FLAS Fellowship Event: Fostering Language Learning and Global Engagement

 Last Thursday, April 11th, Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellows at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Utah gathered to hear from three former FLAS awardees about how their fellowship was instrumental on their career path. With insightful presentations from distinguished speakers and lively discussions, the event provided a platform for fellows to connect, learn, and share experiences.

Guest Speakers Share Their Insights:

We were honored to host three esteemed guest speakers, each bringing their unique perspectives and expertise to the table. The presenters spoke in depth about what drew them to language and international studies and how that knowledge has proved vital on their very different career paths. Though their individual experiences varied greatly, they also shared commonalities—in particular, the way in which language and cultural knowledge help facilitate meaningful global connections. A few highlights from their presentations:

  • Frances Vavrus, (Swahili), Dean and Vice Provost of the International Division at the University of Wisconsin, Madison: “Language learning is more than just memorizing vocabulary and grammar. It is about immersing yourself in the culture, forming connections, and understanding the world from a unique perspective.”
  • Joseph Vasquez, (Persian), Cryptic Language Analyst Utah Air National Guard: “I witnessed firsthand the transformative power of language when providing support to displaced Afghan communities in the United States.”
  • Vijay Limaye (Hindi), Vijay Limaye (Hindi) Adjunct Professor – School of Medicine University of Wisconsin-Madison: “In my work as an epidemiologist, effective communication is essential for addressing global health challenges.”

Highlights of the Event:

  • Engaging Presentations: Each speaker delivered compelling presentations, sharing valuable insights, and inspiring anecdotes from their experiences.
  • Interactive Discussions: The event featured interactive Q&A sessions, allowing fellows to engage directly with the speakers and delve deeper into the topics discussed.
  • Networking Opportunities: Attendees had the chance to connect with fellow FLAS awardees, fostering meaningful connections within the language learning community.


The panel was organized by the Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) Awards Office and the eight Title VI National Resource Centers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Utah Asia Center. Twenty-two attendees tuned in for this the hybrid event, gathering in person at the hosting universities or joining via Zoom. Following the talk, many students voiced their appreciation for the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals and felt more confident looking ahead to their own internationally oriented careers.

This professional development event successfully achieved its goals, bringing together a diverse community of language enthusiasts and fostering meaningful dialogue on language learning, cultural exchange, and global engagement. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our guest speakers and attendees for their participation and contributions.

FLAS fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of Education. For more information about FLAS fellowships and upcoming events, please visit https://iris.wisc.edu/foreign-language-and-area-studies-flas-fellowship/.