Recordings now available from 2023 Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) Career Fair

Keynote speaker Lachlyn Soper on-screen for virtual LCTL Career Fair address
Erlin Barnard, SEASSI Language Director and Department of Asian Languages & Cultures Teaching Faculty, introduces LCTL Career Fair keynote speaker Lachlyn Soper, her former student of Indonesian at WISLI.

The Language Program Office has announced that recordings from this summer’s Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTL) Career Fair are now available!

This year’s fair featured a three-day Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes (WISLI) Professional Development Series, July 26–28, 2023. More than 200 LCTL learners and enthusiasts heard from 13 leaders and experts – from government to the private sector and human services – who shared stories and advice about building multilingual-professional lives.

Panelists – including seven UW–Madison alumni – described how international education and proficiency in such languages as Arabic, Hindi, Hmong, Portuguese, and Turkish has opened doors and expanded their opportunities. In addition, they highlighted how various grants have supported their language development, such as Boren Scholarships, Foreign Language & Areas Studies (FLAS), and Critical Language Scholarship (CLS).

Panelists on-screen for a virtual LCTL Career Fair session
“Opportunities in the Private Sector” panelists: Lydia Greve, Resource Mobilization and Grant Manager at the World Organisation for Animal Health; Isabelle McRae, Impact Project Consultant and Language Specialist; Charlie Minard, U.S. Country Manager at Merama; and Katy Sinnott, Vice President of Global Trade & Investment at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Moderated by International Internship Advisor Amani DeHolton.

“The LCTL Career Fair is serving a key role in opening possibilities and launching careers of the next generation of multilingual speakers,” said Frances Vavrus, vice provost and dean of the International Division. “I am grateful to professionals representing government, public, and private sectors, as well as language experts, for sharing their perspectives.”

The “Opportunities in the Private Sector” discussion specifically focuses on living and working internationally, and the “Opportunities in Human Services” panel centers on human resources, community support, and translation and interpretation.

Also available is U.S. Diplomat Lachlyn Soper’s keynote address, “Words That Work: Transforming Your Life with Language.”

Panelists on-screen for a virtual Human Services session
“Opportunities in Human Services” panelists: Irfan Kovankaya, Senior Account Executive at Spitfire Strategies; Vijay Limaye, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Jzong Thao, Hmong-English Interpreter, Translator, and Trainer at Cultural Linguistics Services, Office of Human Resources at UW-Madison; and Daniel Wieber, Arabic to English Translator, Educator, and Project Coordinator. Moderated by International Internship Advisor Kimberly Harn.

As a WISLI alum who reached professional-level proficiency in Indonesian, Soper narrated her journey from majoring in international relations at UW–Madison to speaking German daily on her foreign service current assignment. She presented a game plan for using linguistic skills to enhance career prospects and maximizing the benefits of language learning beyond speaking proficiency.

“By choosing to study at WISLI, you have made a great decision. You are learning a less-commonly taught language in a great institute in a great setting,” Soper said.

“Learning a rarer, or as we say in the Foreign Service, ‘a boutique language’ will give you advantages in whatever career you choose, with benefits beyond using the grammar and vocab you pick up this summer,” she said.

A notable addition to this year’s career fair was an in-person “WISLI Professional Development Workshop,” facilitated by Language Directions Specialist Lydia Odegard of the UW–Madison Language Institute.

Attendees listen during WISLI professional development workshop
WISLI Professional Development Workshop, facilitated by Language Directions Specialist Lydia Odegard of the UW-Madison Language Institute.

Twenty students studying eight languages gathered at Memorial Union to learn how to network to pursue opportunities related to language interests, articulate transferable skills gained through language study, and describe language abilities along the job search. During the academic year, Lydia Odegard offers individual career advising and professional development programming for Badgers studying languages and multilingual students at UWMadison.

“Before coming here, I felt quite lost career-wise and was not sure where I should look for assistance,” said one Hindi language learner, commenting on the impact of the career fair. “I felt that the LCTL panel sessions and workshop were tremendously helpful. I have a lot more knowledge about what types of careers are open to me and how I can begin to explore them.”

Information about the 2024 LCTL Career Fair will be announced in Spring 2024.

WISLI is a part of the Language Program Office (LPO) in the International Division. View a list of major sponsors and partners for the 2023 LCTL Career Fair and the complete program with speaker bios.