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External Report Dec 2012

EXTERNAL REPORT ON THE SCHOOL OF LANGUAGES, CULTURES AND WORLD AFFAIRS:

 STRENGTHS, CHALLENGES, AND OPPORTUNITIES

 Prepared and Submitted by Dr. Michael Doyle and Dr. Andrew Reynolds
December 13, 2012

 

Drs. Michael Doyle (University of North Carolina at Charlotte) and Andrew Reynolds (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) were invited by Dr. David Cohen, Dean of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs (LCWA, also to be referred to as the School) to visit the College of Charleston in order to provide an informal assessment “of our progress as a new school.” Dean Cohen sent each of us an informative, comprehensive packet of materials which contained, among other useful information and documents: LCWA’s Vision and Mission; the history of LCWA (particularly as summarized by two faculty emeriti, Drs. Morris and Parson, “who were involved in discussions leading to the original design of the School,” p. 1 of their document);  a copy of the 2012 LCWA Annual Report; and a copy of Experience the World, LCWA’s Comprehensive Campaign Planning and Strategic Priority Identification document. Drs. Doyle and Reynolds visited the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs at the College of Charleston on November 29-30, 2012.

 

The two-day visit included meetings with LCWA leadership and primary stakeholders: Dean Cohen and Associate Dean Shawn Morrison; department chairs and program directors; upper administration (Provost Hynd, Graduate Dean McCandless, and Associate Provost Sobiesuo, Center for International Education); members of the LCWA Advisory Board; a representative group of LCWA students (ranging from freshman to post-baccalaureate status and across languages and majors within LCWA), and Honors Program Administrator Brian Ganaway.

 

This report addresses LCWA strengths, challenges, and opportunities, as perceived by Drs. Doyle and Reynolds during their campus visit. It is submitted in the spirit of furthering the ongoing development and successes that LCWA has enjoyed in the first six formative years of its existence. The future is indeed very bright as LCWA focuses on developing what can become signature programs in languages, cultures, and world affairs at the College of Charleston.

 

 

  1. I.                    LCWA STRENGTHS

 

Among the clear strengths that Drs. Doyle and Reynolds applaud are the following, each one representing an achievement to be recognized and upon which to build in the future, as LCWA continues to deliver on its Vision of serving as a locus “within the College of Charleston where disciplines merge, the realities of the world are confronted, and where knowledgeable, engaged citizens of that world come of age” (p. 9 of 2/19/09 document provided by Dean Cohen).

 

  • Leadership

 

It is clear that the LCWA leadership—the dean, department chairs, and program directors—are deeply committed to the ongoing health, development, and potential for  distinction of the School in terms of its identity, relevance, and centrality on campus. It is also clear that leadership at the upper administrative level is strongly supportive of LCWA which, in the words of Provost Hynd, should contribute significantly to the institutional mission of helping to “make the world a better place.” The Provost has demonstrated a strong commitment to the development of LCWA through new faculty lines and related expendable resources. While finances remain constrained there is a clear investment in the future growth of the School, which is to be encouraged because of its unique potential at the College.

 

  • Reputation and Quality of Language Teaching Program

 

The College of Charleston has established a strong reputation in language instruction via its four departments (Classics; French, Francophone and Italian Studies; German and Slavic Studies; and Hispanic Studies) and interdisciplinary majors and minors. The LCWA 2012 Annual Report indicates that instruction was provided in a total of fourteen classical and modern languages. Language instruction in LCWA clearly provides breadth and depth for interested students at the College of Charleston. The language programs are to be commended for incorporating external proficiency testing for the modern language majors. The fact that the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education “has cited all of our undergraduate degrees with commendations of excellence,” making the College of Charleston the only university in the state to receive this recognition, is indeed impressive (p. 1 of Experience the World).

 

  • Faculty commitment to teaching and the College of Charleston

 

Teaching quality is central to College of Charleston and students noted to us how much they appreciate and respect faculty engagement in the classroom. Upper level language offerings, one-on-one mentorship and the core international studies survey courses were singled out for praise. The faculty we met were enthusiastic about the College and living and working in Charleston, SC. Faculty are invested in the mission of the College.

