Fall 2019

Humanities Rx

Against Smallness: How Successful Language Programs Reimagine the Humanities

Community has long been one of the selling points of language programs: with introductory courses that tend to have lower enrollment caps than courses offered in other departments and that—especially where strong language requirements exist—attract a disproportionate number of first-year students, the language classroom can serve as an unofficial gateway to the university. In addition to offering opportunities for students to interact with a small group of peers as well as with an instructor who is accessible and knows learners well, the focus on “familiar and everyday topics” (NCSSFL-ACTFL 1) in our communication with novice speakers uniquely positions faculty members to teach the whole student. The tight-knit communities that may form in beginning language classrooms often continue in more advanced levels because the comparatively small number of majors and faculty members in languages allows for a mentorship level that may be unavailable to students in more popular STEM disciplines. Embracing our smallness1 has, to some extent, been a successful survival strategy: our students and faculty members delight in multilingual chitchat in the hallways, on the lawn, or in the local grocery store. Students often comment that we are the only professors on campus who know their names. We rightly take pride in the number of our students who go on to earn prestigious scholarships, including Fulbrights. Leveraging smallness as a strategic advantage, however, has limits that go beyond the obvious concerns related to program cuts and closures.

Leveraging smallness as a strategic advantage, however, has limits that go beyond the obvious concerns related to program cuts and closures.

This warning against smallness may sound cynical in a time when the profession is still reeling from the net loss of 651 language programs (Looney and Lusin), when the number of advertised faculty positions continues to decline (MLA Office of Research), and when many language programs rely on the work of part-time faculty members who are underpaid and often underappreciated.2 Let me be very clear: the use of smallness in this article does not refer to student enrollment or faculty size, areas in which we are naturally not small by choice. Rather, the term addresses the danger of a certain form of contentment with the tight-knit communities that we have built as well as the nostalgia for traditions and the “but this is how we have always done things” mind-set that it can breed. At a time when the humanities feel under siege (Schmidt; Hayot), retreating into a bubble, while comforting, not only puts programs at risk but also stands in the way of vision and leadership.

Specifically, we need to ensure that our small language communities are at least as diverse as our institutions (Murphy and Lee) and that students from all financial backgrounds feel empowered to take our classes. We need to be aware of the minefield that seemingly harmless discussions about self and family can present for some of our students, including those exploring their gender identity or experiencing complex family dynamics. We need to ensure that the labor of building communities is fairly distributed among all faculty members and does not rest primarily on graduate students and non-tenure-track instructors. Because both groups tend to teach primarily in the lower-division classroom, a department’s full participation in mentoring and extracurricular activities is both a labor and student retention issue.3 We need to be mindful of the benchmarks that our institutions have established for evaluating departments while advocating for academic metrics that take the quality of teaching practices into account alongside majors, minors, and bodies in seats.4 Finally, it is imperative that we do not make ourselves too small. Bluntly put, we should not be baking pretzels for the German club’s annual Oktoberfest while our colleagues in chemistry are having beer with the trustees. I believe that the long-term success of language, literature, and culture programs depends on solidarity among language programs (Porter 18–19): forging strong connections with other players on our campuses, including with colleagues in STEM, and integrating our work in authentic and meaningful ways with the communities in which we are situated positions us well for leadership roles on campus and in the national conversation concerning the future of higher education.

Without a doubt, building strong communities is an important aspect of managing an undergraduate language program (Calkins and Wilkinson 13–17), and many colleagues featured in this article excel at this work. But they are also doing something else—radiating outward. Specifically, striving programs tend to view their curriculum as a work in progress that periodically needs to be adapted to new national standards, changing local and institutional circumstances, and our current and future students’ needs. Their faculty members pay attention to pathways into the program and welcome into their programs high school students, heritage language learners, community college students, and others interested in continuing their language education. These programs are equally concerned with students’ pathways after graduation and seek to equip learners with the skills and confidence to pursue fulfilling careers in diverse fields. Finally, language programs that drive innovation tend to see themselves as part of a broader humanities ecosystem and are intrigued by the big questions: What does the future of work look like? What skills will our students need? How will the university of the future be organized? Will institutions retain departments and majors, and if not, what will take their places? This broader perspective enables faculty members in languages, literatures, and cultures to think outside the box, contribute to reimagining the humanities for our current age, and position themselves for leadership positions on their campuses and beyond. In all of these endeavors, the most successful language programs embrace collaboration and actively contribute to building new communities and connections.

