News: School of Modern Languages Celebrates 25 Years of LBAT Study Abroad Programs

Posted November 1, 2016

The Ivan Allen College School of Modern Languages is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its signature Language for Business and Technology (LBAT) summer study abroad programs. The LBAT programs provide Georgia Tech students with unique opportunities to develop a global perspective regarding their target languages and cultures.

LBAT alumni and students and faculty in the School of Modern Languages are celebrating the LBAT programs’ history and accomplishments during a reception on October, 28, 2016. In honor of the anniversary, we trace the history of the LBAT programs from their origins to the present day:

25 Years of Languages for Business and Technology (LBAT):  A Brief History of a Very Successful Program

Modern Languages were an early presence at Georgia Tech offered as part of the curriculum in 1904. By 1991, the Department of Modern Languages was not remarkably different from other language departments at technical universities. Beyond basic instruction in the commonly known languages, it offered upper-level courses of culture and literature. That changed through the vision of Heidi Rockwood, who was named chair of the department by Ivan Allen College Dean Fred Tarpley. Not only did she save the department from being annexed by the English department, but she was determined to turn the Department of Modern Languages into an important player in its own right by giving it a new focus according to currently successful programs concentrating on foreign languages for business and using an interdisciplinary approach.

With approval from the administration, Rockwood was also able to hire new faculty, among them Bettina Cothran, who brought with her expertise in applied language programs. The German program was the first to conduct a 5-week summer language immersion program on campus in the summer of 1991, employing three German students as assistants through a partnership with the University of Jena, Germany, which also hosted a two-week stay in Germany. The French and Spanish programs followed suit with intensive programs on campus under the leadership of professors Barbara Blackbourn and Vicki Galloway.

Of material help was a sizeable grant from Coca-Cola’s Whitehead Foundation that allowed the Department to more fully develop these immersive language programs, which were named “Languages for Business and Technology,” or LBAT.

Over time, LBAT summer programs were established for eight languages:  Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian and Spanish. They vary in length, but most languages offer at least 10 weeks of a program taught abroad, and up to a total of 12 upper-level credits. This means most students can complete a minor in the language by taking one course beyond the summer program. In addition, the LBAT provides a major step towards fulfilling the requirements of the International Plan, which calls for a minimum of 26 weeks studying or working abroad.

Georgia Tech's Office of International Education (OIE) is a key partner with the School of Modern Languages in providing assistance with study abroad programs.

Amy Bass Henry, executive director of OIE noted that the LBATs were among Georgia Techs first study abroad programs and remain a crucial part of and are important options for students to integrate international opportunities into their education.  

“The LBAT programs are so much more than language programs. They set Georgia Tech apart from other universities because the language learning is tied to many fields of study and made relevant to both Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies (ALIS) majors and other majors. When intercultural learning is built into language classes, as it is on the LBATs, students learn skills in teamwork and communication that serve them well everywhere.” 

The Institute's International Plan for students was conceived under the Quality Enhancement Plan previous to its current one, the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiative. The LBAT fulfills goals of both QEPs and thus provides an important venue for Georgia Tech’s mission of developing “a global footprint” and ensuring that “innovation, entrepreneurship and public service are fundamental characteristics of our graduates.”

In academic year 2015/2016, 54 percent of Georgia Tech students study abroad during their degree program. Among their choices are the unique LBAT programs abroad that let them experience the language and culture of people they may come in contact with in the global market and work environment. Every LBAT program has unique characteristics; opportunities range from a program in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, where students develop an app for local bird-watching through place-based-learning and locative media, to a program focusing on sustainability in Spain, to a program in Germany highlighting the business structure and issues by including company visits and a Berlin segment that uses the city as the classroom. One of our newest programs is the French LBAT in Senegal, adding to the existing programs in France. 

Under the leadership of Anna Westershal Stenport, the School of Modern Languages will continue to develop the LBAT programs as a key component within the School, providing a career vision for Georgia Tech students by adding a global perspective to their studies, working with partners in business and industry domestically and internationally, and offering stimulating teaching units incorporating technology and interdisciplinary approaches. The School has proposed a record number of summer study abroad programs this year — thirteen in total.

Stenport, who stepped into the role as chair of the School in August, noted that the LBAT program is a national and international model that is at the heart of the School of Modern Languages. 

“We are central to both Georgia Tech’s strategic priorities in enhancing students’ global experiences and to the international mandate of the institution. These summer programs impact all aspects of the curriculum and benefit nearly all of our majors and minors,” Stenport said.

Revisiting the past 25 years and looking at the successes of our students, we can say that the LBAT programs were a pivotal experience for many, measurable by professional success and personal connections.

In the words of LBAT alumni:

“I feel confident that my Georgia Tech degree has provided me with the skills and language ability to one day work in a Spanish-speaking country. At Tech we do not just speak Spanish; we speak Spanish about the Argentine fiscal crisis or the Zapatista uprising in Mexico.” -Cameron Davis, International Affairs and Modern Languages major

“Learning French and Japanese at Georgia Tech have been absolutely wonderful. For someone like me who is not only interested in the language, but the social and cultural aspects of the language also, it proved to be a very informative and surreal educational journey.” - Ashraf Majid, Computer Engineering major                                               

For more information about the LBAT programs and the 25th anniversary celebration, visit www.modlangs.gatech.edu