Innovative Change in Degree Program Yields Multiple Benefits
Contact: Mike Greife
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 3, 2011) – Innovative changes in degree programs in the University of Central Missouri’s Department of Modern Languages will allow the department to better serve the needs of its students while addressing the challenges of funding quality higher education programs.
UCM’s Board of Governors recently approved a request by the department and the university’s provost to “collapse” the nine undergraduate majors offered by the department into one, the Modern Languages major. Students seeking one of the nine modern languages degrees currently offered by the department will all have the same major, but will take courses concentrated on the study of one chosen language. Upon graduation, students will leave UCM with a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages, along with a certificate affirming proficiency on a specific language.
The new degree program will allow students to combine the study of a modern language with career training in optional concentrations areas of business, criminal justice, hospitality management, public relations, or education. Each of these concentrations includes a hands-on internship or practicum, and UCM faculty will work with the students to pursue opportunities for professional experiences that include using their second language skills on the job.
The UCM Department of Modern Languages also has initiated a consortium agreement with Missouri Western State University, Southeast Missouri State University and Missouri State University that will expand course offerings at all four universities. Through interactive television or online instruction, students may complete course work with instructors on other campuses. Consortium member schools benefit by having access to instruction not available on their own campuses and by being able to combine courses with lower enrollments into one course taught by a single instructor, resulting in cost savings.
According to Michael Sawyer, chair of the Department of Modern Languages, the new major, combined with the new consortium agreement, will allow more efficient use of faculty and available resources while continuing to offer students the same high level of quality of instruction in modern languages.
“The new program specifies only a total number of hours for the degree program, eliminating the lists of specific course requirements,” Sawyer said. “We have found that enrollment in courses needed for a specific language degree program fluctuates, often leaving some with low enrollment and others in need of additional sections. The new major provides more flexibility to the department in scheduling and to the students in how they fulfill their graduation requirements.
“Also, many of our faculty members have expertise in multiple fields. That offers us an excellent opportunity to utilize their skills and talents in the most efficient manner by assigning them to teach courses in demand during any one semester,” he added. “That’s hard to do when you have committed yourself to offering certain required courses during a specific semester, regardless of enrollment.”
Although the department faculty began developing the new degree program in fall 2009, the change is timely. The Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education recently began examining low productivity degree programs as a means of reducing the cost of higher education, and this new degree program falls in line with UCM’s response to that concern. The old structure specifying three different degree types within each language gave a false impression of program size.
“This new degree program offers options new options for students while allowing the Department of Modern Languages and UCM to continue offering quality programs in an efficient manner,” Sawyer said. “It also helps put the study of modern languages in context, allowing student to study a language and apply it to a professional career.”