Curriculum: Accessibility, Diversity, Interdisciplinarity

It all started with a trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When Rhodes College’s German program began to seriously consider a redesign of its major and minor in 2015, the program’s faculty team happily accepted Jennifer Redmann’s invitation to spend a few days at Franklin and Marshall College. Under the leadership of Redmann, the German program had recently undergone curriculum reform, including what some may have viewed as a radical decision to count every single course—yes, even German 101—toward the major (Redmann). Faced with the problem that only a small number of its students entered the program with training in German and that this number was even lower among underrepresented students, the Rhodes College’s faculty team was eager to learn more about a model that would allow all students, irrespective of their language placement, to complete a BA in German. The newly designed tracks would also make it easier for students limited by inflexible schedules in their primary major5 to complete a secondary major in German. Paired with a literacy-based approach6 that places authentic texts—broadly defined—at the center of the curriculum at all levels, counting language courses toward the requirements of a language major also has symbolic significance: it contributes to overcoming the “two-tiered language literature structure” that was first critiqued in the 2007 MLA report Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World (MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages)—a structure that has proved persistent in its grip on the curriculum and intradepartmental hierarchies (Rifkin; Lomicka and Lord). Wonneken Wanske, assistant professor of German at Rhodes College, and her colleague Elizabeth Bridges saw the overhaul of their major as an opportunity to design a more inclusive curriculum that would organically incorporate diversity and representation into all courses instead of treating them as isolated units, starting with the introduction of nonbinary pronouns in the beginning language classroom and continuing through courses that “create a more realistic image of German-speaking countries as they exist in contemporary Europe: that is, as multiracial, multicultural, multiethnic societies” (Wanske).

Decolonizing the curriculum and diversifying her classroom was crucial to Siham Bouamer’s success at Sam Houston State University as well: “When I arrived at Sam Houston, I was (pleasantly) surprised about student diversity in my first-semester course. I also noticed that it was less the case in the third or fourth semester.” Bouamer, assistant professor of French and coordinator of the French program, improved retention of underrepresented students by working with the French club (later renamed the French and Francophone club) and by moving away from a Paris-centric curriculum toward one that did not delegate francophone culture to the periphery. She also created access points to French studies for students in other disciplines, including guest lectures in film studies courses on France’s multicultural reality and sessions in the honors college on topics such as Islamophobia and the French #MeToo movement. “We have a lot of students who are first-generation and work full time,” Bouamer explains, so making French accessible to all students was a high priority to her. Recognizing both the benefits of and barriers to studying abroad, the French program started sending students to Quebec as a more affordable alternative to France and began working on creating a program in southern Louisiana. She developed an innovative online course based on the popular concept of the escape room that significantly improved completion rates. The increase in minors that these various changes brought about allowed Bouamer to successfully advocate for the creation of a major in French, which will roll out in fall 2019.

