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October 2, 2000

UC Davis scholar named founding director of systemwide language consortium

Robert J. Blake, a professor of Spanish and classics at UC Davis and an internationally renowned scholar in second language acquisition, has been appointed the founding director of the newly-established UC Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching.

"Professor Blake has an impressive teaching and research record as well as extensive administrative experience," said UC President Richard C. Atkinson. "He is well versed in the use of technology to enhance language learning, and I am confident he will do an outstanding job of handling the challenges and opportunities the consortium offers."

According to organizers, the impetus for the creation of the systemwide Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching was the need to make the most effective use of UC's vast language teaching resources at a time when there is a dramatic increase in enrollments in foreign language courses and the demand for new areas of language instruction. Currently, the University of California offers its students the opportunity to study 78 languages.

The hope is that by fostering communication and collaboration among and across the language programs at the UC campuses through the new consortium, these resources can be more widely available to students and faculty.

"This initiative comes at a time when our students increasingly need an expanded knowledge of the world's diverse languages and cultures. A UC student can no longer afford to be monolingual in today's internationalized economy," Blake said. "I am extremely pleased to help coordinate the enormous strengths of the language faculty across the UC campuses in a way that will make our system a national model for language delivery.

"This will require seeking a balance between the heavily enrolled languages such as Spanish and the other less commonly taught languages. The consortium seeks to provide our students with an increased access to language study through a combination of the best classroom practices, distance learning, and EAP programs. The consortium will promote language study as a vital need for every UC student."

Julius Zelmanowitz, vice provost for academic initiatives for the UC system, said, "What is particularly notable is that the consortium results from a grass roots effort by faculty across the UC system, supported by the academic leadership of the campuses. The system as a whole owes a debt of gratitude to some forward-thinking faculty who saw the potential for using the power of the system to great benefit."

Blake received his doctorate in Hispanic linguistics from the University of Texas in Austin in 1980. He began his academic career at Dartmouth College where he spent five years, followed by seven years at the University of Rochester where he held the Mercer Brugler Chair for Innovations in Teaching.

In 1992, UC Davis recruited Blake, who served most recently as department chair and director of the campus's Second Language Acquisition Institute.

The systemwide Consortium on Language Learning and Teaching will be housed on the Davis campus.

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