 

  • Student quality and engagement

 

LCWA is very involved with the Honors Program, contributing 14.2% “of all courses taught” in the program” (2012 LCWA Annual Report, p. 6). LCWA students who met with us were very complimentary of the language training and their programs of study. Indeed, many of them decided to attend the College of Charleston because of the strength of its language programs. Had we been conducting a survey on program satisfaction, the response from this group would have clearly been “very satisfied.” The very talented students we met with are clearly emerging leaders.

 

  • Strong investment from community – LCWA Advisory Board

 

The Charleston community, as demonstrated through the LCWA Advisory Board, is enthused about the School’s growth and mission. The board, led by Hilton Smith, combines practical business skills and foreign service experience with an appreciation for the pedagogy of educating young people to be globally engaged. We were deeply impressed with the Board, their backgrounds and aspirations.

 

  • Commitment to study abroad and student participation

 

The College of Charleston and LCWA are firmly and enduringly committed to student participation in study abroad. Many study abroad options are available to LCWA students. All of the students we met had either studied abroad already or were planning to do so. Some institutional support is available to help defray the cost of study abroad, which so often becomes a life-changing component of one’s educational experience.

 

  • New International Scholars Program

 

The recently created International Scholars Program, in which a cohort of students is recruited from a competitive pool of applicants, is an excellent curricular vehicle for these students to combine a major in International Studies with a second major that complements their development of a global focus. These students develop a community via a shared residence hall during their first academic year and their “May Away” study abroad experience.

 

 

  1. II.                  LCWA CHALLENGES

 

  • Differential levels of investment in LCWA across faculty

 

The way in which the School was created resulted in a legacy of tension between some units and faculty across campus and within the School itself. Some smaller units within LCWA feel overwhelmed by the larger units, others are not sure of how they fit into the broader mission, while some new faculty in non-language posts are not clear on their relationship to their colleagues in the school, or indeed the College as a whole. Most faculty we spoke to did not wish to extricate themselves or their units from the school but there were varying levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the School’s mission writ large. These are challenges of building community and investing resources in units to reassure them of their joint ownership and value to the school.

 

 

  • Building a shared school communal identity – branding internally and externally


LCWA is well placed to develop a unique identity which can strengthen its position both in the College and as a brand in the emerging field of global/international studies. Building a stronger communal identity will energize the faculty and attract resources and students to the school. As noted earlier, LCWA aspiration, if developed fully, would be distinct in providing undergraduates with exceptionally strong language training combined with ‘big picture’ global connections and cultural awareness. Graduates would be highly sought after by foreign service, global organizations and corporations.

 

  • Changing the cultures of academic silos and creating the space and incentives for interdisciplinary work

 

It is our experience that the problem of isolationist and detached disciplinarily units is an issue throughout academia and all institutions of higher learning. Faculty are primarily beholden to their own departments and disciplines and incentives of promotion and tenure are primarily rooted in disciplinary work. LCWA was born and structured to promote an ethos of interdisciplinary fluidity and provide space for faculty to work and communicate across traditional boundaries. However, more needs to be done to make this aspiration manifest. This is not a problem faced by LCWA internally or alone. It is also a challenge to promote relationships both within LCWA, and between schools, in teaching and research. For example, pilot courses or course components might be designed with the express purpose of further hardwiring the educational synergies between languages, cultures, and world affairs and between these three signature LCWA components and other schools (e.g., the infusion of thematic or regional studies topics into the language curricula, such as regional and global health care issues as a component in language/culture or business language courses, etc.).

 

First and foremost, LCWA needs to strengthen its faculty-faculty relationships with the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS): many of the faculty in HSS should be kindred professional sprits with LCWA faculty. LCWA also focuses on themes which have cross-over with the professional schools on campus.

