The Center for Language and Literacy at Concordia University Chicago has moved to a new location in the Christopher Center on the University’s River Forest campus. The transfer of resources from the Center’s prior, smaller location began in August 2016, and is expected to be fully accomplished in early 2017. Since its founding three years ago as an initiative spearheaded by Dr. Thomas Jandris, then dean of the College of Graduate and Innovative Programs, the Center has expanded at an unexpected pace. In anticipation of future growth, an expansion was deemed necessary in order to accommodate the needs of both teachers and learners.
“Our new facility alongside the University’s education library is filled with natural light and a wonderful sense of calm,” reported Dr. Veronica Richard, a Center director. “Individuals and small groups will find the new location to be conducive to focusing, learning and interacting with staff and fellow students.”
Simultaneous with its move to a new physical space, the Center’s administrative team has been expanded to include four Concordia-Chicago faculty members. Dr. Dara Soljaga continues her role as the Center’s executive director. Richard will assume the role of director of adolescent and adult literacy programs. Dr. Simeon Stumme, a key contributor to the Center since its inception, will serve as director of English learner programs. Dr. Kari Pawl has been appointed director of the Center’s early childhood education and elementary programs.
“The expansion of our leadership team through the appointment of Richard, Stumme and Pawl—all gifted, experienced professionals—will set us up to better serve our community,” explained Soljaga, who also serves as chair of the department of literacy and early childhood education. “The infusion of vision and commitment into our programming will certainly transform how we design and deliver literacy programming at all levels.”
As it begins its fourth year of operation, the Center for Language and Literacy continues to fulfill its mission as an institution committed to creating access to meaningful and innovative language and literacy-related experiences in research, education, practice, service and scholarship. The Center fosters responsive collaborations, policy efforts, and advocacy programs for the greater community and university addressing language and literacy development.
“We are proud of the Center’s success in inspiring external support, allowing us to be a self-funding unit of Concordia-Chicago,” said Soljaga. “At the same time, we are well on our way toward achieving our longstanding goal of earning recognition nationally as a hub for literacy research and innovation.”
The positive impact of the Center’s suite of programs is currently being felt by students in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the Chicago area, as well as by language and literacy educators. The Center draws hundreds of students and adults annually for targeted programs, delivered through the school year and intensive summer programs. In addition, Center staff have partnered with public and private/parochial schools to deliver quality programs in historically underserved neighborhoods and populations.
Looking forward, the Center anticipates continued growth in the delivery of its mission-based teaching and training products. “We are excited to be on the cutting edge of language and literacy programs,” explained Soljaga. “And as we refine and enhance the way we work with those we serve, our results and research will be shared with other language and literacy experts around the world, compounding the benefit of the pioneering work we do in this region.”