Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Archives: 2003 Chair's Corner

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Sylvie Debevec Henning



The Chair's Corner
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures



February 27, 2003

At the last faculty meeting of the 2001-2002 academic year, I outlined my priorities for the department: 1) Strengthen core majors in French, German and Spanish; 2) Stabilize less commonly taught languages; 3) Increase FLL's graduate presence; 4) Expand campus and regional support for FLL; 5) Increase scholarly/research productivity and support.

We have made progress in increasing our graduate presence in a number of ways. I use this expression because it is unlikely that we will be able anytime soon to establish traditional MA or PhD programs in foreign languages.

Last year we established a Graduate Certificate in Hispanic Studies. I mentioned in my last column that I had taken our proposal for a MAT teaching field in Hispanic Studies to the Graduate Curriculum Committee where it was approved enthusiastically. The Graduate Council has now also approved it.

Another program that is helping us boost our graduate school presence is the MA in International Studies. The MAIS's Advanced Language and Culture Non-Thesis Option, for example, makes it possible for MAIS students with strong Spanish or French skills to enroll in our 5000 and 6000-level courses. In addition, I have been supervising the MAIS foreign language requirement for several years. I assess the French skills of MAIS students; Dr. Ellen Courtney and now Dr. Marcela Ruiz-Funes assess the Spanish skills, Dr. Elena Murenina assesses the Russian skills and Dr. Brian Harris assesses the German skills. I also arrange for the skills assessments of students in more unusual languages such as Tongan and Tagalog. Last year I began teaching INTL 6930-6940 as part of which I supervise the international field experience that is required of all MAIS students and work with them on their portfolios. These portfolios are the basis for their grades in the two graduate courses I mentioned above.

This year I was named the co-director of the MAIS Program along with Dr. Lester Zeager of the Economics Department. One of my responsibilities is graduate assistant assignments. (Special thanks to Georganne Davies for her work in this area.) I have been able to provide our FL Resources Center with two graduate assistants who now staff the lab under Ms. Debbie Harper's supervision. Having graduate students work in the lab rather than undergraduates has greatly increased its efficiency and reliability. Graduate assistants are also available to work a few hours per week with those faculty members who regularly assist the MAIS program, e.g., with assessment. In addition, one of our MAIS students, funded through our department, is the tutor for the Modified Spanish Program.

I hope to see our graduate presence expand in the coming years as we find ways of participating in new multidisciplinary graduate initiatives and particularly as we promote our own innovative graduate programs.


Sylvie Debevec Henning


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