The redesign of the major has implications for proficiency goals. For example, Rhodes College’s interdisciplinary German track aims for students to achieve “upper-intermediate German language proficiency” rather than advanced proficiency (“Requirements”).7 The focus on interdisciplinarity, a shift often signified when departments and majors drop the term language and literature and add the term studies, moreover denotes a change in the organization of knowledge. Recognizing that a miniscule number of undergraduate students will enter the professoriat8 and that, according to Eric Hayot’s provocative analysis, humanistic disciplinarity no longer attracts students, departments have shifted away from a coverage model with its focus on epochs, genres, and authors toward theme-based courses and interdisciplinary offerings. Given that our colleagues in physics are not asked to reinvent their course sequences in a similar manner, this may strike some as selling out and as diametrically opposed to my invitation to think big. I certainly do not want to glorify patchwork degrees that are often borne out of the necessity of scraping together enough courses from neighboring disciplines to sustain a major. Rather, I agree with Patricia K. Calkins and Sharon Wilkinson that “[i]t is the responsibility of the faculty to create a structure in which courses lead to ‘an enabling, empowering competency.’”9 Yet the way we define these competencies might be shifting as the value that humanities expertise can bring to interdisciplinary collaborations—if pursued with intention and purpose—comes to the fore. Instead of equating rigor with coverage and disciplinary boundaries, we should embrace the foundational work that faculty members in languages are contributing to the environmental humanities, digital humanities, public humanities, and medical humanities. Such a stance, I would argue, is not ahistorical but rather shows awareness of the history of disciplinary specialization as a product of the modern research university (Monteil and Romerio). In the eighteenth century, before disciplinary boundaries had been firmly established, it was not uncommon for thinkers to contribute to both the arts and the sciences. Christina Gerhardt, associate professor at the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, argues that the environmental humanities not only harks back to eighteenth-century Germany, where intellectuals like Humboldt, Forster, and Goethe pursued studies in both the humanities and the sciences before the fields were rent asunder, but also aims to overcome this artificial divide, bridging disciplines in the humanities with those in the social and natural sciences.

With the strong support of her deans, Gerhardt and her colleagues have established a cross-disciplinary curriculum in the environmental humanities that integrates experiential learning opportunities:

The exchanges between colleagues in the humanities and in the STEM disciplines aims to make students aware of climate change and its related impacts and to seek solutions to them, be they ones coming from engineering or from art. The curriculum places a heavy focus not only on interdisciplinary learning but also on experiential learning. We take students outside the classroom for projects such as the High Water Line Project [a public arts project that visualizes future shoreline forecasts of rising sea levels], inviting colleagues in the sciences, people from local government agencies and non-governmental organizations to join us on this site specific walking tour. These site visits and the exchanges students have with the aforementioned people complement our classroom teaching and help prepare students with creative critical thinking skills and a network of contacts for potential future internships and employment. (Gerhardt)

Both our teaching and research profit when faculty members go outside of their comfort zones, push the limits of the humanities, and practice the study and teaching of languages and literatures as “rigorous cultural engagement” (Madsbjerg xxi). With complex, global challenges such as climate change that require all hands on deck, insisting on disciplinary purity poses the danger of rendering us irrelevant.

Pathways: Where Do Our Students Come From?

William Nichols, chair of the Department of World Languages at Georgia State University and former ADFL president, likes to remind faculty members who express skepticism toward the idea of collaborating with high school teachers that “our students are not born freshmen” (Personal conversation).10 Few college professors will be surprised to learn that the university has no monopoly on teaching languages, yet this awareness of the broader landscape of language education has historically not been reflected in our outreach efforts, curriculum, and strategic planning. Two trends in particular warrant our attention: first, the increased recognition of North America’s existing linguistic diversity as both a cultural and economic asset accompanied by efforts to support speakers of heritage and indigenous languages in maintaining their proficiency (Commission on Language Learning 22–26); and second, the increased value that parents, even those who do not speak a second language at home, place on bilingual education as reflected in the proliferation of dual-language immersion schools and the exponential growth of the Seal of Biliteracy (Commission on Language Learning 14–15; Jaumont; “State Laws”).

