ULEC History

Early beginnings

Among the social, civic, economic and moral issues (Boyer, 1996, p. 11) of the 1970s was the initiation of programs that reflected Canada’s new policy of multiculturalism. The Ukrainian community was eager to enact this policy and the U of A benefitted from being a leader in its enactment. Specifically, the establishment of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) in 1976 happened in the context of the advent and growth of federal and provincial policies on multiculturalism in Canada, as well as a response to the Ukrainian community’s concern about the policy of increasing Russification in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Leaders from the Ukrainian Canadian community advocated strongly for the implementation of legislation that recognized Canada as a multicultural country and society, in line with the recommendations made in 1963 by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism. The Commission was instructed to take into account contributions made to Canada by other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution (“Report of the royal,” 1970). This framework allowed Ukrainian Canadians to claim that governments have an obligation to support minority languages and cultures in public institutions (Petryshyn & Bilash, 2014). CIUS was created to advance Ukrainian Canadian studies, encourage studies about Ukraine, and support the teaching of Ukrainian in the Ukrainian(-English) Bilingual program (UBP) by producing bilingual teaching and student learning resources. ULEC was established in 1976 within CIUS to meet the needs of the UBP. Adapted after the French immersion experiment of Lambert in the late 1960s, the UBP was a pedagogic innovation that spread to other language groups across three provinces and yielded a network of professionals dedicated to Ukrainian language education.

Purposes. The vision for ULEC was established by CIUS’ first Director, Dr. Manoly R. Lupul: “Oversight of the bilingual program was an integral part of the “Detailed Proposal” for the institute” (Lupul, n.d., p. 45). How far this responsibility had to stretch was clear in Lupul’s (n.d.) mind, though not always easily accomplished: “Practically, oversight of the bilingual program meant that the institute’s role had to encompass much more than the teacher education discussed in the ‘Detailed Proposal’” (p. 45). It included servicing, expanding and sustaining the UBP as well as developing a library collection.

Processes. Lupul (n.d.) recognized the collaboration that would be required to provide security and support for the evolution of the UBP and set out to hold monthly meetings of all of the stakeholders, which he chaired: the Faculty of Education, including curriculum committees and School Book Branch, the school boards’ language supervisors and consultants, the teachers’ professional organization and the parents’ associations. He noted that establishing the relationships was very challenging because the teachers and public officials “did not always appreciate input from the academy – the proverbial ivory tower” (p. 45-46). ULEC’s first director Olenka Bilash followed up on all points discussed. Lupul and Bilash both recognized the need to integrate the UBP onto the agenda of all groups involved in language education, a network-embedded engagement, despite the fact that many of these responsibilities extended beyond what would normally have been considered the university’s mandate.

Lupul supported Bilash’s efforts to develop a full stream of access points for Ukrainian language learning and use for youth, especially for those from homes in which Ukrainian was not the primary language of communication: from Ukrainian language pre-schools to summer camps and immersion programs for high school students who resided outside of the city. This approach would be documented by Fishman over a decade later as strategies for prevention and revitalization of communities that had succumbed to language shift (Fishman, 1991, 2001) and reflects actions taken by Francophones hors de Québec to increase language use among youth (Moulun-Pasek, 2000). To this end the processes at work were also politically facilitated.

Products. In its early years, ULEC attempted to create five significant products, evidence of multilayered engagement: a Ukrainian Bilingual Resource Centre, a local network of language use projects for children in the UBP (discussed as multiple access points in the foregoing), a publication “Why Bilingual Education?” and a videotape that served to promote bilingual education and “assist in recruitment” (Lupul, n.d., p. 47), as well as the lobbying for a liberal approach to second language promotion at the university level. Efforts to create a coordinating body for UBP were not successful.

Originally known as the Ukrainian Bilingual Resource Centre in CIUS, ULEC in its early years (1976-80) focused on amassing all language learning resources available in the West. The centre was “designed to become the place in Canada where all the materials important to teaching Ukrainian at the pre-university level could be accessed by teachers and researchers” and housed a variety of print and audiovisual resources and teaching aids (Lupul, n.d., p. 46-47) gathered from collections in New York, New Jersey, Toronto and Edmonton, where the largest Ukrainian Book Store in the diaspora was located.

