Cal Poly Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence                                                                                                             

California Polytechnic University (Cal Poly) - San Luis Obispo University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence (USBCC) is a digital badge that Cal Poly students can earn through participating in a cultural and linguistic immersion experience, and demonstrating Working Proficiency through standardized testing that covers reading, writing, listening, and speaking in a language other than English. Cal Poly’s USBCC is a standardized measurement of biliteracy skills and is open to all students who meet the requirements, regardless of their pathways to proficiency in their languages.

As an aspiring and emerging HSI, Cal Poly launched its USBCC in Spanish in Fall 2022 to value and honor the language spoken by many in California. The USBCC was made possible through the work of Dr. Stacy Nyikos and Dr. Karen Munoz-Christian, as well as the support of Assistant Vice Provost of International Programs Cari Vanderkar and Dean Damon Fleming of the Orfalea College of Business.

We are grateful to our colleagues in the Cal Poly World Languages Department for their support in funding that have made the initial launch of this program a success.

In the future, we want to celebrate Cal Poly’s multicultural location, student diversity, and university-wide dedication to global education by expanding this opportunity to include additional languages and majors, international and exchange students, and graduate students.

Interested in obtaining a University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence? Please complete our Interest Form!


Speaking/Writing Workshops

• AVANT test workshop recording with Dr. Karen Muñoz-Christian

AVANT Zoom Recording Link

Passcode: cs7sT+JY

Proficiency Exam

• The AVANT exam, required for the University Global Seal of Biliteracy is an individual, proctored exam with four sections, covering reading, writing, listening and speaking.

• Each Fall quarter, the details of the exam will be covered in an orientation meeting for students who have applied to obtain the USBCC. Exams are currently offered exclusively in person. We may add a remote proctoring option in the future.

• It is important to note that the exam will evaluate the level of each student’s proficiency in each of the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking, and students must obtain Working Proficiency or higher (7 or higher) in ALL 4 categories in order to obtain the Seal.

• Following the University Seal of Biliteracy orientation each semester, all USBCC applicants take a practice exam and based upon their scores will be invited to attend Practice Seminars at Cal Poly where they are able to practice their language and identify the areas where they need additional support prior to the exam.

• Finally, each applicant is responsible for signing up to take the Proficiency exam prior to the assigned deadline in Spring quarter.

• Exam results are reported to the Cal Poly USBCC executive chairs. Students who do not meet the minimum Working Proficiency level in one or more of the four areas will be notified about the areas in need of improvement and given the option to re-test. Student re-testing exam fees must be covered by the student.

Cultural and Linguistic Immersion

The University Global Seal of Biliteracy is not just about the language, but about holistic bilingualism and the interconnection between language and culture.

• Some students will already have participated in a study, intern or research abroad experience, which fulfills the requirement. However, it is important to highlight that this is NOT the only way to gain an understanding of the language’s cultural context, and this opportunity is open to students who have not participated in a traditional study abroad program.

• Examples of other ways to meet this requirement for our inaugural Spanish cohort include taking and participating in a virtual course or internship in a Spanish-speaking country or another departmentally-based project focused on the cultural context of Spanish.

• Students applying to obtain their University Seal of Biliteracy and Cultural Competence should be prepared to describe their immersion experience and articulate how it has contributed to their understanding of and proficiency in the language.

• To complete the USBCC, students must write a four-page paper in the Target Language about their immersive experience and submit for review before the assigned deadline in Spring quarter.

Virtual Immersion Experience

• For students interested in completing the Seal but who do not have plans to study abroad or a ready Cultural Immersion experience, Cal Poly USBCC has created the Foreign Language Film Series. The series consists of three films, screened over the course of the academic year, with Zoom discussions with students in Spanish-speaking countries. Whenever possible, these students are from the country in which the film was made.

• For instance, for the 2022-23 pilot program, we screened and discussed films set in Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, including discussions with film directors and actors.

Inaugural Cohort

• Application to obtain the inaugural Cal Poly University Global Seal of Biliteracy in 2022 was open to current Cal Poly students who were part of TRIO SSS, the Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs M.S. Program, the School of Business, Spanish minors and students who had recently returned from Study Abroad programs in Spanish-speaking countries.

• Whether they were spring, summer or fall 2021 graduates, they needed to be prepared to take the proficiency exam in Fall 2022 and demonstrate participation in a cultural and linguistic immersion experience while at Cal Poly.

• 15 students are on track to receive their Global Seal in May 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am a fluent native speaker of Spanish, but I have never taken a Spanish class at Cal Poly. Am I eligible to earn a Seal of Biliteracy?

• Yes. The Seal of Biliteracy is a valuable opportunity, regardless of your pathways to proficiency in your languages.

Why should I obtain the Cal Poly University Global Seal of Biliteracy?

• Regardless of whether your first language is English or another language, certification of your biliteracy can provide a competitive advantage in hiring and promotion. The Cal Poly University Global Seal of Biliteracy is a standardized measurement of your biliteracy skills.

Why is a digital badge important to my career?

• The badge can be put on LinkedIn so that employers can easily see your level of biliteracy. Research informs us that employers view proficiency in more than one language as an asset, so that when all things are equal, a biliterate job candidate will be chosen. Learn more about the American Councils Research Center's results of a systematic national canvass of Dual Language Immersion (DLI) programs in the U.S.

What is the minimum language proficiency level required to obtain a University Global Seal of Biliteracy?

• The exam will determine whether you have reached Functional Proficiency (intermediatemid) or Working Proficiency (advanced-low). You must have a minimum of Working Proficiency in order to obtain the University Global Seal of Biliteracy at Cal Poly.

Is the proficiency exam the only requirement I need to complete in order to receive the University Global Seal of Biliteracy?

• If you take the exam and test at the level of Working Proficiency (advanced-low), and can demonstrate that you have experience with cultural and linguistic immersion, you will receive the Seal.

How many times can I take the proficiency test to prove my level?

• If you are not satisfied with your initial score on the exam, you will be permitted to take the test again. You will be responsible for the cost to re-test, which is $29.90.

What is the best way to prepare for the proficiency test? I’m not taking a Spanish class this semester and I’m afraid I will be unprepared.

• A test-taker guide and a sample test are available, so that you understand how the exam will function, and what will be tested.

How many times can I take the AVANT Sample Test?

• You can take the Sample Test as many times as you want, but you will not receive any score.

• NOTE: The questions are not adaptive in the Sample Test, but rather show sample items from each level on the test. The real test will adapt to your level as you proceed through the questions.

How soon will I receive my results?

• Proficiency exam scores will be reported to Cal Poly within 1-2 weeks. You will be contacted with your results.

• If you are preparing to re-test, you will be able to get feedback from International Affairs about the areas of the test where your scores were lowest (reading, writing, listening, speaking), so that you can specifically target your preparation in those areas.

Where do I sign up?

• Please complete our interest form.

Contact Us

Executive Board

Dr. Stacy Nyikos:

Dr. Karen Munoz-Christian:

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