When considering where our students come from and where they aspire to go, four-year colleges can learn from conversations with colleagues at community colleges as well as with K–12 teachers. Two-year institutions that are evaluated in part by transfer rates are accustomed to thinking about their students’ pathways after graduation. They also serve a disproportionate number of immigrant and first-generation students and thus have rich experience in teaching heritage language learners. Furthermore, compared to selective institutions that are situated in a given locality but educate few locals, two-year institutions tend to have deep ties to their communities. According to the results of Per Urlaub’s recent survey of students who transferred to the German program at the University of Texas, Austin, learners with community college experience outperform their peers, but the number of former full-time community college students who declare a German major is quite low. Conferring with colleagues from two-year institutions can help us better understand how we can make our programs more accessible and attractive to transfer students. Urlaub’s own analysis indicates that affordable study abroad programs are one factor that increases accessibility (76). Regular conversations with high school language teachers can help us anticipate what our future students will look like and what their needs will be; these conversations also offer mutual support in times when one-person language programs, especially in smaller languages, are becoming more common in high schools and colleges alike.

Casilde Isabelli, professor of Spanish and chair of the world language department at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), analyzed where her language programs were losing potential students. She noted that between 2013 and 2018, twenty-five hundred students with four years of high school language study waived the foreign language requirement and did not continue with a language at UNR. Given the proliferation of the Seal of Biliteracy, she realized that even more students with significant high school experience in a second language would be entering the college and thus communicating the value of continued language study would be vital for her program’s sustainability and growth. To address this critical transition point, she and her colleagues recently revamped the department’s annual awards ceremony to honor high school students alongside their college peers. During the event, which parents are encouraged to attend, short video clips of alumni career pathways are shown, including a clip of a Chinese minor who is now fighting human trafficking in his nonprofit work and a clip of a local news anchor who draws on his university-taught Spanish skills when interviewing members of the Reno community. The department also eased the transition from high school to the college language classroom in a number of ways. Spanish immersion students, who often have difficulty finding advanced classes in high school, are given the opportunity to take those classes at UNR. Also, faculty members now visit state high schools to inform students, teachers, and advisors about AP and IB credits when transitioning from a Nevada high school to UNR’s world language program. These credits frequently place students in the department’s upper-level courses. Finally, there has been attention to creating continued pathways for heritage language learners to advance their formal Spanish through their dedicated tracks. According to Isabelli, all these initiatives take time and effort, and therefore course releases were given for faculty members who serve as in-house advisers.

It is no coincidence that most of the models featured in this article, even if selected for entirely different reasons, address in one way or another students’ postgraduation career pathways.

All these changes are paying off. In 2010, UNR’s world language department was among those that made national news about program closures (Foderaro). Whereas one  of the programs lost in 2010 did not make a comeback—German—students at UNR today can choose from nine languages, including Japanese, Arabic, Chinese, and Paiute; the number of majors and minors has steadily increased; and UNR is among the top ten degree-granting institutions for French majors (“Which Colleges”).

Career Diversity: Where Do Our Students (Want to) Go?

It is no coincidence that most of the models featured in this article, even if selected for entirely different reasons, address in one way or another students’ postgraduation career pathways. Since 2008, our profession has undergone a culture change in the way we talk about humanities expertise on all curricula levels, from BA to PhD.11 The occasion is a somber one: realizations that surfaced a decade ago about the drop in job postings, the decline in enrollments, and students’ and parents’ preference for STEM disciplines were not temporary phenomena but rather the beginning of a marginalization of the humanities on our campuses and beyond that has outlasted the economic recovery. The perceived impracticality and nontransferable nature of our research and teaching, paired with the rising cost of college, has undoubtedly contributed to the precarious state of world language departments after 2008. As a result, the conversation has shifted from whether we should prepare students for diverse careers as part of their undergraduate training to how we could accomplish this. Yet, although a more career-oriented mind-set has its origin in an ongoing crisis that continues to threaten the very existence of language programs, this mind-set has inspired positive change in our profession—including a more responsible approach to graduate education, improved ties to our community, and more systematic efforts to track and engage with our alumni. I believe that all students profit from increased attention to transferable skills and career pathways, and that a curriculum designed to prepare majors and minors for a range of fulfilling careers has the potential to bring in a broader array of students.