ES in these years tapped into the knowledge of academics to serve the community in new ways. It took the form of assisting the community in imagining new possibilities and the community responded to many of the initiatives, showing both demand-driven and network-embedded engagement. Parents eagerly supported summer camps for their children and worked hard to organize recruitment and advocacy meetings. In order to provide assistance with recruitments, “in February 1978 the institute published Why Bilingual Education? A well-researched brochure by Olenka Bilash; Osvita, a videotape also by her, followed.” Bilash utilized these and other resources to educate elected officials as well as parents, administrators and teachers, while travelling throughout Alberta and to Saskatchewan and Manitoba to explain and promote Ukrainian Bilingual education. Lupul also engaged additional academic staff in these efforts. Roman Petryshyn was involved in local recruitment efforts and Bohdan Medwidsky from the Slavic Department was seconded by CIUS to promote the program (Lupul, n.d., p. 47).

The Institute and rich resources of the university served, as Boyer (1996) would describe several decades later, “the most pressing social, civic, and ethical problems” of the era of introducing the new policy of multiculturalism (p. 32). Lupul was unrelenting in his vision for languages in this emerging policy. A member of the Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism, he also attempted to bring its tenets to the University of Alberta.

Arguments favouring multiculturalism addressed to bodies like the University of Alberta Senate invariably included languages (Lupul, n.d., p. 50). In January 1980, a Task Force on Second Languages at the University of Alberta, chaired by Joseph Kandler, was established. This committee prepared recommendations to the U of A and the government, one of which was to (re-)introduce the second-language entrance requirement. Despite this steady and strategic lobby, the Senate did not approve it. Later in 1982, the Senate, chaired by Peter Savaryn, who was determined to continue discussions on this matter, established a Progress Review Committee for Second Languages, which, albeit furthering its efforts towards second language instruction, remained unsuccessful well until the mid-1980s (Lupul, n.d., p. 50-52).

ULEC again attempted to play a coordinating role to ensure the UBP’s future through its early years by hosting monthly meetings of consultants from the local school boards, representatives of the provincial government’s Department of Education and the Faculty of Arts, school trustees, principals, teachers and community heritage language schools. While the exchange was beneficial and resulted in quick responses to needs expressed by teachers (e.g. constructing travelling libraries), the committee was short-lived as jurisdictions resisted any form of coordination, particularly from the U of A.

From 1977-1979, Lupul continued to invite a number of stakeholders for periodic meetings to “air and possibly resolve mutual problems.” To Lupul’s amazement, he discovered “how real or imagined bureaucratic restrictions, as well as personal feelings and mutual suspicions, could inhibit the sharing of information, despite the similarity of interests” (Lupul, n.d., p. 51). This jockeying for power led ULEC in the coming decades to expand its network-embedded practice, that of building relationships within the provincial government in order to stay abreast of changes in mandates, tapping into resources, and capturing opportunities. It would be almost two decades before these groups recognized the benefits of collaboration and united to create ULECON.

In its early years, ULEC began to build its network in ways that Bernardo et al. (2013) might consider as the university leading the community. Academics took cutting-edge ideas, informed community groups and co-participated in their enactment. The community participated knowing that these initiatives were shaping the next generation of its membership. This collective social capital led the charge to reconstruct the symbolic space of both the Ukrainian and other ethnic communities (Prokop, 2009).

the 1980s

In this decade, the universities heightened their recognition of an obligation to attend to public needs and assist community in solving their social problems. Derek Bok (1982), Harvard University President in the early 1980s, reconsidered basic academic values and questioned the emerging ethical and social responsibilities of universities. Specifically, Bok underscored the need for universities to re-evaluate their academic efforts with respect to social problems and relationships with society, and called for universities to be leaders in social reform, importantly through academic means (Bok, 1982).