 

  • Reliance on adjuncts in teaching language

 

The 2012 LCWA Annual Report indicates that 42.8% of the credit hours taught in LCWA “are taught by part time and temporary adjunct faculty” (3). This is the highest percentage among the College of Charleston’s various schools, far higher, for example, than in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (26.3%). The 2012 Annual Report indicates that “It remains a high priority for the school to convert these full time adjunct positions in Italian, German and Classics to roster positions” (3; see also p. 20: “The use of non-permanent faculty, no matter how highly qualified they may be, destabilizes programs and detracts from the College’s academic reputation”). We believe that this staffing situation in LCWA should be a very high priority for the College of Charleston. Several of the students we met indicated that they felt that Spanish, in particular, was over-reliant on adjunct faculty at the beginning levels of language instruction. In fact, at least one of the students stated that she switched from Spanish to another language because of this. The effects of such a high reliance on part time and temporary adjunct faculty often include lower quality teaching, less commitment and availability to programs and students, and reduced involvement in departmental and program community and building of community. Although effective teaching technologies and the Internet are increasingly being woven in to language instruction materials and methodologies, LCWA recognizes this particular staffing challenge to its commitment to excellence.

 

  • Marrying culture into language and world affairs

 

“Culture” is the centrally placed word in the title of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs. In significant ways, “culture” is what binds “languages” (classical and modern) to “world affairs.” It is a vital common ground. Marrying or hard-wiring culture into language and world affairs is an ongoing challenge in that it requires continuous watchful vigilance to make sure that culture remains a central consideration in course design and teaching methodology, including learning outcomes assessment. This challenge is identified in the Morris and Parson report, Section 2E, “Furthering Cultural Components of the Curriculum within LCWA Courses” (10-11).

 

  • The institutional status of International Studies

 

Currently International Studies is a unit housing between four and five faculty members some of whom have tenure lines in other departments, while others have International Studies as their home. Many colleges face the issue of whether International Studies should be a department in its own right (with tenure track lines) or whether it should be a curriculum with ‘joint’ faculty drawn from pre-existing departments. The advantages of full departmental status revolve around clear channels for career progress and faculty commitment to the teaching and service obligations of a unit. However, based on experience from comparable programs, making IS a department could heighten tensions with other departments and Schools which contribute to global education and are competing for scarce resources and creating a department which does not have a traditional academic methodological backbone to draw upon.

 

  • Managing joint faculty appointments

 

Joint appointments within LCWA, or across schools in the college, can be useful in generating inter-disciplinary research and teaching but are problematic in lines of reporting. Truly ‘joint appointments’ where the teaching and service of a faculty member are shared between two units, need to be very clear on professional obligations to each unit and the mechanisms for promotion and tenure. While there is consistency in the process of promotion and tenure for those faculty members in traditional departments, we were struck by the lack of consistency and clarity across units in the rules and expectations for promotion and tenure for faculty not in formal departments. At the very least, the rules and procedures need to be made clear and consistent.

 

  • Search for a new dean: setting the leadership tone

 

When the time comes for the search for a new dean of LCWA, setting the tone (or setting several tones) will be key considerations in continuing to build upon the considerable successes achieved by current Dean David Cohen. A continuation of Dean Cohen’s effective communicative skills with a broad range of on- and off-campus stakeholders will be required. Cooperation and collaboration with fellow deans will be paramount, even within the competitive spirit that characterizes such leadership relationships. LCWA is fortunate that, whether the search is external or both external and internal, its pool of well qualified candidates can come from any of its disciplinary departments or language programs, from one of the interdisciplinary area studies, or from a new program such as the rapidly growing International Studies. We do not feel that the new dean should come from any particular area of LCWA, rather any successful candidate will have to be a fully committed and tireless champion of all three components in the School: languages, cultures, world affairs.

 

  • Pressures for graduate programs in school

 

Potential new graduate programming initiatives in LCWA represent a challenge in terms of the possible benefits to be gained at this writing. LCWA is currently known for the excellence of several of its undergraduate programs and features, and it is in the process of extending this excellence throughout other undergraduate areas and initiatives in the School. Graduate programming can be initiated successfully at the same time as innovative and successful undergraduate programming is also being continued and initiated. For both levels of initiative to be successful, however, sufficient staffing and funding support are necessary. If additional support is not provided for the initiation of new graduate programming, then budgets can be stretched too thin to the detriment of both the undergraduate and the potential graduate programming. If the College of Charleston itself is moving in the direction of increased graduate programming, then LCWA will eventually want to consider being part of that development so that it is contributing broadly to the educational mission of the institution.

