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W&L to Continue Hosting the Virginia Governor’s Foreign Language Academies

Washington and Lee University’s $1.8 million contract to host three Virginia Governor’s Foreign Language Academies (GFLA) each summer has been renewed through 2021. Dick Kuettner, director of Global Discovery Laboratories in the Ruscio Center for Global Learning, will continue to coordinate the academies.

The academies provide 165 of the state’s top high school language students with three weeks of intensive, fully immersive language and cultural education in German, French or Spanish. Though they are at the heart of the program, participating students aren’t the only beneficiaries of the academies, Kuettner said. “Academy students are the cream of the crop from Virginia’s high schools and are good contenders for admission to W&L. Those that are accepted are top notch.”

Academy students take classes, complete cultural projects and investigations, learn about each language’s artistic and musical base, and go on field trips related to the languages’ history, culture and relations with the United States. W&L’s facilities and environment are a critical component in making the academies successful.

“We are grateful to be able to use Gaines Hall and sorority housing for the program, providing modern and comfortable spaces for the students and faculty,” Kuettner said. “And for learning space, the Center for Global Learning and its Global Discovery Laboratories provide excellent learning and teaching opportunities for all those involved.”

The three academies are fully immersive, meaning that participating students will not be allowed to speak English for the duration of the academies. To ensure this happens, GFLA students reside on campus, are prohibited from bringing cell phones and have their activities scheduled to minimize contact with English-speakers. The students constantly engage in activities that help them acquire the speaking skills and cultural knowledge of their chosen language. Those activities have gained attention around the region.

“Since the academies first arrived at W&L,” said Kuettner, “we have been able – through fantastic support of the university community – to add our own ‘World Cup,’ talent shows, theater performances, music concerts, open air markets and weekly radio shows broadcast through WLUR’s airspace and online. The possibilities for what we may offer over the next five years are limitless!”

The Governor’s Foreign Language Academies were created in 1986 by the Virginia Board of Education with the aim of providing an exemplary experience in foreign language education. Beginning with a French Academy, the program’s early conception also included Governor’s Foreign Language Academies in Asian Studies, German, Latin, Russian Studies and Spanish. In addition to the three full-immersion academies at W&L, the Virginia Department of Education also sponsors partial-immersion Japanese and Latin academies which are currently held at Randolph-Macon College.