UI to establish translation and global literacy center with over $1 million

The center develops translation and global literacy skills of students, educators, and community members in Iowa City and beyond.


Grace Kreber

Aron Aji, Director of MFA in Literary Translation at the University of Iowa poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

Colin Votzmeyer

A new center at the University of Iowa will promote translation and global literacy across the undergraduate curriculum and overall research.

The UI was granted more than $1 million to establish a National Resource Center for Translation and Global Literacy.

In August, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the UI’s translation program a four-year grant of more than $1 million to establish programs and outreach for the center.

Aron Aji, director of MFA in Literary Translation and UI associate professor of instruction, is the faculty director of the center. He said the UI was selected after submitting a project proposal.

Aji said he believes the UI is deserving because of its long history of consistency and prestige in translation work and education.

“The University of Iowa has had a very long history of teaching and training in translation,” Aji said. “We were able to present ourselves for who we are, meaning a place that has an interdisciplinary community dedicated to translation and global education.”

While the center will receive $260,000 every year for the four years, Aji said he wants to keep advancing its initiatives.

“The goal is for the center to exist in perpetuity,” Aji said. “What that means is we will have to secure its future by either fundraising or continuing to seek grant support from elsewhere, private or public.”

The center will eventually have a physical space, but Aji said the project is more than a building.

“Usually when we are talking about a center, we really are talking about an intellectual and collaborative undertaking,” Aji said.

Aji said the center will train students to foster intercultural understanding and communication, practice critical inquiry and creativity to advocate for social justice, and encourage global encouragement and collaboration.

The center will not focus only on the UI and its programs. It will also include a theater library available internationally for plays to be translated and performed in other countries, and collaboration with other universities across the U.S. and overseas, he said.

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“Because translation is fundamental to all things global … that’s why we have called the center ‘Translation and Global Literacy,’” Aji said.

Pamela Wesely, UI College of Education dean, said she works with the center’s outreach outside of the university.

She said the center will collaborate with K-12 world language teachers, translators and interpreters, counselors, multilingual high school students, and immigrant and migrant families who do not speak English.

“Collaboration is a big part of translation,” Wesely said. “[It’s] the idea of literally working with other people to translate across barriers. Those could be linguistic barriers or other types of cultural [and] political barriers.”

Iowa City’s diverse community also made the UI a great fit for the center, she said.

“So having this center here, we’re going to be … building some new connections and some new bridges with communities in Iowa City, in the state of Iowa, and obviously in our intellectual community and our scholarly community at the University of Iowa,” Wesely said.