UW News

May 31, 2023

New funding supports growth of Canadian Studies Program, Foreign Language and Area Studies

Canadian flag flying in front of a blue sky

The University of Washington is one of just two National Resource Centers in the country to offer instruction in Indigenous languages spoken in Canada.Pixabay

Two grants from the U.S. Department of Education International and Foreign Language Education office will allow the Canadian Studies Center at the University of Washington to award eight to 10 fellowships each year to students studying French or an Indigenous language spoken in Canada.

The center received nearly $2.5 million from a National Resource Center Grant with the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University and a Foreign Language and Area Studies, or FLAS, grant.

The grants, awarded for the 2022-26 cycle, will allow the center to build expertise in Canadian Studies, particularly in the Salish Sea region, Francophone Canada and the Arctic, and help develop a greater understanding of the role of Indigenous peoples in global affairs. UW received the ninth-largest FLAS grant in the country.

FLAS fellowships allow students to gain modern foreign language and area or international studies competencies, and the UW is one of just two National Resource Centers in the country to offer instruction in Indigenous languages spoken in Canada. Canadian Studies started offering fellowships in Indigenous languages in 2004 and has since funded fellowships in 10 languages spoken on Vancouver Island and in northern Ontario, the Arctic and more.

While the FLAS grant will fund fellowships, the National Resource Center grant will primarily be used to pay instructors and subsidize research and programming, including supporting visiting faculty. Because most languages aren’t taught on the UW campus, visiting faculty often teach remotely.

Nadine Fabbi, interim director of Canadian Studies, said the center has awarded close to 50 FLAS fellowships in Indigenous language studies over the past 15 years.

“What our center works to do is to approach these regions and cross-border issues with a focus on Indigenous peoples and their experiences,” Fabbi said. “We work to provide courses, research and programming that includes Indigenous voices and knowledge.”

Fourteen FLAS fellowships were awarded for the 2022-23 academic year to master’s and doctoral students who are studying French, Nuu-chah-nulth and X̱aad Kíl, or the Haida language. The fellows represent four departments in the College of Arts & Sciences and five professional schools, including law and marine and environmental affairs. Three of the current fellows are Indigenous students.

“The center focuses on Indigenous studies, international relations, Francophone Canada, environmental justice, and the Arctic,” Fabbi said. “The themes and issues that we touch on are of significant interest to our faculty, students and other colleagues.”

Nicole S. Kuhn, a doctoral candidate in the UW Information School and a citizen of the Haida Nation (Haida Gwaii), was a FLAS fellow studying X̱aad Kíl in the summer of 2022. Kuhn’s work focuses on community-engaged research at the intersection of Indigenous research review, social media and health communication. She also works to build relationships with Tribal communities in the U.S. and Canada to support the development of Indigenous research ethics boards.

Kuhn hopes her work will benefit Tribes and Bands as they seek to create and sustain their own research review processes as well as develop community-engaged approaches for social media research. She also wants to help expand the information sciences field to ethically consider how Indigenous communities use technology to support their sovereignty, cultures, language and well-being.

Kuhn was part of an interdisciplinary group of UW graduate students that co-created the first Haida FLAS cohort at the UW.  After her summer FLAS fellowship ended, Kuhn continued to attend X̱aad Kíl classes with her cohort throughout the academic year. She said learning her own language has been an essential part of her growth as an Indigenous scholar in academia.

“I am more fully able to reflect on my own positionality as a Haida scholar within my Indigenous research and studies and, from this place, thoughtfully contribute to Indigenous theory, practice and meaning-making,” Kuhn said. “This experience has been a great gift as it connects me so fully to my Haida language and culture, supporting me as I work with Tribes and Bands on both sides of the border, while contributing so much to my own learning and research.”


For more information, contact Fabbi at nfabbi@uw.edu.