Purposes. As noted above, ULEC was established at CIUS in response to the needs of the then newly created UBP, a demand-driven engagement of the 1970s. Even prior to the publication of Fishman’s Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale (1991), the Ukrainian community recognized the importance of establishing language programs in both the community and state/public institutions in order to keep the language (a crucial part of identity) alive by maximizing sites for development and use of professional domains of language for the youngest generations and future community leadership. By the 1980s, having progressed through several pilot stages, the Ukrainian-English program had become a prototype for publicly funded bilingual programs in seven other languages (Arabic, Chinese, Cree, German, Hebrew, Polish, and Spanish) in Alberta and spread to the other prairie provinces (Sokolowski, 2000). If the driving intellectual question of the 1970s focussed on overturning monolingual attitudes toward bi- and multi-lingual education, the focus for the 1980s turned toward the classroom and applying cutting-edge research to creating learning resources and offering teacher professional development, demonstrating applied ES. During the 1980s, the UBP became a permanent part of Alberta’s education system and university expertise was needed to attend to this community need. The recruitment challenge remained and new challenges emerged, including ones with the community language schools, which in Lupul’s (n.d.) view “functioned as alternatives to the bilingual classes,” instead of being supplementary, thus competing for enrollments with the UBP (p. 54-55). At this time political influence in the development of the network studied remained visible and required.

Processes. In the 1980s, ULEC became immersed in applied ES, that is learning resource development. Xenia Turko had written a set of readers and workbooks for the UBP, funded by a special grant from the provincial government. This basal approach to early literacy was more suited to first language speakers, and was not aligned with current bilingual literacy approaches. Further, Turko’s successor in the provincial government, John Sokolowski, and Bilash, who had moved on to establish a UBP, German bilingual program and French immersion program in a neighboring school jurisdiction, noted “the stacks” of materials for the French program and the paucity in the Ukrainian one. With Sokolowski’s guidance, Bilash undertook a feasibility study of a new Ukrainian-language development series, inspired by the French Méthode dynamique.

Products. In May 1983, “with the study completed, Bilash and Sokolowski approached CIUS, which they saw as a partial source of funding for a language series projected at $600,000. Such were the origins of what eventually came to be known as the institute’s ‘Nova Project’” (Lupul, n.d., p. 58). Lupul (n.d.) strongly supported the project, assisted with fundraising, albeit seeing the project as a very ambitious undertaking with a budget “prohibitively high and likely to increase” (p. 58). Interestingly, he also noted that in the 1980s, this project was seen as non-academic and “outside the institute’s scholarly mandate” (p. 58), an example of the challenges faced in the ES practices of the time. By the mid-1980s, Bilash had developed a complete draft of Nova 1-3 and by the end of the decade had collaborated with Kathy Sosnowski and Sokolowski to complete Nova 4-6. The publishing of these resources, as Lupul predicted, was an enormous financial undertaking, and despite the strong capital investment in Nova of the Ukrainian Professional and Business Association, the search for support to complete the language development series continued and continues. Financial challenges aside, results documenting the learning of Ukrainian through the Nova approach proved positive (Ewanyshyn, 1985).

Later in the decade, ULEC had two new directors. Andrij Hornjatkevyč completed the cataloguing of the children’s library collections and still later, Anna Biscoe (1987-1990) undertook the following: prepared and completed for piloting Nova 1, 2 and most of 3 materials, especially the illustrations; coordinated and carried out the piloting of Nova 1 with Bilash (Nova’s author) at Edmonton Public and Edmonton Catholic schools; and met with teachers and community members in Lamont and Vegreville to establish Alberta Parents for Ukrainian Education society, which provided opportunities for parents of students in the province’s varied Ukrainian programs. The successes were mirrored in Manitoba by Myron Spolsky, who assisted the emergence of Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education.

As Lupul (n.d.) has so carefully documented in his memoirs, ULEC’s activities and products fully integrated not only the creative linguistic and cultural knowledge, skills and talents of children of the then third and most recent wave of immigration from Ukraine, but also the political and financial capital of people like Peter Savaryn, Laurence Décor, Mary Lobay, Bill Pidruchney, members of the Ukrainian and Professional Business Association, and Lupul himself (p. 45-51). University expertise and intellectual capital meshed with political, financial and social capital from community organizations to sustain the applied and network-embedded ES, which, as many would write in later decades was, underappreciated (Boyer, 1990; Sandmann, 2008). In fact, Bilash’s emerging expertise as a language resource designer would be taken up by First Nations communities and publishers. As Simpson has noted, “Sometimes the very act of application leads to new insights, methods, policies, theories and practices that contribute directly to the scholarship of discovery and integration” (2000, p. 9).

the 1990s

The next few decades witnessed the continued thrust for parity in bilingual programming. ULEC leadership played an instrumental role in putting languages on the political agenda and in the integration of technology. In addition, in 1991, Ukraine gained its independence and this shifted many practices of the network. Specifically, independence not only allowed for the building of relationships with new educational stakeholders in Ukraine, but also led to reconsideration of various practices within the Ukrainian language education network under study.

