History of the Consortium

The Consortium for Language Teaching and Learning began as an idea in the mid-1980's in response to the challenges of enhancing foreign language programs, meeting the needs of the less commonly taught languages, addressing the imperatives of new technologies, and generating external support for foreign language projects. With planning and start-up grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Alfred Sloan Foundation, a core group of three representatives - an academic dean, a foreign language faculty member, and a member of the development office - from the member institutions pondered for almost two years over what such an organization might do: there existed no analogous organization, and the member institutions were perhaps more accustomed to competition than to cooperation. Moreover, although the member institutions are often grouped together as private research universities, they differ from one another in significant ways, they enjoy different traditions, and they maintain distinct identities. The first test of the Consortium was to serve its members equitably and to allow each institution to build upon its strengths while at the same time promoting links across the campuses and encouraging collaborative thought and action.

In March 1986, the Consortium hired Peter C. Patrikis as the founding Executive Director and opened an office at Yale University. The Executive Director's first task was to develop a mission statement, a plan of activities, and fund-raising goals for the first five years of this experiment. The original vision proved reliable and has required only minor modification over the years.

Since 1987 the Consortium has supported almost six hundred projects in almost sixty languages. Those projects include more than four hundred fifty (450) Campus-Based Projects, some seventy (70) Consortial Projects, and some twenty-five (25) workshops and conferences. In funding the projects range from little more than $100 to slightly more than $100,000. The average award has been approximately $5,000, and the mean award approximately $3,000.

It is worth dwelling on the importance of those figures. Not only has the Consortium become an efficient mechanism for the review and administration of small grants, but it also provides support unavailable elsewhere. There is no other source for grants in foreign languages ranging from $100 to $3,000 (or even $10,000 for that matter): foundations and government agencies do not, and cannot, deal in small, specialized awards like these. Moreover, in the past ten years the tightening of budgets has decreased significantly the funds available for curricular projects even at wealthy institutions like those of the Consortium. Most important, the grants of the Consortium have demonstrated just how much can be done with a small award.