Middlebury College has teamed with Brandeis University to establish a School of Hebrew, the College's 10th language school and newest since the opening of the Portuguese Language School in 2003. The new program, which will accommodate between 40 and 60 students when it opens in June 2008, is the College's first language school established through an official partnership with another institution.
"I'm delighted about the new School of Hebrew," said Associate Chaplin Ira Schiffer. "It adds to Middlebury's depth and reputation as a premier language center."
The decision to add instruction in Hebrew rather than another language stems from the College's desire to complete its Middle East Studies program. The College has held an Arabic Language School since 1982 and began undergraduate instruction of the language in Fall 2003. The opening of the School of Hebrew comes after the College added courses in Modern Hebrew for the 2007-2008 academic year, while offering courses in Classical Hebrew for a number of years.
"The College has been considering the addition of Hebrew to the roster of our summer Language Schools offerings for a number of years," said Michael Geisler, vice president for Language Schools, Schools Abroad and Graduate Programs. "What made it a more urgent issue, from an academic point of view, is the recent student interest in Middle Eastern Studies. In order to enable students to truly understand all the political and historical issues involved in the region we need to offer Hebrew, since it is the language spoken in the state of Israel."
The national appeal of Hebrew also contributed to the decision to establish the summer program over other languages Middlebury debated adding, according to Geisler.
"Other languages we have been discussing for a while include Korean, Persian (Farsi) and Hindi, but national student interest in these languages currently is not at a level that would make another Language School a viable proposition, although we are keeping a close watch on Korean," said Geisler.
The School of Hebrew will be a collaborative effort between Middlebury and Brandeis. The school will feature many of the same elements found at the College's other language schools, including full-time immersion and co-curricular activities. According to Geisler, Brandeis' role in the partnership will be to bring to the program "a highly successful method of teaching Modern Hebrew on a communicative basis."
Despite Brandeis' role in the new school, Geisler said that students in the School of Hebrew would not notice a difference in the method of instruction from the other language schools.
"In a sense there is nothing new in this [school] because the Directors of our Middlebury Language Schools have always come from other institutions," said Geisler. "The only difference here is the institutional partnership."
The addition of the School of Hebrew comes after two consecutive years of record enrollments at the language schools, which has caused the College to begin running out of space for both classrooms and dorm rooms. However, the College does not believe cuts or a major reorganizing will have to be conducted to accommodate the School of Hebrew.
"We are pretty tight right now," said Macky Gaines, operations manager for Language Schools. "In the models we've been running we've been doing some reshuffling of the current dorms and offices but nothing too major. The addition of the Starr-Axinn Center will help with those additional classes and rooms, although it will still be pretty tight. It would have been tough to make space without it."
Still, the reorganization of spaces may be a temporary solution for the College. Due to the growing popularity of the summer programs, along with the addition of the School of Hebrew, the College has begun exploring the option of off-campus language schools.
"To deal with the space issue we have begun the process of looking at other locations around the country to determine possible partners for a second site for the Middlebury summer Language Schools," said Geisler.