Students in the School of Foreign Service will be able to pursue language minors within Georgetown College beginning this fall, according to a Tuesday announcement from the SFS Dean’s Office.
The new language programs, which will be open to all years starting with the Class of 2017, are the first time the SFS has permitted minors outside of the SFS undergraduate core. Previously, students would exclusively pursue majors in one of eight programs in addition to pursuing interdisciplinary certificates, the SFS equivalents of a minor.
Students are not allowed to double major or declare non-language minors from the College. No further plans for non-language minors have been announced as of press time.
The current SFS foreign language proficiency requirement will continue. Students fulfill the requirement by passing an oral proficiency examination, successfully completing an approved direct matriculation study abroad program or fulfilling native speaker status.
The SFS Dean’s Office has been considering ways to restructure the SFS’ curriculum in the run-up to its centennial celebration. In addition to language minors, the SFS will explore adding additional science and technology classes to its core, among other proposed changes.
Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Daniel Byman wrote that pursuing a language minor would allow SFS students to go beyond proficiency and learn finer points of a foreign language.
“Minors enable students to gain a credential they desire and help them advance even further in the study of a foreign language,” Byman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Georgetown offers a wealth of language opportunities, and I hope SFS students will learn more about world literature, how to do serious writing in a foreign language, and other valuable knowledge and skills.”
SFS Academic Council President Anna Hernick (SFS ’16), who worked with the Council as well as the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service Curriculum Committee and the Dean’s Office to help craft new offerings in the SFS, said the new minors would complement the work students put into achieving proficiency.
“Students in the SFS have always been dedicated to foreign language study, and receiving a minor in a foreign language is an easily understood recognition of all the hard work required to pass the SFS oral proficiency exam,” Hernick said.
Hernick said she participated in academic restructuring talks after gauging student interest.
“After hearing students ask for minors across the curriculum, the SFS Academic Council conducted a survey to quantify student requests for minors in different subject areas. We identified foreign language as a field that both fits with the interdisciplinary nature of the SFS and is a huge interest area for students,” Hernick said.
Hernick, former Academic Council President Megan Murday (SFS ’15) and Academic Council member Roopa Mulpuri (SFS ’18) presented the results of their surveys to the BSFS Curriculum Committee and advocated for the language minor change.
The three also serve as voting members of the committee.
Hernick said she was impressed by the SFS’ consideration of student opinion.
“It’s been great to see SFS administrators and faculty give a student initiative the same extensive thought and consideration put into every curricular change,” Hernick said.
Byman wrote in a statement that languages were good options to be the first minors in the SFS.
“For now language minors make the most sense for the SFS experience, as compared with other minors that are offered in the College, because it reinforces the interdisciplinary and international foundation of an SFS education,” Byman wrote.
SFS Dean Joel Hellman wrote in a statement that the SFS is unique because of the scope of its studies of different countries, regions and cultures.
“SFS students go on to work in a variety of different sectors all over the world, and whether it’s in business, diplomacy, development or technology, having strong language skills is key. We want SFS students to communicate with others, no matter where they are or what they’re doing,” Hellman wrote.
Grady Willard (SFS ’18) said he believes the Dean’s Office should go further than permitting language minors.
“I’m not sure why they decided to stop at language minors. Dean Hellman noted in his quote that SFS students go into business, technology, diplomacy and development, and we know they go into government and academia as well. There’s no reason why people shouldn’t be able to obtain a minor in Computer Science or a minor from the MSB or something like that,” Willard said.
Mulpuri said language minors should be a first step in allowing SFS students more opportunities in other schools.
“Many students in the SFS would eventually like to see flexibility in being able to minor across schools,” Mulpuri said. “However, this announcement is an enormous first step in that direction. The ability to minor in foreign languages fits with the interdisciplinary mission of the SFS and gives us the opportunity to receive the same credential that students in other schools completing the same coursework would receive.”
Alexandra Williams (SFS ’19) said the new minors would validate the interest students have in pursuing a global education.
“I am very excited that the SFS is now offering a language minor. As students interested in diplomacy and foreign relations in an ever-globalizing world, it only seems logical for us to be able to formally acknowledge the dedication we have to foreign language through a minor certification,” Williams said.
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