New world languages division picks director

BY ARIANA WITT | MARCH 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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Russell Ganim believes in the notion that there is strength in numbers.

The newly hired director of the University of Iowa’s Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures — which recently merged 16 languages offered at the UI under one umbrella — said he believes having a single division can mean more attention and funding for the language programs.

“When you look at the languages together, and you look at the enrollments, and you look at the student credit hours that are produced by the unit, you can produce a lot more clout than if you exist in separate smaller departments,” said Ganim, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and chairman of the school’s Modern Languages & Literatures program.

After a seven-month search, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences officials announced Ganim as the director on Monday. He is set to begin in July.

“[Ganim] had all the kinds of things we were looking for in terms of research, teaching and overall experience,” said UI Professor Steve Duck, who headed the search committee.

The state Board of Regents approved the new Division of World Languages in September 2010 as a means of merging six programs at the UI: American Sign Language, Asian & Slavic, French & Italian, German, Spanish & Portuguese, and the Language Media Center. Together, these include 16 languages.

Roughly 65 tenure-line and nontenure teachers and scholars make up the division’s faculty.

Professor Marc Armstrong has served as interim director.

UI officials decided on the merger to provide more collaboration among programs with similar missions, with a bonus of potentially cutting costs.

Duck said in April 2010 the UI could save upwards of $100,000 with the consolidation. But officials have not yet conducted any cost analysis, said liberal-arts Dean Linda Maxson.

“The division wasn’t put together to save money,” she said. “It was put together to find better ways of interacting and offering students courses and to get better interaction with faculty perceptions in literature and culture.”

Maxson said the UI also aims to improve specific areas in the division, especially concerning faculty.

The UI has 35 ongoing searches for faculty members, including a digital humanities cluster search for which it is currently negotiating offers. Maxson said the division will next look to hire faculty to teach Japanese, using “targeted dollars” set aside by officials; she did not specify a figure.

Some faculty members in language departments were wary of the merger months ago, but now, some said they believe they are adjusting.

“Right now, we’re just working on collaboration,” said associate Spanish and Portuguese Professor Mercedes Niño-Murcia.

But with a new division and director comes reworking the structure of faculty members, which Maxson said officials are still working on.

Under Ganim, two UI faculty members will serve as the division’s overall executive officers: Nino-Murcia, the head of Spanish & Portuguese, and Roland Racevskis, the head of French & Italian and the head of German.

Beneath them, Maxson said, officials are working to restructure individual language department heads.

UI spokeman Tom Moore officials are also still determining Ganim’s salary, which will be determined based on work experience and Ganim’s previous salary.

Ganim has served as chairman of Nebraska’s Department of Modern Languages and Literature for the past decade. His 2010-11 salary for the position totaled $58,118 according to Nebraska’s personnel roster.

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