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Regents delay decision on graduate German program’s future

BY ALINA RUBEZHOVA | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

Though the UI is considering suspending the graduate German program for the next two years, the state Board of Regents took the item off its agenda Thursday morning.

UI Provost Wallace Loh said the UI is seeking faculty and student input on the matter before making its decision. They may not like what they hear from those students, however.

“My fear is that by taking this off their current agenda, they are content to watch the program die,” said Drew Chapman, a teaching assistant in the department.

There are two paths in the graduate program, linguistics and literature, and students can combine them.

Over the past six years, enrollment in advanced German courses at the UI has averaged around 16. Associate Professor Roland Racevskis, the head of the German department and the French/Italian department, said 19 students were pursuing graduate degrees in German during the 2008-09 academic year, compared with more than 49 in Spanish.

According to the UI Pomerantz Career Center, German students can go on to become foreign correspondents, international consultants, officers for the State Department, social workers, and translators. After receiving advanced degrees, many people choose to teach. Racevskis said a university has the responsibility to provide training for those aspiring to becoming German instructors.

Chapman is one of those students. Originally he set out to study biology and pre-medicine, but taking one German course led him to pursue a major in the language. He plans to teach after finishing his degree, incorporating influences from his German instructors’ teaching methods and close interactions with students.

“I want to be involved in giving this kind of experience to future generations of American students. It can only help to expose future generations to other world cultures because we are becoming more global with every day,” he said.

Chapman said he learned about his heritage and culture through his studies. Much of the population in Iowa claims German ancestry, he said, and taking away a foreign language limits the opportunity to learn more.

Racevskis agreed.

“Something that needs to be emphasized is the major importance of German history and culture for this state,” he said.

If the regents had agreed to suspend the German graduate program, the UI would be the only school in the Big Ten to do so.

“I worry about how it will look on my résumé to list that I am a graduate of a program that was suddenly done away with,” Chapman said. “It gives the impression that our program isn’t worthy of consideration. Which is entirely false. We have world-class professors here.”


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