Indiana: A Crossroads of Global Education

Situated at the crossroads of the United States of America, Indiana is at the forefront of international education. From Governor Eric J. Holcombe and Senator Richard Lugar, to Indiana University’s 11th president Herman B Wells, generations of leaders have valued efforts to bring Indiana to the world and the world to Indiana. For decades, Indiana has recognized how language learning and cross-cultural competencies serve both national and state interests and has valued the importance of educating Indiana residents to thrive as citizens of the world. With the passage of the National Defense Education Act in 1958, Indiana University was an early and ardent proponent of Title VI funding and established many language and area studies centers that continue to advance internationalization along Indiana’s educational pipeline. Indiana educators, such as William Riley Parker, wrote a ground-breaking ten-year plan in 1962 that called for the training of Indiana’s future generations of world language teachers. These efforts to build Indiana’s capacity for language learning and intercultural training was advanced by the 1969 formation of the Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association (IFLTA), an all-volunteer organization that still today serves and supports teachers of world languages across the state.

In the 1970s, Indiana leaders pursued international exchanges and the development and growth of organizations that provided multilingual and crosscultural services. The 1972 NATO Conference on Mayors, hosted by Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar, brought increased pride in Indiana’s diverse communities and thriving businesses. The International Center provided interpreters and translators for this seminal event, and was officially formed in 1973 to offer resources to public, private, and civic sectors across the state.

During the 1980s, a wealth of resources were developed for social studies and world language instruction in the education sector, with corresponding increases in state support for international trade, investment, and exchanges, and along with statewide research about Indiana’s current activities and capacity. In the Corporation for Indiana’s International Future, Inc. 1988 annual report, Governor Robert D. Orr noted that for Hoosiers to excel in the rapidly-changing world of tomorrow, the international dimension needed to be “central to the development and marketing plans of businesses, education and training providers and economic development entities.”1 In 1987, Indianapolis hosted the Pan American Games, which raised the public profile of the importance of world language skills and cross-cultural competencies.

In the 1990s, a white paper on the status of international service organizations prepared by Caterina Cregor for the Lilly Endowment, Inc. brought business, civic, and education leaders into conversation and led to the creation of the International Issues Task Force, facilitated by the Indiana Humanities Council. Their recommendations for the development of an international school and offerings of international services and direct international flights from Indianapolis were later realized through the hard work of many individuals.2 Indiana’s first language immersion programs began at the International School of Indiana and Forest Glen Elementary (MSD Lawrence Township) in Indianapolis in 1994 and in Fort Wayne at Lindley Elementary in 1995.3

Since 2000, periodic studies have been conducted on the changing state of international education in Indiana schools, with particular emphasis on secondary schools.4 The Longview Foundation and Asia Society provided crucial support for these and other initiatives. As Indiana adopted academic standards for elementary and secondary education, Indiana University’s Center for the Study of Global Change led efforts to internationalize those standards for all content areas to emphasize the importance of crosscultural competencies. In 2008, Indiana held an International Education Summit, co-hosted by the Indiana Department of Education and Eli Lilly and Company with funding from the Longview Foundation. The Summit raised awareness of the need to “position Indiana as a leader in producing a globally aware and economically competitive workforce.”5 

More recently, the Indiana Department of Education, IFLTA, and the Indiana Legislature have worked to build a strong foundation to support world language education. In 2015, the Indiana Legislature passed support for Dual Language Immersion pilot programs in elementary schools and Indiana’s Certificate of Multilingual Proficiency.6 The certificate, modeled after the National Seal of Biliteracy, recognizes graduating high school seniors who have achieved exceptional levels of world language proficiency.7 As of early 2019, 61 Indiana schools and school corporations participate in the program.8 The statewide Dual Language Immersion Pilot Program provides funding to schools for up to two years to support the establishment of new dual language immersion programs or to expand existing programs to include a new language. As a result of this pilot program, Indiana has seen a significant increase in the number of dual language programs available to Indiana students, with 21 programs currently offered or soon to be offered.9 In the past six years, Indiana leaders have been recognized with awards from the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages to honor the work of Center for the Study of Global Change, Caterina Cregor Blitzer, Senator Dennis Kruse, Representative Robert Behning, and Pamela Gemmer for their support of global education and world language learning.These recent accolades are testaments to Indiana’s sustained committment to international education, and the Indiana Language Roadmap builds on this legacy.

1. Corporation for Indiana’s International Future, Inc., 1988 Annual Report

2. Indiana International Issues Taskforce, 1992 Report “Indiana in a changing world: a strategy for action”

3. Kelly Springer and Indiana Department of Education: https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/standards/dli-schools.pdf

4. Indiana Department of Education and Indiana Humanities Council, “What Do We and Our Students Need in Indiana? Recommendations of the Indiana taskforce on foreign language learning”; The Center for Urban and Multicultural Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, “Examining the State of International Education in Secondary School in Indiana”; Indiana Department of Education, https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/standards/2014-report-global-learning-indiana.pdf

5. Adriana Melnyk, "Indiana Passes Academic Standards for East Asian Languages; Holds International Education Summit", The Language Educator April 2008. 

6. Claire McInerny: 



7. Indiana Department of Education, https://www.in.gov/doe/

8. Indiana Department of Education, https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/standards/2020-comp-participants-list.pdf

9. Indiana Department of Education, https://www.doe.in.gov/standards/dual-language-immersion