At a university in the heart of the diplomatic world, a robust and efficient foreign language program must complement the already prestigious political science and international affairs curriculum available to GW students. The proliferation of part-time faculty within foreign language departments and the dearth of class sections available foster a perception of an insufficient foreign language commitment education at GW. The University must work to bring more full-time faculty into the language departments while simultaneously providing enough class sections to meet an increasing demand.
Language should be a top priority for higher education and specifically for GW, a school that prides itself on its reputation in political science and international affairs. Both the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the Elliott School of International Affairs require a significant foreign language requirement. To ensure students are not merely checking off required courses on the major checklist, the University must provide students with enough sections and quality professors to achieve language proficiency.
More than in most other classes, the quality of a language class is directly proportional to the proficiency that a student achieves. Accordingly, GW needs to provide the funds and resources necessary to hire the best foreign language professors and to ensure that faculty are well-paid and excited to work at the University.
The advantage to having proficiency in a foreign language in the job market is invaluable. In some cases, GW has made significant investments in foreign language that will benefit students greatly in the years following graduation.
One such example is the now 2-year-old summer honors Arabic program, which allows about 30 students each summer to study Arabic tuition-free. Likewise, the addition of Arabic language staff this year has helped to meet the demand for this extremely popular language. In this case, there seems to be a concerted effort on the part of administrators to create opportunities for students wishing to pursue studies in Arabic.
A large number of students at GW are looking to pursue careers in politics and the diplomatic sphere. In the coming century, Arabic and Chinese will play an important role in world affairs, and students equipped with the necessary language skills will be the key players. On a domestic front, native Spanish speakers may soon constitute a plurality of our own nation, and the tools to effectively deal with our own immigration and integration issues will rest on the shoulders of today’s Spanish-language students.
GW must work to bring more full-time faculty into the language departments. Part-time faculty are often distracted from their main duties at the University because of other job committments. Full-time positions are generally given to professors with significant experience and allow them to commit more time to the their students outside of the classroom. While most of the part-time faculty currently employed in these departments are hard-working and dedicated educators, more full-time positions would boost faculty morale and improve students’ educational experience.
This article appeared in the September 26, 2005 issue of the Hatchet.