Although the process of developing scalable models and spreading awareness of existing resources is ongoing, scholarly organizations (such as the MLA or AHA), as well as trailblazing individual institutions (“National Endowment”), have made great strides in prioritizing the reform of doctoral education. By contrast, efforts to support career diversity on the undergraduate level are more recent, and we still have work to do in articulating best practices and providing departments with the language and structures to support humanities students in their professionalization efforts. While an insufficient practice on its own, drawing from the rich resources that were so recently developed for PhD programs—as well as for undergraduate programs in neighboring disciplines—and adapting them for the undergraduate language classroom is a starting point; this includes systematically tracking our alumni (Bousquet et al.; Cassuto; Connected Academics 13–14), collaborating with other offices such as career services and advising on our campus (Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession 8–9, 11, 13, 31; Connected Academics 7–9), honing our vocabulary so that we can more clearly articulate the skills we are teaching (Brookins and Fenton; Weise et al.; Committee on the Status and Future of the Profession 45–47), and increasing attention to our role in the humanities ecosystem and how we connect with its various players on and off campus (Connected Academics 9–11).

In a time when our disciplines are viewed with suspicion, graduate programs that lead reform efforts have embraced the public humanities for their potential to connect us with our communities, attract a broader range of students into our programs, and contribute to projects that align with our belief system (Profession’s spring 2019 issue illustrates these points [Public Humanities]). I see job preparation as a side effect rather than the primary goal of public engagement, but participating in those initiatives undeniably affords undergraduate and graduate learners alike a glimpse into the range of career opportunities available to them outside of the for-profit sector. For example, the students in Araceli Hernández-Laroche’s class on translation and interpreting at the University of South Carolina Upstate advocate for vulnerable communities through service learning components, such as helping nonprofit organizations connect with Spartanburg’s growing Latino population or supporting Spanish-speaking parents in their communications with the school system (Hernández-Laroche). As Hernández-Laroche and her colleague Maria Francisco Montesó explain, public engagement also fosters authentic, mutually beneficial collaborations on their campus while training students in a field with projected growth:

Translation and interpreting studies is a powerful bridge to cross over. These fields connect English not only with other world languages and disciplines but also with the linguistic needs of our growing immigrant and international communities. . . . The demand for translators and interpreters will increase by twenty-nine percent . . . in the next few years. . . . The advantage of being trained in translation and interpreting studies is its exceptional applicability in multiple professional fields . . . such as business, law enforcement, and psychology. (151)

I believe that we should empower our students to pursue any career they want—in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors—and that our encouragement should be delivered with the wisdom that modern career paths are rarely linear (Coffey et al.; Humanities Indicators 21). That said, community engagement projects speak to students who pursue a liberal arts degree precisely because these students value a meaningful career more than a high starting salary or because they see our classes as a reprieve from their more applied first majors. Moreover, public engagement can serve as the common denominator in departments where faculty members who promote career education clash with colleagues who are deeply suspicious of forsaking the intrinsic value of the study of languages, literatures, and cultures.

The traditional model of connecting languages and career-related skills—languages for the profession—has also evolved. Although courses such as Medical Spanish or Mandarin for Business continue to be popular, language departments are exploring how to integrate and connect with professional schools on their campuses. Such departments aim for a more integrated experience that spans both lower- and upper-level curricula, including innovative hybrid or double majors that enable students to draw on the expertise of at least two disciplines. Clemson University’s Department of Languages offers several models: the BA in language and international business (LAIB) combines the study of Chinese, French, German, Japanese, or Spanish with a professional stream in economics, business, or tourism (“B.A. in Language and International Business”). The department chair Salvador Oropesa rejects the notion that this approach relegates languages to the status of service departments and stresses his commitment to “substantive upper-level studies in the humanities” for these professional tracks. Like all language majors, the LAIB program requires students to study abroad; in addition, learners complete an internship with an international company.

