CSU Strengthening Language Studies

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Luis Garcia says his CSU Spanish language degree is serving him well.

The Bronx native and former military serviceman graduated last spring and works for Staffing Solutions in Columbus. As a staffing supervisor and bilingual recruiter, he breaks down the language barrier between prospective local employers and a growing demographic of qualified Spanish-speaking workers.

Eventually, he plans to teach at the collegiate level and further serve area Spanish-speaking residents as a bilingual minister.

Meanwhile, recent French education graduate Jennifer Robinson chairs Shaw High School’s Foreign Language Department, leading a team of educators that includes three Spanish teachers and a Japanese language specialist.

Garcia’s and Robinson’s endeavors reflects the significance of CSU's newly designated Department of Modern and Classical Languages.

The shift — dividing the former Department of Languages and Literature, also creating a Department of English — has CSU well positioned to prepare students to thrive in an increasingly global professional world.

The change also means a Woodall-to-Faculty Office Building relocation by summer and a forthcoming Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Languages. The current degree programs in French and Spanish, plus those leading to teaching certification, will become separate tracks under the new degree program.

Additional language, literature and culture-oriented tracks are expected as the department continues to administer minors in French and Spanish and support minors in Latin American Studies and linguistics.

“We’re excited about this,” said Associate Professor Alyce Cook, who has taught Spanish at CSU since 1994. “This expansion will provide students more flexibility, since many will go on to graduate or professional schools to become lawyers, doctors and educators.”

The Spanish education program, she added, recently produced Leslie Maxwell and Alex Conrad, who currently are University of Alabama in Huntsville faculty after completing their doctorates at the University of Virginia in the nation’s fifth-ranked Spanish Ph.D. program.

“Others (like Garcia) go directly into the working world, finding their foreign language major useful for careers in business, the government and international agencies,” said Cook, who is joined by full-time faculty Cecile Accilien (French), Jose Barroso Castro (Spanish), Sonia Rivera (Spanish) and chair Jackie Konan (French).

“We’ll add a full-time linguistics professor and we’re supported by talented adjunct professors and a strong administrative staff,” Cook said.

The change culminates a 10-year effort guided by Master of Public Administration Program Director Bill Chappell while he was College of Arts and Letters Dean.

“While modern and classical languages historically constitutes the framework of a liberal arts education, the discipline’s importance is magnified by the present era of globalization,” Chappell said.

The study of languages also goes beyond reading, speaking and writing as students exercise critical thinking skills and analyze abstract concepts, he said.

“The students are introduced to the richness of the civilizations of the past, as well as to the mosaic of contemporary culture in the areas of the arts, societal trends, politics and behaviors.”

The department collaborates with CSU's Center for International Education to provide students with study abroad opportunities such as summer trips to Mexico and France and other cultural exchange opportunities that include the International Student Exchange Program, through which four CSU students have studies at French universities. “Through the CIE, our department looks forward to increasing CSU participation in these types of programs,” Konan said.

The department also will build upon cultural immersion programs on campus, such as the three-year old Cine Club film series and “conversation tables” that support both French and Spanish curriculums each semester. Also, the annual French Immersion Day involves poetry readings, music, art workshops, topical discussions and more with communication exclusively in French. Programs have been staged on campus and at Fort Benning’s Uchee Creek.

Chappell said students who participate in such modern and classical language programs learn to view themselves as citizens of the world. “They are encouraged to appreciate cultural diversity, both around the world and here at home.”

For more information, go to http://languages.colstate.edu.