Jan. 22, 2004
Vol. 23 No. 8

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    Landmark change adds language minors

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    For the first time in the history of the University, students in the College have the opportunity to add a minor degree to their transcripts.

    The landmark change, which the College Council approved last April, enables College students to earn minor degrees in five language concentrations: Classics, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Romance Languages & Literatures, Slavic Languages, and Germanic Languages.

    Like the University’s study abroad programs and Foreign Language Acquisition Grants, the language minors provide yet another positive incentive for students to pursue further study in foreign languages—a major curriculum focus of the College under the direction of John Boyer, Dean of the College. “The minor is a public, written acknowledgement of a student’s work,” said Boyer. “I hope it will encourage them to go further in a subject than they might have.”

    Requirements for minors vary from department to department, but all minor students must have at least six courses, approximately half the course load of most major requirements.

    Stephanie Latkovski, Associate Dean of International & Second Language Education in the College, expects that the language minor option will appeal to College students for a variety of reasons.

    Many students, for instance, enter the College hoping to double major, but ultimately find they are unable to manage the course work for two concentrations. After years of study, some students become disappointed if they are unable to complete the requirements of their concentrations. “With the minor, students will be able to continue to pursue language study, perhaps even aiming for a major, with the insurance that they’ll be able to receive a credential acknowledging their study,” Latkovski said.

    Another type of student, she said, wants to combine language proficiency with another interest, skill or career path. “These students don’t perceive language training as being an end in itself, but rather a means.” Many language concentrations are literature-based and perhaps ideal for those interested in the humanities. But these students may prefer a minor because they want to focus solely on language training. “For a science concentrator, for example, a language minor could be ideal,” Latkovski said.

    While College advisers, who counsel students on their academic plans, said it is far too early to tell how many students will use the language minor, they are optimistic.

    Adviser Barbara Murry said three of her students who were unable to complete the requirements for a major were thrilled about the opportunity to get a minor. “I’m very pleased to see this as an adviser. It’s a great option to offer students who are struggling to make a second concentration.”

    Moreover, Murry, who has worked as an adviser at Chicago for six years, said students like credentials. “They’re happy to have the chance to highlight their knowledge accomplishments,” she said.

    In addition to the new minor program, a third possible credential for language students is the Advanced Foreign Language Proficiency Certificate, initiated five years ago. Created by Chicago language faculty and based on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages guidelines, the certificates currently are offered in 10 languages.

    The nearly 250 students who have received the certificates were evaluated on their speaking, writing, reading and listening skills and were awarded designations of Pass, High Pass or High Pass with Honors. Latkovski said the certificate is a highly valuable transcript notation for students seeking employment in an international field.

    Though Chicago’s language faculty initiated the minor degree program, Boyer emphasized that offering students the opportunity to earn the minor degree is not intended as an exclusive option for language education in the College.

    This year, two other departments, Mathematics and Computer Science, are proposing minor programs to the College Council. The future of minors, said Boyer, depends on how faculty members choose to use them within their respective departments. “It’s completely voluntary,” said Boyer. “The general guidelines have been set up. In theory, any concentration could offer a minor, should a department’s faculty choose to do so.”