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UNC-system schools aim to collaborate on foreign language programs

UNC-system administrators are working to expand foreign language learning opportunities for students as part of an initiative they hope will save money in the long run.

Representatives from 12 system schools participated in a teleconference Friday and discussed expanding the system’s established language study consortia and creating new ways to collaborate, said Ruth Gross, head of N.C. State University’s department of foreign languages and literatures, in an email.

The representatives discussed ways to make more foreign language classes available, said Gross, who participated in the teleconference.

Universities would utilize distance education along with study abroad opportunities and summer programs, administrators said.

But making these accommodations might cost money — something in high demand and short supply for system universities.

These initiatives would provide access to less commonly taught language classes via distance education or other programs so administrators wouldn’t create a new program to accommodate a small number of students.

Jeff Braden, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at N.C. State, who helped spearhead the effort to explore collaborative options, said university administrators might ask the system for funding. But he knows more budget cuts are coming.

“I’d love to operate under the assumption that I’m going to get more money, but I think that would be foolish of me as a dean,” he said.

Both Braden and Tony Calamai, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University, said the group is planning to submit an example of proposed collaborative efforts to the UNC-system administrators.

“One of the things that the UNC General Administration told us in our discussion was to forget about the barriers for now,” said Calamai, who is leading the effort with Braden.

But some administrators still notice roadblocks to system-wide availability of language classes.

Universities must fund courses they want to open up to other schools because system funding is limited, said Clayton Koelb, chairman of UNC-CH’s department of Germanic and Slavic languages and literatures.

“We’re hanging on just barely in terms of the budget right now.”

Koelb said he doesn’t know where his department would get the manpower to offer classes in the consortium.

“It would mean asking people to do extra work,” he said. “And we’re already doing more for less.”

The University has not been involved in the system’s German studies consortium because it’s been able to meet students’ needs without other universities’ classes, said William Andrews, senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities at UNC-CH.

The collaborative efforts the group is developing will increase students’ access to courses across the system, Andrews said.

The system-wide initiatives would increase enrollment for language courses that normally don’t have enough interest to justify offering courses, he said.

“They don’t want those students not to have an opportunity to study those languages, but they also have a problem justifying holding classes for such small numbers.”

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