Purposes. During the 1990s, the Ukrainian language education network might be considered as an early adopter of technological innovation of the time. ULEC director Marusia Petryshyn (1990-2013) vowed to complete a set of print and digital learning resources for K-12 students in the UBP. With Ukraine’s independence, new partnerships became available. Responding to the demands of the time, Petryshyn also strove to build capacity of teachers to become learning resource developers and facilitators of professional development for the Nova series.

Processes. Driven by intellectual questions about developing learning resources, Petryshyn actively sought funds to support the above projects and in so doing led ULEC into the international arena. With funding possibilities being tied to collaboration, ULEC partnered with government and a variety of community agencies across Canada and internationally (e.g. leading the demand-driven creation of the national Ukrainian Knowledge Internet Portal Consortium (UKiP-CA in the early 2000s) and working with a guild of children’s writers in Ukraine), showcasing demand-driven, applied and network-embedded engagement (whose network had now extended from local and provincial to national and international levels). Such initiatives also aligned with the rising focus on both technology and internationalization of universities (Sadlak, 2000; Morley, 2013).

Products. The 1990s were marked by responses to teacher-generated queries and demands for continued learning resource development: as extensive piloting of Nova 1-6 continued, teachers across the continent requested in-servicing on the Nova approach; teachers in junior-high requested learning resources for students and a draft proposal for Collage was born; queries on literacy practices led to research (Bilash, 1998; Bilash, 2002); inquiries about grammar in the whole language approach of Nova resulted in collaboration with linguists to explore grammar concurrences; and the long-term struggle to create high interest, low vocabulary texts for learners sparked projects with writers from Ukraine to generate more contemporary language use in the diaspora. New partnerships for a variety of digital products and teacher professional development projects with teachers in the broader diaspora (e.g. in Australia, England, Germany, Poland, Serbia, and the United States) were also cultivated.

As mentioned earlier, ULECON, a consortium of professionals in the education field, was established in 1997. This consortium brought and continues to bring together educational stakeholder groups whose mandate is to facilitate the formation of partnerships for carrying out mutually beneficial Ukrainian language projects. Membership includes ULEC, MLCS, Faculty of Education, Alberta’s Ministry of Education, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, and each school board offering Ukrainian language education.

Since its inception, the products of ULECON have been (a) Western Canadian Protocol Bilingual International Languages Programming Framework (in collaboration with Saskatchewan Education, Manitoba Education, Edmonton Public Schools, Alberta Education, 1998); (b) celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the UBP (1998-2000); (c) summer professional development institutes (1998, 2000); (d) Team Canada Trip to Ukraine for resource acquisition and investigation of teacher/student exchanges; (e) Building Community Conference (1998); (f) Ukrainian Language Arts Development Project (1999-2000); (g) International Languages Symposium (2000); (h) piloting of the Ukrainian Language Entrance Exam for Foreign Students (2005-06); (i) development of Ukrainian Language Arts Performance Assessment Tasks (grades 2-9) (2005-14); and (j) facilitation of school twinnings (since 2008). ULEC has played an instrumental role in keeping abreast of initiatives in language learning, seeking equitable opportunities for lesser used languages such as Ukrainian, and securing funding for such equity projects through government and community organizations, thus sustaining its applied and network-embedded practices. And because ULECON does not include parent groups or community schools, ULEC has created new liaisons with these groups, widening its local network.

The 1990s revealed that ULEC’s ES continued as demand-driven, applied and network-embedded with its network expanding and its reputation growing at all levels from local to international.

the 2000s

Purposes. Working with ULECON members and partners across eleven language groups in the province, the Ukrainian language education network began the new millennium by participating actively in Alberta’s attempt to see a second language become a compulsory part of a student’s education in the province (2001-2006). However, in February 2006, then Education Minister Gene Zwozdesky reported that “10 of Alberta’s 62 school boards, mainly serving rural areas, are not ready to offer the language programming and to push ahead would be a mistake” (The Edmonton Journal, B1, February 26, 2006). A few months later, in reaction to resistance and uncertainty throughout the province, he announced that the language initiative had been indefinitely postponed.

