Take Aways from the CMI Conference and the Mellon Language Colloquium

October has been conference month for the CILC and I’ve been lucky enough to attend two conferences discussing the importance of collaboration for the future of language and culture study.  Three weeks ago, a colleague and I represented Oberlin College at the Crisis Management to Innovation Conference at Hope College in Holland, MI.  We were able to attend sessions about the importance of collaboration and open-mindedness, particularly with the liberal arts context, to ensure the future success of our language programs.  We also learned about how to talk with the administration, and best practices in intensive summer language programs.  Here are some of the most thought-provoking ideas that were discussed at the CMI Conference:

  • Flexibility is important for recruiting and retaining students in smaller schools.  Simpson College has spent the last few years completely re-visioning their language majors so that students no longer are locked into a sequenced set of courses.  Instead, students are offered a menu of courses and have the opportunity to move between 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years courses.  This is possible by reorganizing courses to focus on thematic units that cover different grammatical elements.  Additionally, Simpson is offering a series of repeatable “workshops” (or half courses) so that students can piece together several workshops to continue progress on their degree plan even if a certain semester prevents the from enrolling in a full language course load.
  • Developing open lines of communication with the administration is essential.  Furthermore, when speaking with the administration, be mindful of the many requests they are receiving from the many areas of campus.  Be reasonable and always come prepared with a well-reasoned, numbers-based proposal that has been endorsed and reviewed by the institutional researcher as well as the faculty council.
  • Collaboration with colleagues is essential, and collaboration across colleges may be an option.  The GLCA Shared Languages Program is one way to help increase numbers and offer students in understaffed or less commonly taught languages additional course offerings.

This past weekend was the culmination of my work with Steering Committee colleagues from across the Ohio5: the Mellon Language Colloquium at Ohio State University.  I facilitated and participated in two sessions (Coordinating Off-Campus Study and Language Programs and Literature in the Language Classroom), and attended several others on the GLCA Shared Language Programs, Authentic Listening and Reading Resources, and follow-ups from previous winners of the Mellon Language Grant.  Major takeaways included:

  • Network and reach out to colleagues whenever possible!  So many people talked about how they didn’t realize how many colleagues worked on similar or complimentary areas and were more than willing to visit or guest lecture in their courses.  Furthermore, the Mellon Language Grant allows for collaboration across the Ohio5 schools for development of these types of collaborative programming.
  • Denison University German is considering moving toward a textbook-less language program.  They were able to put together a website that introduces authentic audio and reading materials to students.  This model allows professors to no longer require the supplemental online package and reduces dramatically the costs to students.  By working with colleagues and their instructional technologist, they have been very successful in developing these materials.
  • Experiential learning is here to stay and so important for language and culture students.  Study abroad is one way to accomplish that but there are other ways as well.  Through collaboration with colleagues, many creative options can be developed that benefit students.
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