Assist. Prof. Erin Papa Earns Advocacy Award and Gov’t Citation

Erin Papa

She’s been a “tireless advocate for language programs, students and teachers in Rhode Island.”

Erin Papa, assistant professor of world languages education, was awarded the 2024 Rhode Island for Languages Association (RIFLA) Norma Garnett Advocacy Award for advocating for the development and betterment of world language study.

She also received a citation at the R.I. State House from Rep. David Morales on Multilingual Education Advocacy Day (April 9) for intensely working on policies to expand support for multilingual education in the state.

Papa is described by RIFLA as a “tireless advocate for language programs, students and teachers in Rhode Island. She has worked closely with policy makers and educators to implement early language programs and has been instrumental in multiple legislative initiatives, including the Seal of Biliteracy, World Languages Standards adoption and immersion program expansion.”

Professor of Modern Languages Silvia Oliveira notes that six years ago when Papa was hired to teach at Rhode Island College, “she was asked to build a world languages education program from the ashes. Today, that program is thriving.”

“Her expertise in the intersections of language, race, (im)migration status, heritage language education, and language education policy and planning has been applied in her work and documented in her research on Guatemalan and Cambodian communities of Rhode Island,” says Oliveira. “Her research focus on human capital in multilingual communities in relation to the (im)migration experience of Rhode Island youth is deeply humanistic and inspiring to her students and her peers.”

At RIC, she has been steadfastly advancing the narrative on multilingualism. Last year she led Rhode Island educators on an immersive professional development experience in Guatemala. Since then, she has been co-organizing, with Oliveira, a series of symposia.

In 2023 they presented “Spotlight on Multilingualism,” with speakers from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., Brown University’s Education Department, Rhode Island legislators and community leaders.

In 2024 they presented the “World Languages for All Symposium,” with speakers from California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Rhode Island who focused on heritage and neurodiverse language learners.

Papa and Oliveira also advocated for hosting the annual fall conference of RIFLA at RIC. In attendance were over 150 local teachers, many of whom are RIC alumni.

In the community, across cultural and linguistic groups of Rhode Island, she has been engaged in transformative work with the Coalition for a Multilingual Rhode Island, an organization she co-founded and directs through which policy, advocacy and education work is done.

For all of this, and more, Rhode Island College and the State of Rhode Island thank Dr. Erin Papa for designing and implementing sound multilingual education policy for the betterment of multilingual communities and the state.

Also see: “R.I. Educators Travel to Their Students’ Native Guatemala, Led by RIC Professor

Bilingual Education for All in Rhode Island: Assuring the Inclusion of Minoritized Language,” by Erin Papa  

Revealing the Resistant Capital of Cambodian Youth,” by Erin Papa