National Center for Interpretation creates Multilingual Curriculum Project

October 11th, 2022

When students in Gabriela Valdez’s section of Public Health 308 begin this week, they’ll be the first class of University of Arizona students taking a class that’s been entirely translated into Spanish.


The course, Community Health Education for Disease Outbreaks, is the pilot for the new Multilingual Curriculum Project, with the University’s National Center for Interpretation translating the existing course content, which was originally developed by Adaeze Oguegbu. While this course will be translated into and delivered in Spanish, future courses could be translated into an array of languages, with plans underway for Mandarin. The project will serve both on-campus and online classes.


“The idea behind all of this is to first create a process by which we can translate courses and offer colleges and departments the possibility of creating multilingual courses with the same course content they already have,” said Sonia Colina, director of the National Center for Interpretation. “NCI does the translation and we have a subject-matter expert also review the content from that perspective.”


With support from the Provost’s Office and the deans of the College of Humanities and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, NCI selected the 308 class for the pilot.


“By offering courses in various languages we seek to advance the University’s goal of expanding access to education, not only on campus but also globally,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Liesl Folks. “This is an exciting step that supports the needs of diverse communities of learners, and does so by leveraging the remarkable academic standing and strengths of our NCI team.”


“Public Health is an ideal area for this pilot because it’s a college with one of the highest proportions of Hispanic students overall at the university and the college has a lot of connections to the community and with Mexico,” Colina said.


Valdez, a native Spanish speaker, is an assistant professor of practice and the director of Global Health Programs and Global Education for the College of Public Health. The three-unit course is taught online, in the 7.5-week format. The 308 course is a good fit as a pilot for the Multilingual Curriculum Project because it covers a wide range of topics related to public health and is a gen-ed course open to undergraduates from any major, she said.


“The overall expectation in this course is that students will be equipped with the public health knowledge necessary for selecting, developing, creating, and implementing community and public health education strategies. In addition, thanks to the language component of this course, students will be able to successfully do this within multilingual and multicultural settings,” she said.


Valdez, who was selected for the university’s HSI Fellows Program in 2021, said offering courses in Spanish is a way to show the commitment the University of Arizona has toward the rich multilingual Latinx community on campus and throughout the state.


“Creating spaces where students have the opportunity to further develop their Spanish language skills and learn how to successfully navigate multicultural settings within the field of public health is very important as we educate the next generation of public health professionals,” she said.


In addition to the pilot course, NCI is working on collaborations, with Arizona International, to provide quality assessment on translations from an outside vendor for the i-School’s master’s in information science into Mandarin. That sort of quality assessment is an important aspect of the project, Colina said.


“Other universities have introduced translated classes, but have contracted with language service agencies for the translation. Language service agencies won’t have the academic-level quality control or necessary consistency,” Colina said. “NCI is the only university language service unit doing these programs, so we can offer the quality assurance and seal of approval from the University of Arizona. The idea is to expand this to other courses throughout the university and potentially other universities.”


On campus, additional conversations about the Multilingual Curriculum Project are underway with the GenEd program and the W.A. Franke Honors College, Colina said.


Iman A. Hakim, Dean of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, said she is excited to have a public health course serve as the pilot for the Multilingual Curriculum Project.


“By translating our curriculum, we expand access and increase cultural awareness in our classrooms,” Hakim said. “Also, as a Hispanic Serving Institution, this first course in Spanish will reach many students who have close ties to the communities we serve with our public health programs. I look forward to working with NCI as we expand our curriculum to include more multilingual courses.”


Alain-Philippe Durand, Dorrance Dean of the College of Humanities, said offering the college’s longstanding language expertise to other campus units will have benefits across the university.


“The student population at the University of Arizona is increasingly diverse and increasingly multilingual. This innovation from NCI will expand the opportunities for students and create new opportunities for the University to grow and meet future demands,” Durand said.


NCI, founded in 1979, offers a variety of services, including interpreter training and testing in both the legal and medical fields. NCI research in training and assessment have led to new standards across the fields of translation and interpretation.


Part of the Multilingual Curriculum Project will be evaluating the effectiveness of the translated course through student outcomes, as well as a study comparing student performance when courses are taught in their native language to courses taught in English.