Cazenovia College has had a challenge in providing a broader range of language education for a number of years now, according to Jesse Harasta, assistant professor of social sciences and director of the International Studies Program.
This is because in previous years the small number of students enrolled in classes made it difficult for the college to offer a range of language courses, because it is too expensive to run classes that only a small number of students are taking.
Therefore, the college's challenge was to figure out a new, more cost-effective way to offer students a wide variety of language classes.
Harasta, whose doctorate included a concentration in linguistic anthropology, was able to find this in the form of a partner organization called the InterAct Language Center, a language school based in nearby Fayetteville.
The center will provide students access to language classes both on and off campus in upcoming semesters, which will make the college more appealing to some students and will help Cazenovia students improve their connections with the world. However, it is important to note that this entire program is dependent on students' engagement in it.
Because the InterAct Language Center is not an accredited college, students would continue to receive credits through Cazenovia, and they would register for the courses the same way they would for any other class that the college offers, at no additional tuition.
The only difference in the courses provided through the center is that the college would be contracting some of them through InterAct, Harasta said. "Some of the classes would be offered here at Cazenovia, some of them might be offered in Fayetteville, and some of them may be offered long distance online," he said.
"We're doing this with the idea that we can combine Cazenovia students with other students who are learning the language at the same time to create more opportunities for our students to have more languages," he said.
Cazenovia students may recall having received an email from Harasta with a survey attached asking what languages the students would be interested in learning and what ones they have studied in the past.
The results of the survey were mixed, with Spanish being a very popular choice. Many students have already learned some Spanish, opening up the opportunity for multiple levels of Spanish being taught in the future.
Other popular choices for which languages students would like to learn were French, Italian, and Arabic.
While Arabic did not have a large number of students who wanted to learn it, the students who did choose it chose it as the No. 1 language they would like to learn.
A significant amount of support for the teaching of Arabic also came from the Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Department of the college, which wants its students to learn the language because many of the careers they help prepare students for require individuals to know Arabic.
Mandarin Chinese is another language that may be offered in the future, because although the interest in Mandarin was considerably lower than it was for some of the other languages, a majority of the students who made it their first choice also reported having learned it before.
"So, we do not want students with a linguistic passing of Chinese to see that falter while they are here," said Harasta
According to Harasta, the languages that will be offered during the spring 2017 semester will be Spanish, French, and, for the first time at Cazenovia College, Arabic.
In the future, the goal would be for the college to offer students the core classes, such as French, Arabic, and Spanish, on campus, with the professor coming from the language center to teach the course, except in the case of the Spanish classes, where the professor will be from Cazenovia College.
For classes that have a smaller demand and cannot be offered on campus, students would travel to Fayetteville. "The college would have to provide some sort of transportation, and it would probably be in the form of college vans, but the exact details of that is still in the works," Harasta said.
"And there is a possibility other languages will be offered as a specific need for them arises," he said. "For example, if we do a spring break study abroad trip in Italy, then we would offer an Italian for travelers course for students preparing to go to Italy."
When asked why he believes a broadening of the variety of languages is important, Harasta said, "I believe that foreign language study is absolutely necessary in many fields of interest, and that it creates well-rounded global citizens."
"Our ability to communicate with people who do not necessarily use our language is important to many endeavors in the modern world, including our ability to empathize with others for peace, for diplomacy, for travel. But also, I would like to see us be able to offer languages so people can explore their world beyond the confines of the English language, and so they can interact with people who are not able to communicate in English."
Harasta, as well as the different heads of programs at the college, believe that the availability of solid language courses will be a good recruitment tool.
"I know that there would be more people in international studies if we could promise them more languages," he said. "People don't want to come and major in international studies if they can't study a language. It just doesn't make any sense."
He explained that there is a need for foreign language classes in other majors too. For example, with criminal justice, if you do not speak Arabic your chances of getting a job in that field are significantly lower than if you had a basic understanding of the language.
Harasta stressed that if there is a lack of student participation in the upcoming language program, then it could cause its termination and prevent anything like it from occurring for a long time.