Other initiatives connect career-related skills with alternative credentials: Christine Garst-Santos and her colleagues in the Department of Modern Languages and Global Studies at South Dakota State University launched the Workplace Intercultural Competence Certificate in 2017. At an institution where the majority of students do not need to fulfill a language requirement, the certificate rewards learners who complete two semesters in either French, German, or Spanish, pair it with an intercultural competence course taught by modern languages and global studies faculty members, and add a management elective from one of the university’s professional schools, such as Agricultural Business Management (“Workplace Intercultural Competence”). Mount Holyoke College’s Global Competence Award is another model that deserves to be widely shared and adapted. The credential, cleverly packaged as an award, requires three semesters of language study at Mount Holyoke along with other achievements such as cultural immersion and cross-cultural learning. In 2018, thirty-six seniors from twenty-seven different majors and minors received the award (“Global Competence Award”). In addition to raising Mount Holyoke’s on-campus visibility and encouraging cross-disciplinary language study, these credentials stand out for changing the conversation; the discussion shifts from the dreaded question, So, what can you do with that? to a confident assertion, Look, this is why all students should be taking our classes.

Vision and Leadership

The unexpected billboard message “Humanities = Jobs” greets drivers on Interstate 10 on their way from Tucson, Arizona, to Phoenix. The billboard and the sleek new Web site to which it points are indicative of Dean Alain-Philippe Durand’s vision for the University of Arizona’s College of Humanities, which stresses the applicability of humanities expertise as well as the importance of connecting faculty members, students, and the public. This approach is reflected in the college’s interdisciplinary degree programs that complement more traditional majors, including a BA in world literature and a new BA in applied humanities. The Tucson Humanities Festival, which last year presented the Pulitzer Prize winner Colson Whitehead alongside hip-hop artists, complements academic offerings. Now in its tenth year, the 2019 festival will ask, “How can the humanities shape tomorrow’s world? What’s next?” (“Tucson Humanities Festival”).

These questions also inform Durand and his colleagues’ approach to thinking about humanities careers. In surveying the college’s alumni, Durand found that “[t]here is no such thing as a starving humanist. These people are employed in all kinds of jobs in all kinds of fields, and they are creating successful careers based on what they learned in our college” (Makansi). While drawing on the expertise of alumni is part of the university’s strategy to rebrand the humanities on and off campus, the Dorrance Lecture Series, which the college cosponsors, goes one step further: it explores the future of work and the intersection between the humanities and advanced technologies such as robotics, astronomy, artificial intelligence, and the sharing economy (“Dorrance Lecture Series”). Driving these conversations on our campus helps establish language advocates as forward-thinking leaders vis-à-vis our administration, provides faculty members with the vision and language to effectively promote their programs, and empowers students to confidently respond to questions about the value and utility of their studies. More important, as we are preparing students for the next forty years of professional life, looking beyond the current demands of the labor market is simply the right thing to do (Hartley; Weise et al.).

The future of the humanities does not always fit into traditional departmental structures. Mount Holyoke’s Global Competence Award and South Dakota State University’s Workplace Intercultural Competence Certificate show how languages can leverage students’ and administrators’ increased demand for microcredentialing and badges. According to Dennis Looney, director of both the ADFL and the MLA Office of Programs, interest is growing among departments participating in the ADFL-MLA Language Consultancy Service to learn about alternatives to the traditional single-language major, including models for unified majors that are shared among multiple languages. A major in modern languages can be adapted to serve participating programs’ needs (including concentrations in one, two, or even three languages) and, if desired, may include a common core of introductory classes or shared electives (Dunbar and Rider; Beard et al. 114–17).