 

  • Support for study abroad

 

It is impressive that the College of Charleston “currently ranks 12th among all masters level universities in the number of our students who study abroad” (2012 LCWA Annual Report, p. 6). Within this context, LCWA “is committed to increasing the number of students who study abroad” (2012 LCWA Annual Report, p. 8). The challenge will be to continue to plan coherent programs and to provide sufficient funding for all LCWA students who so desire to take advantage of exciting study abroad opportunities that will uniquely enrich their educational experience.

 

  • Creating a LCWA culture of securing external grant funding.

 

Developing and maintaining a School and departmental culture of securing external grant funding is a proven method for adding resources for faculty lines, both roster and part-time, and for programs themselves, grant support for which may range from funding for curriculum development, student mobility (study and internship abroad), student research initiatives under faculty supervision, secretarial staffing, etc. LCWA could build upon its past external funding initiatives in order to recognize and reward the creation of a dynamic culture of securing external grant funding to complement the institution’s internal support.  Such grants initiatives could be used, for example, to pilot intensive on-campus educational opportunities in LCWA—languages + cultures + world affairs—along the lines of offering a “Middlebury/Monterey Institute southeast” experience, which might be tailored thematically (e.g., international business, global health, peace and conflict, etc.). LCWA might consider consulting with Middlebury College in order to explore such a possibility, given that the Middlebury/Monterey Institute experience is currently offered only in the northeast and on the west coast of the U.S.

 

  • Continue to include ongoing developments in language curriculum content and methodology

 

The Morris and Parson report includes sections 2F, Language Tracks for Vocations, and 2G, Translating and Interpreting (p. 6). These are welcome features. The challenge is to further develop these curricular options, which students are increasingly seeking nationwide, and firmly anchor them within the LCWA curriculum, and in the case of business languages, more broadly within the School of Business as well (for more on the broader national context, see The Focus Issue: Languages for Specific Purposes in the United States in a Global Context, in the Modern Language Journal 96 [s1] 2012). The language departments in LCWA have considerable experience with LSP-Business and LSP-Translation/Intepreting (particularly interpreting), which combine content + language + culture, a perfect fit for LCWA. LSP will continue to emerge and mature globally as a major curricular option in the study of languages. This emergence of new curricular options, in response to the needs of today’s learners, should complement the traditional literature-based curriculum (LSP-Literature) in foreign language studies, and vice versa.

 

  • Sustaining curriculums

 

When the number of faculty in units number less than four or five, it is a challenge to maintain a sufficient number of course offerings to guarantee students can fulfill requirements (e.g., Arabic, Chinese, and African American studies). These, and other programs, are in a staffing danger zone. If one or two faculty are lost through research leave, attrition or the taking on of other responsibilities, programs may collapse. No program should rest on the presence of a single faculty member.

 

  • Spanish 101, 102, 201, 202 – split non-majors and majors/minors

 

It may be desirable to consider splitting the lower-division Spanish courses, characterized by large numbers, into sections for non-majors (those completing a very worthwhile general education requirement) and those planning to major or minor in Spanish, so that the latter can begin immediately to focus more intensively on skills and content acquisition in preparation for study abroad, internships, and the major and minor in a given language. This might also be a good option for French and other languages that demonstrate a critical enrollment mass for doing so.

 

  • Under resourced advising and administrative support for units

 

The scale of administrative support to academic unit in the School appears to us to be unsustainable if further growth is imagined and desired. Units will need greater advising capacity and clerical/administrative support.

 

 

  1. III.                LCWA OPPORTUNITIES

 

The School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs has the clear potential to be the home of high-profile signature programs in language, culture, and global studies (i.e., world affairs and area studies). The initiatives included in the 2012 LCWA Annual Report and in Experience the World (Comprehensive Campaign Planning) should be pursued energetically. These are the main initiatives identified in this informal external report. We have rehearsed representative strengths of the School today (and there are clearly others, among them Jewish Studies, the Carolina Low Country and Atlantic World Program, etc.) and outlined some of the challenges we feel pose hurdles to the School’s progress and evolution. We now offer a few potential strategies, drawn from our experience in comparable academic programs, on how LCWA may truly realize its strength.

