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Home > America’s Languages: Invest... > Commissioner Biographies
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America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century

Commissioner Biographies

Chair of the Commission on Language Learning

Paul LeClerc was named Director of the Columbia Global Center-Paris, in the fall of 2012. His previous positions include President and CEO of the New York Public Library, President and CEO of Hunter College, Provost of Baruch College, Acting Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, and University Dean of Academic Affairs of CUNY. A scholar specializing in Voltaire and the French Enlightenment and former tenured Professor of French at Hunter, Baruch, and Union Colleges, he is the author, editor, or coeditor of five scholarly volumes. President Clinton named him to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and he has been decorated by the governments of France and Spain. He currently serves as a Trustee of the J. Paul Getty Trust and Teachers College, Columbia University, and is a member of the Conseil Scientifique of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. He is a past Trustee of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Voltaire Foundation, the New York Public Library, the American Academy in Rome, the National Book Foundation, and other nonprofit organizations. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2001.


Commission Members

Martha G. Abbott is the Executive Director for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Her career began in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, where she was a language teacher, a foreign language coordinator, and Director of High School Instruction. She has served on national committees to develop student standards, beginning teacher standards, and performance assessments in languages. She has held leadership positions at the national, regional, and state levels, and was named President of the ACTFL in 2003. She has been active as an advocate for language programs, serving as Cochair of the national public awareness campaign entitled 2005: The Year of Languages, and now heading up the ACTFL’s Lead with Languages campaign, which will launch in 2017. She has received numerous awards recognizing her contributions to the language profession, including the Florence Steiner Award for Leadership and an American Classical League Merita Award. In 2016, she was appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Security Education Board.

Mark Aronoff is Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at Stony Brook University. He has also served as Associate and Deputy Provost at Stony Brook. He is the founding Chair of the Committee on Language in the schools of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), a former Editor of Language, the Journal of the Linguistic Society of America, and a past President and current Fellow of the LSA. His recent research has included projects on the nature of morphological stems and roots, sign language, and stem ordering. He is also a member of a team currently studying Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language. He has written or cowritten five books, including Contemporary Linguistics (2000) and What is Morphology? (2005), and has published over thirty scholarly papers. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013.

Jessie “little doe” Baird is the Cofounder and volunteer Linguistic Director of the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. She is also the Vice Chairwoman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council and a member of the Wampanoag Women’s Medicine Society. Trained as a linguist, she has written an introduction to the grammar of the Wôpanâak language, which she is working to turn into a complete grammar, and is creating a dictionary for the language. She is a former National Science Foundation Documenting Endangered Languages Fellow, a 2010 MacArthur Grant Fellow, and a member of the American Antiquarian Society. She has also served as a Commissioner on the Mashpee Housing Authority, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Tribal Council Board of Directors, and a member of the Enrollment Committee for the tribe. She is currently the Linguist for Mukayuhsak Weekuw, a newly developed private immersion preschool for the Wôpanâak language.

David Chu is President of the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). IDA is a nonprofit corporation operating in the public interest. Its three federally funded research and development centers provide objective analyses of national security issues and related national challenges, particularly those requiring extraordinary scientific and technical expertise. He served in the Department of Defense as Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness from 2001 to 2009 and as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Director for Program Analysis and Evaluation from 1981 to 1993. From 1978 to 1981, he was the Assistant Director of the Congressional Budget Office for National Security and International Affairs. He served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1970. He was an Economist with the RAND Corporation from 1970 to 1978, Director of RAND’s Washington Office from 1994 to 1998, and Vice President for its Army Research Division from 1998 to 2001. He is a member of the Defense Science Board and a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He is a recipient of the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service with Gold Palm.

Dan E. Davidson is President and Cofounder of American Councils for International Education and Professor of Russian and Second Language Acquisition on the Myra T. Cooley Lectureship, at Bryn Mawr College. He has authored or edited over forty books and has written over sixty scholarly articles in the areas of language, culture, and language acquisition. He has previously served as Cochair for the Transformation of the Humanities and Social Sciences Initiative in Russia, sponsored by the Soros Foundations; Chair of the Alliance for International Exchange; President of the Joint National Committee for Languages, for which he serves as a member of the Executive Committee; and Vice President of the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature. He is currently the Cochair of the Working Groups on University-Based Innovation of the U.S.-Poland (PLUS-IP) and U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commissions on Innovation, and is immediate past Chair of the College Board World Languages Academic Advisory Committee. He is an elected foreign member of the Russian and Ukrainian Academies of Education.

