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“The idea is to help turn something that’s perceived as a deficit into an asset. There’s hostility towards difference in the United States, and we’re trying to fight that, and to equip our students with this powerful message that not only do you belong, you have something really valuable and important to offer.”
- Anne Phillips, Director of the Luce World Pathways Program

































































“How do you give an international experience to students who come from all over the world? The program has proven that the key is to encourage students to think critically about the experiences they’ve already had and the perspectives they bring to the world."

Grant Spotlight: The Luce World Pathways Program at LaGuardia Community College


“I was never American enough, and I was never Mexican enough.”

Growing up, Mayra Ramales felt perpetually out of place, not fitting in completely in any community. But this past summer, Mayra interned at GLAAD in Los Angeles, writing bilingual articles on the treatment of LGBT topics in films. She found that her grasp of two languages and cultures allowed her to be a more effective communicator and advocate.

Mayra is part of the Luce World Pathways program at LaGuardia Community College. Established with support from the Henry Luce Foundation’s Higher Education program in 2013, the program is aimed at heritage language speakers – individuals who grew up communicating in one language at home and another outside the home. The Program’s Director, Anne Phillips, says, “our mission is to alter the mindset of these students. The idea is to help turn something that’s perceived as a deficit into an asset. There’s hostility towards difference in the United States, and we’re trying to fight that, and to equip our students with this powerful message that not only do you belong, you have something really valuable and important to offer to a world that is increasingly globalized, that needs people who can act as cultural bridges.”


The 2014-2015 cohort of Luce Heritage Language Scholars

The World Pathways program combines several components that together help the students envision how their personal backgrounds can contribute to professional careers. “We want to educate the whole student,” Phillips notes, “the student who has a rich complex life outside the classroom.” The students are enrolled in formal classes in their heritage languages, to ensure that they have the reading and writing skills to use those languages in the workplace. They meet for program sessions once a week, which offer a supportive venue for professional development and conversations about personal identity. Students also meet regularly with faculty mentors who provide crucial guidance about the transfer process, as well as personal support.

Finally, the students participate in a culminating summer internship that allows them to make use of their language skills and multicultural background in a professional setting. Vincent Pan, who had an internship at Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Guangzhou, noted that he “became much more confident using both languages in the workplace… It helped me transition from a college student to a working person.” Alaa Algaradi, originally from Yemen, worked on a surgical floor in Morocco, talking with the patients in Arabic. He said that the experience “transformed me into this human being who is ready to do whatever it takes to get to this career.”

Bill Tsuda notes that his initial goals in joining the program were personal: “I wanted to be able to speak to my relatives for the first time.” But his language training in Japan also opened up professional pathways he would never have considered. Tsuda has switched his major to Japanese and hopes to teach English in Japan. “I never would have had the confidence to say, I want to go to Japan, I want to work in Japan, without developing my language skills and being a part of this program.”


The Heritage Language Scholars visited the Henry Luce Foundation offices this Fall, to share their experiences

The program has been such a success that the College has expanded it in multiple ways, increasing the number of students in each annual cohort from nine to twelve and including heritage speakers of Arabic, as well as the original languages of Mandarin, Japanese and Spanish. The Foundation renewed its support for the program with grants made in 2014 and 2015, supporting two more cohorts of students while the College seeks additional external funding to continue the program.

Phillips says that the program has also had a powerful effect on the college as a whole. “We have students here who speak over 100 different languages and come from more than 150 countries. How do you give an international experience to students who come from all over the world?” The Luce World Pathways program has contributed to the faculty and administration’s thinking on how to enhance students’ capacity to negotiate across difference by building their education around their experiences. The program has proven that the key is to encourage students to think critically about the experiences they’ve already had and about how those experiences contribute to the perspectives they bring to the world.

Sean Buffington, the Foundation’s Vice President who serves as the project’s program officer, observes that “the Luce Foundation has a long history of preparing leaders and supporting innovation in higher education. The World Pathways program at LaGuardia Community College exemplifies both of these commitments. It identifies promising students and prepares them for global leadership; and it does so by recognizing a perceived disadvantage—divided linguistic and cultural heritage—as a strength in an increasingly interconnected, multi-lingual, and culturally diverse world.” Buffington went on to note that “the World Pathways model has proven so successful that LaGuardia is seeking to expand it across the College and is spreading the word to other institutions at conferences and symposia. That all of this has been accomplished at a two-year institution—on behalf of a student population that is severely financially challenged—is even more remarkable.”


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“I became much more confident using both languages in the workplace… It helped me transition from a college student to a working person.”
- Vincent Pan, a student in the program's second cohort