 

  • Where do you want to be? Setting out a clear strategy and mission

 

A short mission statement outlining where the school wants to be in terms of size, scope, teaching and research strength, and the production of graduates would give LCWA targets to aim at in the medium to long term. We would recommend a small committee drafting a statement based on a broad survey of the views of faculty and other University stakeholders.

 

  • Building Identity: How you nurture and promote a community of scholars?

 

A stronger school communal identity would come from both physical and virtual connections. A physical space on campus housing all the LCWA units would inherently generate connections but until such a building exists communal identity can be promoted through virtual space. Ideas include: (i) a new school logo/tag line strengthening the brand. (ii) hosting broad thematic events open to the college and local community which draw in a variety of academic disciplines. For example, in 2011-2012 Global Studies at UNC Chapel Hill hosted a War Stories series including speakers from journalism, political science, history and memoir writers, talking on Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In 2014-2015 UNC CH will host a year-long investigation of the legacies of WW1 with events throughout campus: notable in Music, Theatre, Public Health, English, Peace, War and Defense, Women’s Studies and Political Science. (iii) A monthly school wide seminar rotating between units with a faculty member presenting their research. A post-seminar reception may encourage participation. Monthly faculty brown-bag talks have been used effectively at UNC Charlotte, and these can be extended to include student brown-bag gatherings (where students present on their research projects, study abroad experiences, etc.).

 

  • Synthesizing languages, cultures and world affairs: Languages+

 

LCWA programs can benefit from further synthesizing language, culture and world affairs, such that the whole becomes greater than the structure-signaled sum of its parts. Given the origins and strengths of LCWA, this might be viewed initially as languages PLUS, i.e., further developing and maintaining a school identity of shared and continuous watchful vigilance to make sure that the three components—languages, cultures, world affairs—are married or hard-wired to one another. This marriage or hard-wiring can be cultivated, for example, via the job descriptions for the hiring of new faculty, in which a hire in a language must also be prepared to contribute actively to the programs in cultures and world affairs, or hires in world affairs or area studies can also bring a secondary (“highly desirable”) qualification in a foreign language, such that they might teach an occasional culture, area studies, or world affairs course in one or more of the program’s major languages. In other words, the hire has a primary plus one or more highly desirable secondary areas in which he or she can contribute to LCWA. This would also help to hard-wire the ongoing development of a dynamically inter-engaged LCWA community.

 

  • Future leadership

 

A senior faculty hire in International studies (to act as future Director, Chair, leader) would help to solidify that unit and take it forward to the next stage of its evolution. The curriculum is small in faculty size but student numbers are growing rapidly. An acknowledged leader in the field would give the unit weight within the College and the world beyond. To fill the broader mission of LCWA, faculty should also be hired within area studies units with expertise outside of language acquisition and training. They could emanate from the social sciences or humanities.

 

  • Distinguished Visiting Professorships

 

Complementary to targeted (and ideally named) senior hires in International Studies and subsequently other LCWA areas, and also for directorships (i.e., the Carolina Low Country and Atlantic World Program), a program of Distinguished Visiting Professorships (DVPs including writers-in-residence, as proposed by the Department of Hispanic Studies) would add a flow of ideas, expertise, different perspectives, and external disciplinary/interdisciplinary contacts to the LCWA mix (see pp. 4-5 of Experience the World). This could be done very productively, for example, via rotation among LCWA programs.

 

  • Building on the International Scholars program

 

“The International Scholars program sits at the pinnacle of the College of Charleston’s strategic plans for internationalizing the educational experiences of students” (Experience the World, p. 7). Given that this program “is at the heart of the College’s effort to distinguish itself through the strength of international academic opportunities and immersion experiences in other cultures” (7), institutional and Advisory Board efforts should focus on providing more recruitment scholarships “to entice the best and brightest to join the program” (7).

 

  • Promotion and tenure incentives

 

One useful mechanism for encouraging new types of professional behavior is to adapt the incentives given to faculty for career development. Promotion and tenure requirements can be broadened beyond research and teaching to encompass issues such as multidisciplinary work and engagement with policy in the world beyond campus. At UNC Chapel Hill departments are now required to take into consideration issues of engagement and interdisciplinary work in their promotion and tenure policies. Unit attention to these matters may vary but there is an overarching message that such professional activities will be rewarded and encouraged.