Nicholas B. Dirks is Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. He served as Executive Vice President and Dean of the Faculty at Columbia University, where, in addition to his work on behalf of undergraduate programs, he improved and diversified the faculty, putting special emphasis on interdisciplinary and international initiatives. He also served as Chair of the Anthropology Department at Columbia. Prior to his appointment at Columbia, he was Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of several books on South Asian history and culture and the impact of British colonial rule, including The Hollow Crown: Ethnohistory of an Indian Kingdom (1987), Castes of Mind (2007), and Scandal of Empire (2008). In 2015, he published a new volume of essays on a wide range of topics, entitled Autobiography of an Archive. His current projects concern the last years of British rule in India and the growing role of the United States in South Asia, as well as the global and technological environment for higher education in the century ahead. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014.

Brian T. Edwards is the Crown Professor in Middle East Studies and Professor of English, Comparative Literary Studies, and American Studies at Northwestern University. He is also the founding Director of Northwestern University’s Program in Middle East and North African Studies, which offers an interdisciplinary undergraduate major, a Ph.D. certificate, and courses in Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish languages. His interests lie in American culture and its global context, especially in the Middle East. His publications include two books, Morocco Bound: Disorienting America’s Maghreb from Casablanca to the Marrakech Express (2005) and After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East (2016); two edited collections, Globalizing American Studies (2010) and On the Ground: New Directions in Middle East and North African Studies (2013); and essays, articles, and op-eds in a range of both scholarly and mainstream publications, including Salon, Public Culture, Foreign Policy, Chicago Tribune, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He was a Fulbright Fellow to Morocco and Fulbright Senior Scholar to both Egypt and Italy. He was named a 2005 Carnegie Scholar and was a 2008–2009 recipient of a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In 2013, he was named an Emerging Leader by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. In that capacity, he was lead author on a white paper published in 2015 by the Council entitled “Teaching Arabic in Our Schools: Globalizing Education for Chicago’s Next Generation.” He is Chair of the Chicago Arabic Teachers’ Council, funded by a grant from the Qatar Foundation, which serves the more than 250 Arabic teachers in Chicagoland by building relationships between and providing resources to Arabic language instructors, school administrators, and education professionals.

Karl Eikenberry is the Oksenberg-Rohlen Fellow and Director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative at Stanford University’s Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and had a thirty-five-year career in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant General. His military assignments included postings with operational units in the continental United States, Hawaii, Korea, Italy, and Afghanistan, the latter as the Commander of the American-led Coalition forces from 2005 to 2007. He earned an Interpreter’s Certificate in Mandarin Chinese from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office while studying at the British Ministry of Defence Chinese Language School in Hong Kong. He is a board member of the Asia Foundation and council member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. His essays on U.S. and international security issues have appeared in Foreign Affairs, Washington Quarterly, American Foreign Policy Interests, American Interest, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and Financial Times. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012 and is Codirector of the Academy project “Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses.”

Rosemary G. Feal has served as Executive Director of the Modern Language Association of America since 2002. She is General Editor of the Association’s publishing and research programs and editor of two MLA publications. She also serves as an ex officio member of all committees and Commissions of the Association. She is on leave from her position as Professor of Spanish at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, where she was Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. From 1987 to 1998, she was a member of the faculty at the University of Rochester. A member and a past Vice President of the Board of Directors of the National Humanities Alliance, she also served on the Board of Directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. Coeditor of the SUNY Series in Latin American Iberian Thought and Culture, she is also Associate Editor of the Afro-Hispanic Review and former Senior Consulting Editor of the Latin American Literary Review. Her own publications include Isabel Allende Today; Painting on the Page: Interartistic Approaches to Modern Hispanic Texts (1995) and Novel Lives: The Fictional Autobiographies of Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Mario Vargas Llosa (1986). She was a 2011 to 2012 American Council on Education Fellow at the Five Colleges, Incorporated.

Carol Gluck is the George Sansom Professor of History at Columbia University. She specializes in modern Japan (from the late nineteenth century to the present), international relations, World War II, and history writing and public memory in Asia and the West. Her publications include Japan’s Modern Myths (1985), Showa: The Japan of Hirohito (1992), Asia in Western and World History (coedited with Ainslee Embree, 1997), Words in Motion (coedited with Anna Tsing, 2009), Thinking with the Past: Japan and Modern History (2017), Past Obsessions: World War Two in History and Memory (forthcoming), as well as several books in Japanese, including Rekishi de kangaeru [Thinking with History] (2007) and Shisoshi toshite no gendai Nihon [Thought and Society in Contemporary Japan] (2016). She is the Chair of Columbia’s Committee on Global Thought, Cochair of the Trustees Emeriti of the Asia Society, a member of the Board of Directors of the Japan Society, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991.

