Hola, Bonjour to New Courses

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

University officials added a new genre of courses into the spring 2014 schedule: introductory Spanish and French.

President Thomas J. Botzman and other officials made the executive decision to add intro Spanish and French courses and an advanced Spanish class, coordinated by the English department.

“Part of this is because of my belief that we as a university have a range of things that we need to do. One of them is to be able to talk to people in the world and
to communicate with others and understand what they’re thinking about, and in our curriculum one of the gaps that I saw as I arrived is that we don’t currently teach foreign language to students,” Botzman said.

In the past, students were able to take foreign language courses at King’s College or Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre through a consortial agreement between the universities.

Botzman wanted to see what it would be like to offer these courses through the Dallas campus.

“I’d prefer to have us teaching some of it on campus,” Botzman said. “There are some places that have done consortial approaches to teaching things like the classics, but I would hope there is enough interest in international language and culture to make some of that available on campus.”

This is not a new project. According to Dr. Mari King, Vice President of Academic Affairs, university leaders noted the lack of foreign language courses in fall 2009.

“Members of the Board of Trust- ees had recommended that language courses be incorporated at least as an option in the new core curriculum,” King said. “While this was not accomplished, I feel strongly that students should be given the opportunity for foreign language acquisition through the use of free electives.”

Botzman said he has heard of students who would like to take language courses if they were available on campus. For now, the schedule is a trial run.

“I would hope that if there is a lot of interest perhaps we could think about things that we would like to try out in more depth.”

Botzman added that he would like to see is an increase in students who study abroad.

“I’m also interested in seeing more study abroad opportunities happen,” Botzman said. “Part of that is the excitement, again, of learning new things and meeting new people. I’m really hopeful that that’s what we could do.”

Officials say increased understanding of cultures and languages is also important career preparation.

“Our long range goal is to enhance students’ career opportunities by preparing them to be linguistically and culturally equipped to communicate successfully both in the U.S. and abroad,” King said. “This is in line with our goal to increase semester-long study away experiences for students through affiliation agreements with institutions abroad and increased internship opportunities here.”

King encourages all students to consider the new courses because she believes they offer students multiple benefits.

“The ability to communicate in meaningful and appropriate ways in languages other than English and to gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures will be of value to our students.”

That would also help the univer- sity roll out the welcome mat to new students.

High school senior Suzanne Selman of Coopersburg, Pa. attended Communications Camp on campus over the summer and had a strong interest in applying to MU to further her education. A reason that held her back from applying was the lack of a foreign language offered on campus.

Selman spent her elementary years learning everything in Spanish thanks to a program at her school district called Spanish immersion.

Because she grew up learning in Spanish she didn’t want to give it up once she graduated high school. Her ideal situation was to double major in communications and Spanish but realized that wasn’t an option if she chose MU.

“At first I thought I could go to Misericordia and get the Spanish portion at King’s [College] and dual enroll in two colleges,” she said. “Then I realized how hard that would be and how much money it would cost.”

She was pleased after hearing about the addition of foreign language courses at MU.

“I think it’s great that they are expanding and adding because that is something I look for in schools and I’m sure other people do as well.”

Botzman hopes that bringing these courses to MU will open the eyes of current students.

“I think it’s incredibly important for a student to learn about people who are different from themselves, and for us as a community, if we want to say that all are welcome we have to at least be able to welcome them in a kind and thoughtful way, and having some ability in a foreign language can do that,” Botzman said.

King has had discussions with Kit Foley, Interim Vice President of Student Services and Maria Cabrera, Multicultural Student Outreach Coordinator, to determine which languages would be the best fit for the MU community.

She said she has also worked with the college deans and faculty members to see if additional languages should be an option for specific majors.

Dr. Rebecca Steinberger, English department chair, screened and hired the adjunct faculty to coordinate and teach the new subjects. The English department was selected to house the new courses because it previously controlled modern language courses.

“We don’t have a foreign language department so I think they are playing host to it now, and I am grateful that they would be willing to do that,” Botzman said.

The future of these courses is still to be determined, and students have the decision-making power: It depends upon student’s interest.

Turning these introductory courses into a major or minor offering would be a “big, big discussion,” according to Botzman.

For the spring semester, the new university president would “like to see us think about teaching languages to get the thinking process started to see what could work or what couldn’t work on our campus.”

The foreign language courses are open to any student. They can be found on the master schedule under the English department selection.

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