Meanwhile, Petryshyn’s leadership continued into another decade of print and online learning resource development, research related to learning resource development (Bilash, 2005; Bilash, 2007; Bilash & Shyyan, 2015), collaboration, fund raising for resource development and digitization projects, a UBP high school graduation recognition project, and securing a consultant from Ukraine in Alberta Education (akin to the consultants from China, Germany, Japan and Spain who were sponsored by their governments to support language learning). With K-12 learning resources underway and an applied linguist at the post-secondary level secured in MLCS, ULEC was now able to give needed consideration to high school credentials and university level learning resources. Attention to enrollment issues was addressed by attempts to have the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (Alberta Provincial Council) coordinate parental and other groups involved in advocacy and promotion of the UBP. On the civic front, ULEC also contributed significantly to another effort to bring second language learning to the public agenda (Huculak, Kastelan-Sikora, & Bilash, 2008). However, the biggest challenge was perhaps responding to the revised mission of the University of Alberta, a part of the globalizing and standardizing process of aiming to become more research-focused institutes (Sadlak, 2008; “Dare to discover”).

Processes. Since its inception, ULEC, in Boyer’s terms (1996) has had an obligation to be “vigorously engaged in the issues of [its] day” (p. 28). In the 2000s, the centre continued its ES through collaboration with community organizations at various levels to keep approaches to language learning and language use on the cutting edge of practice. As European languages began to create international exams for fuller participation in the multilingual European Union, and such exams were available to Canadian high school students (e.g. Delf in French or Dele in Spanish), ULEC facilitated a partnership with Ukraine’s L’viv University to offer a similar international exam for high school students in the UBP. Those students who achieved a score of over 80% qualified to study at the university level in Ukraine.

Among its many projects, the field of online communication was a focus in the work of both ULEC-CIUS and MacEwan University’s Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre (URDC) who had collaborated on advancing multi-modal online communications with Alberta Learning, UKiP-CA and the high school series Bud’mo for the UBP, thus reaching children, teachers and parents of the UBP across Canada, as Lupul had envisioned in the 1970s. In addition, ULEC’s collaborative networks brought technology into the fore in the early 2000s with the establishment of a portal and an interactive animated website to teach language learning strategy use (oomRoom).

Products. With respect to post-secondary education, in its early years as noted above, ULEC lobbied for a liberal approach to second language promotion. However, the development of products for post-secondary Ukrainian language and culture education were not in the focus of the ES practices of the Ukrainian network until the first decade of 2000s.11 In the early 1990s (continuing to present), resource development for teaching and learning Ukrainian at the post-secondary level was carried out by individual professors Andrij Hornjatkevyč, Natalia Pylypiuk and Oleh Ilnytzkyj in MLCS, joined in 1999 by Alla Nedashkivska.

During the second decade of the 2000s, ULEC broadened its scope of ES, casting its net into the process of developing resources and support for post-secondary Ukrainian education, thus widening its applied focus. Currently, in collaboration with faculty and graduate students from MLCS, two resource development projects are being carried out: an online textbook for Business Ukrainian (Nedashkivska, 2014c), including related research (Nedashkivska, 2014a, b), and Blended-learning resources for teaching and learning beginners’ Ukrainian, a model that combines traditional in-class instruction with an online component (Nedashkivska, Sivachenko, & Perets, 2014). Both are contributions to the growing field of computer-assisted learning and instruction of foreign languages (CALI). Furthermore, Nedashkivska was becoming sought after for her expertise in blended learning across campus. More recently, ULEC has continued to promote CALI by offering workshops to UBP teachers on utilizing technology and posting strategies on its Facebook page so as to be accessible across the country and beyond, thus strengthening its network at several levels.

Source: Nedashkivska, A. & Bilash. O. (2015). Ukrainian language education network: A case of engaged scholarship. Building Engaged Scholarship in Canada, 1(1), 107-131 p.