Finally, programs such as Fort Lewis College’s new BA in languages and borders completely reimagine what the curriculum of a language major may look like. After Fort Lewis lost all its language majors (Johnson), Janine Fitzgerald, a professor in sociology and human services, worked with the two remaining colleagues in modern languages, David Vásquez-Hurtado and Carolina Alonso. Together, they envisioned a degree with an “entire curriculum [designed] around the concept of borders, whether they be geographical, political, psychological or social,” including course offerings such as Biopolitics on the Borders, Narco Cultura, and The Immigrant Experience (“Studying Borders”). According to the three faculty members, the borders and languages major, which is being unveiled in fall 2019, is “content-based at every level of the bachelor’s degree” and “incorporates successful teaching strategies that are mostly coming out of ESL programs, including community-based language acquisition” (Alonso et al.). As with several other projects mentioned here, the faculty team from Fort Lewis will participate in the Language Innovation Room at the 2020 MLA convention.12

Arguably, many of the programs highlighted in this article look more exciting now than they did before 2008. Framing the current crisis as an opportunity, however, would be deeply disrespectful toward colleagues whose programs were closed or cut; it would ignore the exhaustion of faculty members who work tirelessly yet may still find their departments on the chopping block. It would turn a blind eye to the precariousness of colleagues who are barely able to make a living wage despite carrying high teaching loads in fields in which they earned advanced degrees, and it would disregard the threat to linguistic diversity as well as the accessibility of language studies that the net loss of 651 language programs signifies—especially for students at community colleges, which “have taken a disproportionate share of the decline” (Looney and Lusin 6). And yet, it is true that the crisis has liberated language programs to experiment, leading to far more diverse, better integrated, and locally grounded programs. Plainly put, the crisis has also made us less snobbish, bringing with it a growing commitment to communicating our work to the public, an openness to creative collaborations previously dismissed as outside of our discipline, and an increased attention to collaboration with and the role of various staff members on our campuses. It is also worth noting that many of the models featured here originated at institutions that are not commonly thought of as Ivy League; I see this willingness to listen to all colleagues—regardless of institution or rank—who can contribute to moving our field forward as another positive sign.13 Funding from the state and from institutions is critical to keep this momentum, and we must have support from national organizations and grant makers to identify strong models and make them scalable. In the meantime, let us thank the colleagues featured here and those countless others who ought to have been included as well; let us acknowledge their generosity, creativity, energy, and passion. Your work inspires us to think big and to be proud participants in the conversation on what the post-2008 humanities can achieve.


1. Departments or schools of world languages that combine all or many of the languages taught on a single campus (sometimes including English) are becoming increasingly common. My argument here pertains to smaller, language-specific units, whether they are stand-alone programs or part of a bigger department, especially where there is little curricular integration and extracurricular collaboration among language programs housed in the same department.

2. An especially sad example is the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor of French at Duquesne University, which sparked a national labor debate in 2013 and inspired the hashtag #IAmMargaretMary (Kovalik; Ellis; Flaherty, “Non-Tenure-Track” and “#iammargaretmary”; Anderson). According to an analysis of the AAUP based on 2016 data, 73% of college positions are now off the tenure track. This percentage includes a broad range of employment arrangements, but “[f]or the most part, these are insecure, unsupported positions with little job security and few protections for academic freedom” (“Data Snapshot” 1).

3. The MLA has been collecting data on the ratio of introductory to advanced undergraduate enrollments as part of its language enrollment censuses; for the most recent numbers, see the 2016 enrollments report (Looney and Lusin 10–11).

4. HuMetricsHSS is an example of such a push for “values based evaluation practices” (“Outcomes”), including attention to the syllabus as an “unrecognized and unrewarded” form of scholarship (Rhody).

5. Although Kalliney’s 2018 Chronicle article does not address curriculum reform from the perspective of diversity and inclusion, his piece offers valuable insights into the importance of scheduling from the perspective of an English department chair.

6. According to Redmann’s forthcoming article in the ADFL Bulletin, this includes work by Richard Kern, Janet Swaffar and Katherine Arens, Kate Paesani, Heather Willis Allen, and Beatrice Dupuy.

