One in four seniors in the School of Foreign Service has declared a foreign language minor since the SFS began recognizing foreign language minors this fall, with Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish language courses remaining the most popular choices among students.
Eighty-six out of about 350 students in the Class of 2017 have formally submitted minor declarations, according to SFS Associate Dean and Director of Undergraduate Programs Mitch Kaneda.
Seniors remain the only SFS students able to minor in a foreign language, after a policy change announced last semester. The Class of 2018 and Class of 2019 will be able to declare language minors in future years.
Arabic minor declarations have increased to 49 from an average 15 to 20 minors. French minors jumped from 59 total declared students last fall to 95 this semester.
The policy change from April marked the first time the SFS has permitted minors in any subject outside the SFS undergraduate core.
Previously, students had to exclusively pursue majors in one of eight programs in addition to pursuing interdisciplinary certificates. Students are also required to pass a foreign language proficiency test.
The SFS Academic Council played a significant role in pressing for access to language minors, according to Kaneda.
“This is an example of student leadership and the act of students, faculty and deans working together, that made a real difference,” Kaneda wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Spanish and Portuguese Department Chair Gwen Kirkpatrick said the minors have not shifted enrollment numbers drastically as Spanish was already a popular language.
“I think it is still too early to know whether it will change enrollments. We usually have quite a few SFS students in upper-level courses and in the Barcelona and Quito summer programs, so I’m not sure a change will be noticeable initially,” Kirkpatrick wrote in an email to The Hoya. “But we are looking forward to having more SFS students in upper levels as they complete a minor.”
Kirkpatrick said the minor opportunity is part of the department’s work to diversify course offerings.
Professor of Spanish Cristina Sanz said many students enrolled in upper-level language courses declare minors since they have already taken required courses.
“We have always had a substantial number of SFS students in upper level courses,” Sanz wrote in an email to The Hoya. “To the fact that a few are now declaring a minor does not mean they wouldn’t have taken those courses anyways before the recent changes.”
The Italian department received nine new minors from the SFS, an increase from 23 students and the German department reported a 25 percent increase in enrollments, including a 50 percent increase in enrollment at the two highest course levels.
The German department was unable to provide exact enrollment numbers as of 2:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Chair of the German department Friederike Eigler said fluctuations are common in a small department, but believed the new minor options will appeal to more students.
“In a small department like German fluctuations in enrollments are quite common and causes are not always easy to identify,” Eigler wrote in an email to The Hoya. “However, it is likely that the significant enrollment increases at the higher course levels this fall semester are at least in part related to the new minor option for SFS students i.e., students who have taken German through the advanced level and need two additional upper level courses to fulfill the minor requirement for German.”
Chair of Arabic and Islamic studies Felicitas Opwis said she has noticed an increased number of first-level course enrollments.
“In general, enrollment numbers go up and down from year to year, and so it is hard to speak of trends yet. However, comparing the enrollment of SFS students from fall 2015 with those of fall 2016 (i.e. with the start of language minors in SFS), I notice that we have a strong increase in SFS students in the first level/beginning Arabic as well as in Spoken Arabic and Media Arabic,” Opwis wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The total number of students enrolled is consistent, according to Opwis.
“However, this is not the case for second and third level Arabic, where numbers are roughly the same or lower. The absolute number of SFS students enrolled in Arabic courses (language and post-language acquisition courses) is still almost the same,” Opwis wrote.
Taylor Oster (SFS ’17), an Arabic minor, said the new option also communicates language students’ work more easily to potential employers.
“I think a language minor demonstrates a little more clearly your study and devotion to a particular language in a way that proficiency may not necessarily express. You could take your proficiency test without ever actually studying at Georgetown,” Oster said. “It’s a little easier to explain what a minor is versus what a concentration is, and I think for an employer, it’s easier to explain what a minor is versus what a concentration is or what a concentration means.”
Oster said the minor option rewards students who have already taken several courses to achieve proficiency.
“I’ve been taking Arabic since freshman year and the specific requirements for an Arabic minor were basically all the classes I had taken or planned to take. I think it’s great that we have proficiency in the SFS — it’s a really unique thing that the SFS requires,” Oster said.
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