late Lisa Adeli, former director of educational outreach for UA CMES. It consists of two components, a virtual exchange between the first participants of U.S.-MENA teachers in fall 2020, followed by a virtual exchange between their students in spring 2021. Planning the exchange program began before the COVID-19 pandemic, and implementation has become even more relevant as demand for virtual partnerships between teachers and students at the K–12 level has increased. 


This program is developing connections between U.S. and MENA educators and students, fostering empathy among the participants, and increasing their cultural competencies. Fifteen teachers from 11 U.S. states, and 14 teachers from 10 countries across the MENA region, met throughout the fall for structured discussions of educational topics. Through both synchronous sessions on Zoom and an active asynchronous forum, the educators explored different school structures, student demographics, and immigration and migration, among other subjects. It is my great honor to be accepted to take part in this TCAB program. It is an important opportunity to get in contact with other people from other countries and share professional experience and interact socially, reflected Dorgam Zahalka, an English teacher in a Bedouin village in Israel.


Currently, the teachers are planning collaborative projects between their students for spring 2021. U.S. teachers and MENA teachers will implement a classroom project for their students to work on together in pairs or groups. An estimated 800 students will participate in shared activities that focus on topics ranging from recycling to immigration to food traditions.


As a teacher in a small, rural school in Indiana, the Teachers Collaborating Across Borders is invaluable. Many of my students and their families seldom travel outside the county and have little opportunity to meet someone who may experience life differently,” shared Jane Phillips, a middle school teacher in Nashville, Indiana. The TCAB program has allowed my students to meet, albeit virtually, peers from around the world, and I see their eyes, minds, and hearts opening right before me.


Through virtual interactions among peers around the world, the TCAB program is helping participants understand different cultures, engage in shared conversations about topics of mutual interest, and globalize their classrooms to support their students in becoming more knowledgeable about the world. A call for fall 2021 participants is currently open, with an application deadline of April 30, 2021.


Teachers Collaborating Across Borders is a collaboration between the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies and the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Arizona, with support from a Title VI National Resource Centers grant from the U.S. Department of Education.  

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Recruiting Tomorrow’s Global Leaders From Today’s Veterans

CIBERVets Event

University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER), in collaboration with CU Denver's Veteran and Military Student Services Office, and Colorado State University, hosted a nation-wide program in January 2021 focused on supporting student veterans and military members as they consider civilian and international business employment after completing their military service and educational degrees. The “Recruiting Tomorrow’s Global Leaders from Today’s Veterans” event brought together over 110 participating veterans and military students representing nine military branches, 28 universities and colleges in14 states, including nine minority serving institutions and six community colleges. These students were joined by business leaders and recruiters from eleven multinational companies and organizations (Arrow Electronics, Ball Corporation, FirstBank, Gartner, Microsoft, Prudential, Seagate, Sierra Nevada Corporation, The Washington Center, U.S. Forest Service, and World Trade Center Denver) who spoke with small groups of students about pathways into their company or industry.


CU Denver CIBER is the recipient of a fiscal year 2018–21 Title VI Centers for International Business Education grant. One of the center's key priorities is to broaden and extend the reach of its signature CIBERVets program to other universities and colleges in Colorado and the United States. Two of the company representatives who participated in the January event are both notable alumni of CU Denver’s international business degree programs and student veterans, and were active CIBERVets members while pursuing their degrees — Manuel Aguilar, international trade compliance analyst at Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Austin Carpenter, project manager at Arrow Electronics.


As the CIBERVets program expands, CU Denver CIBER will be extending its partnership with other universities to engage as many student veterans and military members as possible. If you are interested in participating in this initiative or in future events, please reach out to CIBERVets@ucdenver.edu.

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Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Participant Receives 2020 John F. Richards Prize in South Asian History

Chhabria Book Cover

Sheetal Chhabria received funding through the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad program to study Hindi language in 2004 to 2005. Chhabria went on to become an associate professor of history with a specialization in South Asian history at Connecticut College, and recently received the 2020 John F. Richards Prize for her book, Making the Modern Slum: The Power of Capital in Colonial Bombay.


The award, which recognizes the year’s most distinguished scholarship relating to South Asian history published in the English language, is offered by the American Historical Society.


“Lots of academic work is painfully under-recognized, but I put my heart and soul into the book's research and writing and am hopeful the prize brings visibility to the issues it raises,” Chhabria said. 


Chhabria, who specializes in issues surrounding colonialization, poverty, and inequality, allows readers to explore the human story behind the British colonization of India in the 19th and 20th centuries, and gives voice to the hundreds of thousands of forgotten laborers and migrants who made Bombay the commercial capital of the British Raj by making commodities and powering commerce. 


“My aim was to show how the well-being of the city–rather than of its people–became the goal of the government, positioning famished migrants and the laboring poor as threats to be contained or excluded,” Chhabra explained. “Today, that exclusionary logic continues to guide much postcolonial and neocolonial development on the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere.”

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European Union Day Features Swedish Ambassador, Hip-hop Artist, Greek Tragedy

EU Day Online at the University of Illinois

An annual University of Illinois event focused on the European Union (EU), delivered online at the end of February this year, included Sweden's ambassador to the U.S. speaking on gender equality, a Swedish hip-hop artist addressing racial concerns, and a U.K.-based theater troupe performing an ancient Greek play focused on refugees. EU Day is an annual event held to provide an opportunity for participants to learn about the EU, its relationship with the U.S. and its role in promoting international relations. The event is sponsored by the European Union Center, recipient of a fiscal year 2018–2021 grant under the Title VI National Resource Centers program.


Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the United States, delivered the keynote address, “Rights, Representation, and Resources: Gender Equality in Sweden and the EU,” during which the ambassador discussed her country’s approach to gender equality; how generous childcare and gender-neutral parental leave have economically benefitted the Nordic countries; and why women’s equal access to rights, resources and representation should be important foreign policy concerns.


Swedish hip-hop artist Jason “Timbuktu” Diakité participated in a moderated discussion about his music, his memoir A Drop of Midnight and his podcast “This Moment,” which he produces with celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. Diakité was born in Sweden to interracial American parents. His podcast with Samuelsson deals with trans-Atlantic perceptions of the Black Lives Matter movement, racism, the effects of COVID-19 on their respective industries and other issues.


Finally, the Out of Chaos Theatre performed an interactive production of “The Suppliants” by the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus. The tragedy tells the story of the Danaids, who fled Egypt to escape forced marriage, and sought refuge and a new home in Greece. The performance was followed by a panel discussion on current-day refugees in Greece and the Mediterranean, federal approaches to U.S. immigration, and the work of local immigration activists.

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How to Teach About the Middle East—and Get it Right! A Spring 2021 Webinar Series for Grades 6–14 Educators

How to Teach About the Middle East—and Get it Right!


The webinar series kicked off on Jan. 28, with a session led by Christiane Gruber, professor in the History of Art Department at U-M. Gruber's talk focused on how to teach Islamic Art in grades 6–14 classrooms, and her audience was composed of 119 educators from across the country and the world. The second session in the series was held on Feb. 25 and focused on teaching Middle East history as part of high school world history curricula. Allen Fromherz, director of the Middle East Studies Center at Georgia State University, led educators in an exploration of strategies for using decisive moments in Middle East history to explore larger themes of world history, including charisma, religious encounters, commerce, and geographical diversity. Both presentations were recorded and posted on YouTube.


This series will offer three more interactive sessions between now and May 2021, featuring resources and strategies for teaching about the Middle East relevant to both in-person and virtual teaching for grades 6–12 and community colleges. Educators may register for any or all of the remaining sessions. State Continuing Education Clock Hours from the Michigan Department of Education are available. For more information, click the "Read More" button below


This activity is supported in part by funding from the Title VI National Resource Centers program.

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Fulbright 75th Anniversary Classroom Visits Initiative

Fulbright Seal

In celebration of the Fulbright Program's 75th anniversary, U.S. Fulbright alumni are invited to share their experience with K–12 students during a virtual visit to a U.S. classroom. The goal is for U.S. youth across the country to learn about the Fulbright Program and for teachers to augment their curricula with primary research and authentic cultural information. Fulbright alumni and K–12 teachers in the U.S. should complete the interest survey here! The Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will facilitate classroom matches between April 2021 and June 2022.


To learn more about this and other Fulbright 75th anniversary activities, please click "Read More" below. Questions? Send an email to Fulbright75Classroom@state.gov.

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2021 Global Teacher Seminar: Global Protests and Social Justice Activism

World Map

June 7–18, 2021, Monday–Friday

9 a.m.–Noon ET

Online via Zoom

Click here to apply


Priority deadline for applications: April 1, 2021


This two-week seminar, hosted by a faculty member at Ohio State University, will inform K–12 teachers in the United States about global social justice activism and protest movements by focusing on the regions of East Asia, Eastern Europe/Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The seminar will begin by giving participants a solid foundation in relevant political, social, and historical theories to ground their understanding of protests and politics. This contextual information will be followed by guest experts who will present regional case studies throughout the seminar to provide comparative perspectives of the prominent current protest movements (social justice, corruption, environment, etc.); in their region of study; the hurdles activists and protestors might experience when organizing demonstrations or events; the longer history and culture of protest in the region; how protestors and their movements are perceived by the larger population; and, how the demands of activists/protestors are considered and/or met by policy makers and reverberate in the political sphere.


By the end of the seminar, teachers will have a strong background in both the subject matter and regional knowledge so that they may feel empowered to bring this topic into their classrooms, whatever their discipline may be. Additionally, teachers will be encouraged to bring more comparative perspectives into their curricula to support the global learning of K–12 students. To this end, the seminar will include sessions focused on pedagogy, led by a pedagogical expert, that will include brainstorming activities, discussions on how to lead conversations with students about protests and activism, and how to inspire students’ civic engagement.


If you have any questions about this professional development opportunity, please contact Alicia Baca at baca.31@osu.edu.  

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Google Map of FY 2020 Grantees

FY 2020 Google Map of IFLE Grantees

Explore our Google map of FY 2020 IFLE grantees to learn about the Title VI domestic projects being implemented on campuses across the United States and the Fulbright-Hays overseas projects being conducted around the world. These projects strengthen international education experiences and foreign language for students, participants, and dissertation researchers.


This map provides a user-friendly way for viewers to get a sense of the extensive reach of the Title VI and Fulbright-Hays grantee institutions featured, as well as the diversity of our grantee institutions.



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