Alumni, community to discuss benefits of language learning

UO language experts, current students, and staff will join eight speakers as part of the Alumni Roundtable on Career Benefits of Language Learning on Thursday, March 31, at Gerlinger Ballroom, 4-5:30 pm.

The event is organized by the UO Language Council, in collaboration with the UO Alumni Association and Global Studies Institute.

According to Jeff Magoto, director of the Yamada Language Center and a longtime advocate of language learning at the UO, the event is meant to help dispel many myths associated with language learning (most students take a language to fulfill a requirement, language learning is hard, classroom learning doesn’t prepare you to work in that language) and move the conversation toward one that better matches the realities of many graduates.

“We've invited a distinguished group of UO alums to help us start a new conversation. They come from many backgrounds. Most were not language majors. Most don’t work in academia,” notes Magoto. “But all of them epitomize an essential fact of modern life: they live and work in different places, and language is at the intersection of what they do, who they interact with, and how they participate in their communities.”

The roundtable’s keynote speaker will be incoming UOF Board President Jim Shephard ‘80, and Romance Languages alumnus. He will be joined by seven alumni who found the study of languages critical to their successful careers in business, diplomacy, and law.

Among the language-learning advocates at the roundtable is Eric Benjaminson ’81, former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe. Originally from Brownsville, Oregon, he is a UO alumnus, graduating from the Clark Honors College in 1981 with a degree in history. Benjaminson is currently the executive director of the Gabon-Oregon Center. He is fluent in French. But in the past few months has begun learning a new language, Russian.

“A lot of things have changed over time, but knowing how to speak to others has never been more important in society,” says Benjaminson. “Knowing another language truly helps you to understand the world from a different view—the mental framework of others.”

Other roundtable participants include Don Klotter ‘86, German speaker, Principal at Mazama Capital Management; Kayla ‘Chas’ Cassidy ‘14, Russian speaker, UO University Archives and PhD candidate at Northwestern; John Patton, Spanish speaker, Board Chair at Cadence Management Corporation; Sarah Rubin Greene ’04, German speaker, Attorney at Law; Michael Vergamini ’99, Spanish speaker, Attorney at Law; and Hassan Shiban ‘10, Arabic speaker, now at International Refugee Assistance Project.

List of Roundtable Participants:

Eric Benjaminson ‘81
French, former U.S. Ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe

Kayla ‘Chas’ Cassidy ‘14
Russian, UO University Archives and PhD candidate at Northwestern

Don Klotter ‘86
German, Managing Director at EFG Asset Management

John R. Patton ‘66
Spanish, Cadence Management Corporation

Sarah Rubin ‘04 (by Skype)
German, Attorney at Law

Jim Shephard, ‘80
Humanities, Incoming UO Foundation Board President 

Hassan Shiban ’10 (via video)
Arabic, International Refugee Assistance Project

Michael Vergamini ’99
Spanish, Attorney at Law

At the UO, students have access to academic courses for 23 languages (16 modern and classical languages, and additional instruction for 6 others). Through the Yamada Language Center (YLC), students, faculty, and staff can join the Selfstudy Language Program, for the study of less commonly taught languages—if three or more students suggest a language, YLC finds a qualified tutor and coordinates a study program.

The UO Language Council is a group of more than 60 language instructors, students, and allied administrators that support and promote the study of languages on campus. Find out what new language you can learn and how to speak to the world at