Slavic languages professor is 2019 Walton Award recipient

April 9, 2019

Voices speaking in dozens of languages ring out, offering their appreciation: “Čestitam" (Slovenian). "Gratuluję” (Polish). "Поздравляю" (Russian).

This chorus of congratulations is what Danko Šipka will hear when he accepts the 2019 Walton Award this month from the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages for his service and contributions to the fostering of less commonly taught language initiatives. Šipka is a professor of Slavic languages and head of the German, Slavic and Romanian faculty at Arizona State University, where he teaches Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Polish and Slavic linguistics in the School of International Letters and Cultures. ASU Professor Danko Šipka stands in his office on campus. He has silvery hair and broad smile, but isn't showing teeth. He is wearing a pale blue dress shirt, red tie and black suit coat. Danko Šipka is the recipient of the 2019 Walton Award from the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages. Photo courtesy of Danko Šipka Download Full Image

The Walton Award will be handed out at the council’s annual conference, taking place in Atlanta on April 26-28. Awarded since 2000, it honors the late professor A. Ronald Walton, who was known for his promotion of less commonly taught languages. Šipka was nominated by Alwiya Omar, a professor at the University of Indiana and a previous recipient of the award.

“I was genuinely surprised when I heard about it — people always say that and rarely mean it, but in my case, it was true,” Šipka said. “Once my astonishment subsided, I felt honor to be in a group of previous awardees who have been significantly advancing the study and teaching of less commonly taught languages. I also felt pleasure that my work in the field was seen as worth recognizing.”

Šipka has published over 30 books and more than 150 articles, essays and reviews during his career. For the past 12 years, he has served as the editor of the Journal of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages. Šipka is also a certified interpreter for the IRS, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security and has served as a senior linguist and consultant to multiple language-industry companies.

He applauded ASU for leading the way for other universities by offering courses in a variety of less commonly taught languages, which he described as a “cornerstone of community embeddedness.”

“I particularly enjoy seeing language skills as an important element of our student success — from conducting advanced research in the countries where these languages are spoken to serving in government agencies like the State Department to engaging NGO projects and international organizations,” Šipka said. “At the same time, the programs build strong ties with heritage communities in Arizona — languages that I teach feature very strongly in such communities that were formed in several waves of immigration ever since the late 19th century.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

Most diverse ASU freshman class wraps up first year

April 9, 2019

Sun Devils enrolled in the largest and most diverse Arizona State University class are finishing their first year, and their demographics forecast a changing higher education landscape within Arizona.

Among the class of 2022, 45.5% are from minority backgrounds, and 62% are from Arizona. Of the first-year students from Arizona, 54% are from an underrepresented group. ASU AVID high school conference 2019 Students at the 2019 AVID conference at ASU's Tempe campus. AVID is one of many K–12 programs and initiatives at ASU. Download Full Image

Arizona currently lags behind other states in the number of adults earning postsecondary degrees or credentials, and the fastest-growing population in Arizona — Latinos — are underrepresented in higher education.

According to the Helios Foundation, 20% of Latino Arizonans earn an associate degree or higher. Since Arizona will soon be a “minority-majority” state, with the Latino population projected to show the most growth, the gaps in access to higher education are becoming an even more urgent problem to address.

Advancing the freshman class at ASU represents a step toward some of the ambitious inclusion and community goals of ASU’s charter. The college readiness and outreach work of Access ASU and community partnerships reach students across the state and in many different ways: in classrooms, at on-campus programs and when students are enrolled at ASU.

Carolina Solis is part of the current, historic freshman class, and she’s also working to expand higher education access to underrepresented Arizonans. An accountancy major from Yuma, Solis has loved being among high-achieving students within the Leaders Academy, an initiative of the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU.

Solis said she especially appreciates the leadership opportunities provided to program participants and being surrounded by motivated peers.

“I am surrounded by students who want to do well in school and want to pursue great careers,” said Solis, who plans to pursue forensic accounting.

Her feeling of belonging was enhanced even more when she started working for Access ASU and realized the diversity of the populations the office serves. Solis is a summer programs mentor who works with the Barrett Summer Scholars, a residential program that provides academically talented eighth-10th grade students with the opportunity to experience college firsthand and prepare for successful enrollment. She also serves as a resource to Barrett Summer Scholars program alumni as they complete their journey from high school to college.

As a Latina from Yuma, Solis said she appreciates working in an atmosphere that seeks to include underrepresented and rural students from all corners of Arizona.

“I found my people, in other words, at work,” she said.

Access ASU programs have been more intentionally focused in places like Yuma, hosting in-school programs such as American Dream Academy, an eight-week college literacy program, as well as bringing current ASU students from the SPARKS program to Yuma to provide outreach to K–12 students for the past three years. ASU Prep Digital has also worked with the Yuma Union High School District on an adaptive math curriculum to support students’ academic growth.

Efforts like this are all part of building up degree attainment for rural and underrepresented Arizonans and opening up access to higher education.

“Ultimately we are focused on growing the K–12 student population in Arizona who are prepared to enter and succeed at ASU,” said Lorenzo Chavez, assistant vice president for outreach within Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU.  

“We are focused on making access to education a priority for all students, and we are committed to helping them succeed once they get here to the university.”

Chavez said ASU’s K–12 programs and initiatives have served nearly 127,000 students, families and educators to date with plans for continued growth, thereby positioning the class of 2023 and beyond to be the biggest and brightest classes in ASU history.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services