7. To be precise, the focus of the interdisciplinary German track, which allows novice learners to complete a major in the language, is “for students to develop upper-intermediate German language proficiency and a critical understanding of the German-speaking world from interdisciplinary perspectives.” The other track, German language, literature, and culture, which is more commonly selected by students who enter the program with existing German skills, aims at developing “advanced language and cultural proficiency and an in-depth critical understanding of the German-speaking world” (“Requirements”).

8. The 2007 MLA report cites the National Science Foundation’s survey of college graduates, according to which “[o]nly 6.1% of college graduates whose first major is foreign languages go on to attain a doctoral degree” (MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages). Given the subsequent drop in enrollments on both the undergraduate and graduate levels, it is likely that this percentage has decreased (Looney and Lusin).

9. Calkins and Wilkinson quote Porter 20.

10. Nichols recently wrote about his department’s public-facing work, including K–16 initiatives, for Profession (“Embracing Tentacularity”).

11. The 2007 MLA report, which was published just before the financial crisis, responded to another crisis, the terrorist attacks of September 11. The report notably does not mention career-related skills, and can illustrate how the discourse has shifted after 2008 if compared to the other documents cited in this section (MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages; Warner).

12. The other participants are Siham Bouamer of Sam Houston State University, Christina Gerhardt of the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa, and Wonneken Wanske of Rhodes College. Stephen Fitzmaurice of Clemson University will be presenting on the department’s ASL-English Educational Interpreting Program.

13. It thus appears that the following observation of the ADE Ad Hoc Committee on the English Major should not be uncritically adopted for world languages: “Throughout this report, examples and data are shaded somewhat toward departments at PhD- and MA-granting institutions, since those programs collectively graduate the majority of English majors and since their curricula exert considerable professional influence” (2–3).

Works Cited

ADE Ad Hoc Committee on the English Major. A Changing Major: The Report of the 2016–17 ADE Ad Hoc Committee on the English Major. The Association of Departments of English, July 2018, www.ade.mla.org/content/download/98513/2276619/A-Changing-Major.pdf.

Alonso, Carolina, et al. “The Borders and Languages Major from Fort Lewis College.” ADFL Summer Seminar West, 24 May 2019, Davenport Grand Hotel, Spokane, WA. Poster presentation.

Anderson, L. V. “Death of a Professor.” Slate, 13 Nov. 2019, www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/2013/11/death_of_duquesne_adjunct_margaret_mary_vojtko_what_really_happened_to_her.html.

“B.A. in Language and International Business.” Clemson University, www.clemson.edu/caah/departments/languages/academics/laib/. Accessed 4 Oct. 2019.

Beard, Laura, et al. “From Silos to Networks: Reenvisioning Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in a Modern Languages Department.” ADFL Bulletin, vol. 45, no. 1, 2018, pp. 109–21, doi:10.1632/adfl.45.1.109.

Bouamer, Siham. E-mail interview. Conducted by Lydia Tang, July 2019.

Bousquet, Gilles, et al. “Career Trajectories of World Language Graduates: A LinkedIn Perspective.” ADFL Bulletin, vol. 45, no. 2, forthcoming.

Brookins, Julia, and Sarah Fenton, editors. Careers for History Majors. Oxford UP, 2019.

Calkins, Patricia K., and Sharon Wilkinson. “Redesigning the Curriculum for Student Persistence in Small Language Programs.” ADFL Bulletin, vol. 46, no. 1, forthcoming.

Cassuto, Leonard. “Outcomes-Based Graduate School: The Humanities Edition.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 19 June 2019, www.chronicle.com/article/Outcomes-Based-Graduate/246501.

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After earning her PhD in German from New York University in 2013, Lydia Tang taught at Carleton College and Vanderbilt University. In 2018, she joined the MLA as assistant director of programs. She works with MLA and ADFL colleagues on projects related to curricular innovation and program change, professional development for department leaders, and humanities postgraduation success.

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