Nancy McEldowney was appointed as Director of the Foreign Service Institute in February 2013. In this role, she serves as the Chief Learning Officer for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. government foreign affairs community. Previously, she served as President and Senior Vice President of the National Defense University. She has also served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and at the White House as Director of European Affairs on the National Security Council Staff. Overseas, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria and as Chargé and Deputy Chief of Mission in Turkey and Azerbaijan. She has been granted the State Department’s Superior Honor Award on five occasions. She is also the recipient of the Sinclair Linguistic Award and of the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s Joint Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

Philip Rubin is the Chief Executive Officer Emeritus and former Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratories, where he currently serves as Senior Advisor to the President. Haskins is a private, nonprofit research institute affiliated with Yale University and the University of Connecticut that has a primary focus on the science of the spoken and written word, including speech, language, and reading. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Surgery, Otolaryngology, at the Yale University School of Medicine, a Research Affiliate in the Department of Psychology at Yale, and a Fellow at Yale’s Trumbull College. He served as the Principal Assistant Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, where he was also the Assistant Director for social, behavioral, and economic sciences, and led the White House neuroscience initiative. He has served as the Chair or Cochair of the National Academies Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences, the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Science, the National Research Council Committee on Field Evaluation of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences-Based Methods and Tools for Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, and the Common Rule Modernization Working Group. He has been a member-at-large of the Executive Committee of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral & Brain Sciences and Chairman of the Board of the Discovery Museum and Planetarium in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Acoustical Society of America, the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Linguistic Society of America, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and an elected member of the National Academy of Public Administration and the Psychonomic Society.

Rubén G. Rumbaut is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, with research focusing on issues of international migration, refugees, and modes of immigrant incorporation. Since 1991, he has directed, with Alejandro Portes, the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study. In the 1980s, he studied the resettlement of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian refugees; in the 1990s, he directed the National Survey of Immigration Scholars in the United States; and in the 2000s, he led the Immigration and Intergenerational Mobility in Metropolitan Los Angeles study. He has authored over two hundred scholarly articles, and coauthored or coedited eighteen books and special issues, including Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation (2001), which won the Distinguished Book Award of the American Sociological Association as well as the Thomas and Znaniecki Award for best book in the immigration field. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Education, and the recipient of the Distinguished Career Award from the American Sociological Association International Migration Section. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2015.

Marta Tienda is the Maurice P. During ’22 Professor of Demographic Studies and Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She is also the former Director of the Office of Population Research and past President of the Population Association of America. Her current research focuses on the lifecycle timing of migration and its effects on adolescent romantic relationships for emotional and physical well-being. She has authored over two hundred articles and book chapters about racial and ethnic inequality in the United States, international migration, access to higher education, and family structure differences. She served on the White House Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and the Research Advisory Committee of the American Education Research Association. Currently she serves on the Board of the Population Reference Bureau, and is a Trustee of the Teachers Insurance Annuity Association, the Jacobs Foundation of Switzerland, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She is a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences and the National Academy of Education, and is a former Guggenheim Fellow. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.

Kenneth L. Wallach is Executive Chairman and former Chief Executive Officer (1998–2014) of Central National Gottesman, Inc., a privately owned global pulp and paper distribution company. He and his wife have been involved in philanthropic activities at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University since its founding in 2000, as well as with various organizations in the New York City community. He serves as a Trustee and member of the Executive Committee of the American Museum of Natural History, as Director of the National Book Foundation (sponsor of the National Book Award) and Chair of its Investment Committee, and as Director and member of the Executive Committee of the 92nd St. Y, a nonprofit cultural and community center. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Harvard Committee on University Resources, and the Executive Committee for the Harvard University Capital Campaign. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

Diane P. Wood is the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Prior to her judicial appointment in 1995, she was the Green Professor of International Legal Studies at the University of Chicago Law School, where she also served as Associate Dean from 1989 to 1992. From 1993 to 1995, she was Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. She clerked for Judge Irving L. Goldberg of the Fifth Circuit and for Justice Harry Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court. She currently sits on the Council of the American Law Institute and serves on the Board of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, an organization devoted to teaching elementary and secondary school students about the U.S. legal system. From 2007 to 2013, she served as a member of the Judicial Conference’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. She is a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004, and is Chair of the Council, Vice Chair of the Board, and an ex officio member of the Trust.

Pauline Yu became President of the American Council of Learned Societies in 2003, having served for ten years as Dean of Humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her publications have focused on classical Chinese poetry, literary theory, comparative poetics, and issues in the humanities. She serves on the board of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Humanities Center, the Scholars’ Council of the Library of Congress, the American Academy in Berlin, the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, and the Henry Luce, Robert H. N. Ho Family, and Teagle Foundations, among others. She is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the Committee of 100. She became a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998.