The L.A.C. Is the Place to Be! International Studies Thrive at the Language Acquisition Center

On the second floor of Agnes Arnold Hall, there is a magical place where you can venture into whole new worlds.  The Language Acquisition Center (LAC) is a state-of-the-art learning space, with a huge film collection, educational resources, loads of computers and helpful staff. And lately it has proudly hosted some events that are all about connecting Cougars to the world. (You can find them on Facebook here.)

LAC Director Edie Furniss chats about learning Russian at the Languages@UH Open House

Last Thursday in the run up for Spring registration, the LAC hosted the Languages@UH Open House, an opportunity for students to get to know about programs in the departments of Hispanic Studies and Modern & Classical Languages. The languages taught at main campus include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Ancient and Modern Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. The Open House was a chance to talk informally to instructors and students about language study as well as the study abroad opportunities the programs provide.

Maggie Brock of the Office of Learning Abroad helps students with their CLS applications for Arabic

On Friday, the LAC hosted the second of three Critical Language Fridays, which focus on two amazing Federal programs for language learners: the Critical Language Scholarship, sponsored by the Department of State, and the Boren Awards, sponsored by the Department of Defense.

Honors Scholarship Team Member Julia Brown helps an applicant for Swahili

These programs pay generously for students to study languages of strategic interest, which include Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Swahili, Turkish and more. Last Friday, students worked one-on-one with LAC director Edie Furniss, members of the Honors Competitive Scholarship team, Maggie Brock of the Office of Learning Abroad, and Prof. Michael Fares of MCL. You can’t beat such close advising when going up for major awards like these!

Scholarships Coordinator Jennifer Asmussen on the job with a CLS applicant

There’s a lot more to come, too. The LAC is partnering with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of Learning Abroad on the Language Exchange event on November 16 – a wonderful chance to practice speaking another language and meet new friends from around the world, all part of International Education Week. In the spring semester, the LAC will provide the International Student Organization (ISO) with movies for their second annual International Film Festival, and will work again with ISO on International Mother Language Day  – a worldwide celebration of multilingualism – in February. The LAC also administers the Conversation Partners Program, which matches language learners at UH for informal exchanges with native speakers.

Happy to help! Arabic Prof. Michael Fares assists an applicant for the CLS Arabic Program

At the heart of the LAC is its Director, Dr. Edie Furniss, an applied linguist and Russian language specialist. She is co-author of Russian Full Circle: A First Year Russian Textbook, and has a passionate interest in computer-assisted language learning. Her mission: “to develop the Center into a hub for language learning and cultural exchange, with a reach that stretches across campus,” she says. “I’m excited about working with other campus offices, departments, and organizations on recognizing and expanding multilingualism at UH.” And she has indeed been busy doing just that, partnering with the Office of Learning Abroad and the Honors College in addition to her two departments of Hispanic Studies and MCL. Like a lot of us, Dr. Furniss sees a great resource in the students themselves. “UH should be proud of its cultural and linguistic diversity, as it gives students here a unique opportunity to connect with people from all corners of the world. This will serve them in their personal and professional lives when they venture out beyond campus as global citizens and ambassadors.”

Edie Furniss working with a CLS applicant for Russian


—Richard Armstrong

Director of International Programs

The Honors College



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