The Role of the Language Center Director?

Mike Ledgerwood's picture

When I became Chair of World Languages and Cultures and Samford I realized I should become IALLT's affiliate representative to ADFL (The Association of Departments of Foreign Languages).  This is the US group for Chairs of Depts. of (Foreign) Languages.  At that time I was one of the very few IALLT members who was also a Lang. Dept Chair (now there are a few more, including our next President!).  As you can see in a previous blog entry, ADFL has an active listserv in which dept. chairs ask for advice and help.  In February I responded to a note that seemed to threaten the existence of a language center.  This morning I responded to a note from a Chair trying to figure out how to keep a Language Center Director.  I'll post that note and answer below, leaving out names.  I think many of you will find that interesting and even helpful. 

However, what this makes me realize (again) is that IALLT is not involved in any process of evaluating, assessing, or helping individual language centers.  We have decided that this is too complicated and have worried about our own credentials.  Forgive me, but BALDERDASH.  If IALLT doesn't assess language centers then who does?  The answer is generally literature faculty (if anyone).  We have recently witnessed the firing of one of our members due to outside evaluators who assessed her Center with no knowledge of Language Centers in the way we know them.

IALLT, it is time to step up to the plate and take this on.


Here is the ADFL note and my answer:

"Dear Colleagues,

We are in the process of reexamining the staffing situation in our
language laboratory, as well as supporting our language lab director in
his quest for residency status in the US. His current job description
includes the duties of Language Lab Director
with everything that entails, plus teaching two lower-division language
courses per semester. Our regular full-time load is 4/4. The position
requires at least a Master's in a language or appropriate equivalent.
This has been the standard situation here for
many years.
I would greatly appreciate hearing from you about your language lab
situation. Primarily, do you have a dedicated lab director position or
does his/her duties require teaching duties as well? Or do you have
another situation entirely? All answers are welcome;
brevity is encouraged but not required.
Thank you,"
"Dear X (and others with this type of question),

Having been a language center director (in two different institutions)
before becoming a chair and now President of the International
Association for Language Learning Technology--where most Language Center
Directors find a professional home--(, I am happy
to give my two cents on this question.

There is no one-type-fits-all language center director job description. 
In fact, it is quite interesting to see how varied the descriptions
are.  Director positions vary so very much, depending on the institution
with which they are associated and that institution's commitment to
languages and technology.  They range from totally administrative staff,
running a center with as many as fourteen staff, all the way to
full-time faculty who do this work for a course release and/or extra
money.  Just to give my personal history, I was the equivalent of a
language center director as well as the entire foreign language
department in my first job at a community college in South Carolina.  In
my second position at a small liberal arts college, I was sort of
compelled to take on this task for an occasional course release and
other service release.  However, the person who took the position after
me insisted on being half time Center Director and half time faculty. 
This was what I was at my third position at a large state University in
the Northeast.  In my current position I have three faculty who are all
half time in the Language Center and half time faculty.

For smaller colleges and/or smaller Centers it is not uncommon to have a
half time Center Director who is also half time faculty.  It is also
not uncommon to have a full time staff person (with language and
technology background) directing a Center.

One of X's (implied) questions was about the degree a Center
Director should have.  Again, no single answer.  I would suggest a
Master's of some kind would probably need to be the minimum.  An ABD or
doctoral degree is not uncommon.

So, chairs do have a lot of flexibility in setting up these positions
and in setting up the conditions for continuing employment/tenure.

As an aside, I do hope that if you have a Language Center Director in
your department who is not familiar with IALLT that you will steer
him/her to this wonderful resource.  IALLT has a Statement on the
Profession (that is being revised). It has a new Language Center Design
volume that will be out this summer.  It has a Task-Based Activities
volume (III) for Centers that came out last summer.  Its referred
journal has been relaunched this spring. Its new web site received kudos
from ACTFL. It has strong relationships with groups all over the
world.  Its revised Management Manual will be out within two years.  If
you can afford to send him/her to IALLT's biannual conference next month
at UC Irvine, California, I can guarantee that s/he would benefit
greatly from the conference.

Very best to all, Mike.

Mikle D. Ledgerwood, Ph.D.
President of the International Association for Language Learning Technology

Chair of World Languages and Cultures
Professor of French and Linguistics
Samford University
Birmingham, AL 35229

Graduate Faculty in Technology and Education
State University of New York at Stony Brook