The Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute has been selected by the U.S. State Department to continue hosting Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows from around the world for a long-term intensive English training program.

Virginia Tech, which started hosting the 20-week program five years ago, retains the eligibility to host the fellows for the next five years.

Humphrey Fellows are midcareer professionals from either developing countries or those in political transition. They have demonstrated leadership skills and a record of public service and have had little or no previous travel experience in the United States. Their selection to the prestigious program is based on their potential for leadership and their commitment to public service.

“It is a tremendous benefit to Virginia Tech to be able to welcome these participants from all over the world,” said Don Back, director of the Language and Culture Institute. “Because of their professional experience and their life experience, and because many of the parts of the world they’re coming from are underrepresented at the university, they bring a unique perspective to our classes and to our community.”

The program’s seven-year-old English-language component opens the fellowship to people who might not have had access to English training in their home countries, said Kristina Jenkins, senior program officer for the Humphrey program at the Institute of International Education in Washington, D.C. The program emphasizes leadership skills and intercultural development.

“In a lot of countries, critical thinking is not a skill that’s developed in schools,” Jenkins said. “So, not only do some of our fellows have to learn English, but they also have to learn critical-thinking and other skills so they can go on to enter graduate-level programs at top U.S. universities and have a successful year.”

The fierce competition to host the English language program drew bids from more than 95 colleges and universities, she said.

“We have an outstanding relationship with Virginia Tech,” Jenkins said, calling the Language and Culture Institute’s effort “a tremendous program that has come back highly rated from fellows.”

Virginia Tech also stood out because of its commitment to meeting the needs of the fellows both inside the classroom and out, she said. In addition to providing the long-term English training component of the fellows’ experience, the program at the Language and Culture Institute features extensive, meaningful exposure to both the Virginia Tech and Blacksburg communities.

“For some of the fellows, it’s their first time living outside their home culture,” Jenkins said. “Virginia Tech has developed a very holistic program that allows them to become integrated into the Blacksburg community – working with conversation partners, volunteering in the area, and visiting culturally significant sites throughout Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

Svetlana Malkarova, of Russia, was a 2008-09 fellow. “The certificate I received from Virginia Tech added an additional 'plus' to my CV,” she said. “But more important, the atmosphere of tolerance and friendship at the [the institute] helped me learn to be open to people from other cultures, more accepting of those whose cultural norms and values are different from mine.”

The Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program was established in 1978 to honor the public service career of its namesake, the former vice president and U.S. senator. It is a Fulbright exchange activity funded by Congress through the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. 

With classrooms in Blacksburg as well as in Falls Church, Va., the Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute serves international students and others with language training. The institute hosts more than 500 students per year from more than 40 countries spanning the globe.

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