Mission Statement

Overview of the Department:

The Department of Modem Languages plays a multi-faceted, pivotal role within the missions of the University, the College and the community by providing opportunities for the development of the skills and knowledge that help define an educated person in the new millennium. Citizens of our state and nation must be prepared to meet the economic and political challenges inherent in a linguistically complex, diverse international community. Put simply, it is increasingly important in today's world for Kansans (and all U.S. citizens) to be able to communicate in a foreign language and to be sensitive to and appreciative of the cultural diversity within and outside of our own borders. The Department of Modem Languages provides opportunities, training and expertise at several levels to allow students to gain such expertise. Indeed, the fact that the majority of Modern Language majors chooses to pursue double majors confirms the desirability of integrating foreign language communication skills and an appreciation of cultural diversity into career and life goals. The Department of Modem Languages is in a unique position to promote the University's strategic planning themes of expanding international programs and multiculturalism.

Another essential function of the Department is to provide instruction at the undergraduate and graduate levels as a traditional humanities discipline. The Department plays a vital role in supporting international programs and initiatives across the University as well. One of its members directs the two interdisciplinary secondary major programs in international studies (International Studies, Latin American Studies) and the Department promotes cultural diversity by providing instruction and support for other College programs such as American Ethnic Studies and Women's Studies. It also works closely with International Agricultural Programs by providing special classes, tutoring services and translations in support of that office. In 1991 and 1996 the Department co-sponsored with the Mid-America Chapter of the American Translators Association a symposium on translation where practicing and would-be translators, interpreters and small business representatives met to discuss the function of translators in today's global, political and economic communities. Given the importance of international commerce to the regional economy, this type of outreach activity is a great potential benefit to the entire state.

Finally, the Department is committed to improving foreign language instruction in the State of Kansas in the face of a predicted serious shortage of language teachers at the secondary level, and to incorporating advances in technology into language teaching and learning. A rapidly growing graduate program and the successful implementation of two teacher training institutes (supported by federal grants) attest to the Department's belief that we can be effective in our efforts to work with teachers statewide and regionally to enhance the articulation of foreign language programs.


The staff in Modem Languages includes 17.0 full-time faculty members: in French (4.0), German (4.0), Russian (1.0) and Spanish (8.0). Additional four- to six-semester sequences are provided by temporary instructors and GTA's in Arabic and Japanese. Introductory courses in Latin and Italian are taught through the Division of Continuing Education. The Department of Modem Languages is much more than just a "service" department whose only focus is instruction in basic foreign language skills. It offers majors and other advanced students a traditional program of courses on literature, civilization and culture that lead to the B.A. degree. The Department's new minors programs in French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish fulfill a real need for many students. The Department maintains a balance of course offerings from the medieval period to the modern era and a balance of faculty who employ a variety of critical approaches to these subjects. The Department strongly supports study abroad. In addition to established year-long exchanges in Germany, Switzerland, and France, the Department has operated a summer study in Mexico program for over 35 years, and in 1998 it initiated a summer study in Spain program.

The Masters Degree Program in Modem Languages provides a solid foundation for further study in foreign languages or the humanities, advanced skill development in written and spoken French, German or Spanish and, for many students, specific professional training for foreign language teachers. The M.A. offers both literature and language acquisition tracks. The Department has experienced a dramatic increase in its graduate student enrollments, including international students from China, Germany, Spain, Mexico, the Ivory Coast, Central America and Latin America, thereby playing a vital role within the University in the promotion and discussion of cultural diversity. Our distance education delivery system for reaching graduate students (mostly teachers) in rural areas allows us to promote indirectly the cultural and economic development of rural areas in the region and to contribute to the "internationalization" of our rural communities.

The Department prides itself on the outstanding quality of its teaching, as attested to by the numerous teaching awards won by faculty members. One faculty member has won the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching and three current faculty members have received the prestigious Conoco Outstanding (Undergraduate) Teaching Award for the College of Arts and Sciences. One of our colleagues was just chosen to receive the Commerce Bank Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In addition, several others have been recognized as William Stamey Award winners.


The Department's faculty members are well-balanced in terms of their critical approaches to literature and culture and the particular focus of their primary research. Our faculty members regularly publish books, articles, reviews, and present papers in fields directly related to the courses they teach. Modem Language faculty members routinely participate in the Freshman Honors Introduction to the Humanities course and periodically teach courses in the Arts and Sciences Honors Program, thus allowing them to further connect their personal research with instruction in the classroom for the benefit of students within and outside of the Department. Modem Languages faculty have won several Fulbright fellowships, many have been fellows of NEH Summer Seminars for College Faculty, and 8 serve or have served as editors or associate editors of national professional journals. Faculty members of the Department founded and publish Studies in Twentieth Century Literature, an internationally recognized scholarly journal which appears semi-annually. With the support of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School, Modern Languages sends one fellow every other year to the summer program of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, a rigorous program of seminars on the most recent developments in contemporary critical theory. The Department encourages faculty participation in scholarly and professional conferences at the regional, national, and international levels and has enabled select graduate students to accompany them and present their own research at regional meetings. Within the past year, faculty have presented papers at scholarly conferences at Austria, Argentina, Columbia, England, Ireland, Mexico, Spain and other locations throughout the word as well as throughout the United States.


In addition to offering courses in language, literature, and culture which lead to the B.A. degree or to a major or minor in Modem Languages and to providing support for a wide range of programs in the University and community, the Department is intimately involved in the testing and certification of language competence. In 1985 the Department sponsored a training program led by nationally recognized expert Judith Liskin-Gasparro for teachers interested in oral proficiency testing. This led not only to a revision of our curriculum but also to the training, certification, and re-certification of selected faculty in oral language proficiency testing along with a carefully thought-out program of assessment of skills, capabilities, knowledge and needs of our own graduates. In addition to testing and certifying the linguistic ability of M.A. and Ph.D. candidates in various departments of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department also assures that prospective foreign language teachers have attained the level of "advanced" in their target language before they are allowed to practice teach in public or private schools across the state. Furthermore, we are in the process of establishing a test site for the Zertifikat Deutsch offered through the Goethe Institute in Chicago. Students and citizens from anywhere in this section of the country can come here to be certified in the four basic language skills in German. As part our on-going endeavor to serve the foreign language teachers of the state, we have hosted a meeting of the Kansas Foreign Language Association and look forward to doing so again. We have periodically hosted the state-wide Schülerkongre, at which German students from across the state compete in variety of language and cultural events, most recently in 1996 and 2000. Members of the Department also serve on various national and regional professional committees, including state chapters of the national language teaching organizations and the Kansas Foreign Language Association.