After over 100 years of foreign languages at Tech, the Board of Regents approved the first foreign language degree for the Institute. The new degree will be a Bachelor of Science in Applied Languages and Intercultural Studies. The degree will differ from traditional foreign language degrees and will be offered in the coming fall semester.
“Our idea, and the need, was to design a new model for how foreign languages are delivered in the U.S.,” said Chair of the School of Modern Languages Phil McKnight.
The degree will be a combination of foreign language studies, cultural studies and a cluster in an interdisciplinary field. The cluster requires 15 hours of study in a concentrated field, allowing students to complete a minor within the major or a combination of courses within another major discipline. Students will also have to complete at least 12 hours abroad.
“The program is designed so that the job opportunities are much broader than they would have been if it was your standard, traditional literature program…. We wanted something that really enhances a student’s job profile,” McKnight said.
The study abroad requirement can be met with current study abroad programs. McKnight said the program will encourage students to study abroad for an entire year, especially for students studying Japanese and Chinese.
The program will launch offering Spanish and Japanese this fall, adding other languages in the coming years.
“We chose Spanish and Japanese [to start the program]. I think Spanish will fill up fast, and I wanted an Asian language to let everybody know this not a European program; this is a broad program,” McKnight said.
German, French and Chinese are the next languages to be added to the program, and the groundwork is already in place for those languages to be folded into the major.
“We are ready to go with all five languages. All we need is for the Provost’s Office to sign off [on the other three languages]…. that’s where some caution was exercised about the worries of having enough resources in place,” McKnight said.
The department hopes that the financial climate will improve in such a way that will allow the other three languages to be added a year from now. The program has been in the works for almost four years and ready to be initiated for a year and a half, but the budget crisis postponed the launch.
Russian, Korean and Arabic are also planned to be offered through the program, but those languages need more resources to become a part of the major. McKnight said that each language needs at least three tenure-track faculty to be included in the program which none of the three languages currently have.
With over 5,000 students taking a modern language at Tech, according to McKnight the next logical step to enhancing the department was to add a modern language centered major.
“The message and the initiative [to create this degree] comes from the students, because students in all disciplines, whether it be engineering or internal affairs or management, have realized that they are probably going to be working in another country some point during their career, and they realize the impact if globalization,” McKnight said.
McKnight hopes that the unique characteristics of this foreign language program will attract students from within the Institute and will bring students to Tech. He also believes that the program is a much needed progression for Tech.
“This degree program will help Georgia Tech significantly in its profile as an university. If you look at all the peer institutes of Georgia Tech they all have foreign language degrees,” McKnight said.