Featuring The Language Studies Department at Middlebury

Hispanic Community January 2021
Editor’s Note: Socially conscious and with a global focus in mind, the Language Studies Department at Middlebury Institute at Monterey offers an array of graduate language courses in language proficiency depending on the students’ professional needs.

The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, is located in the Language Capital of the World. This graduate school is a close-knit community made up of 764 students who speak a variety of native languages. On-campus, the student per faculty ratio is 9:1. MIIS, as it is often referred to, offers 12 master's degrees. Students come from 53 countries to work on their graduate courses, which are housed in two different schools within the university. The Graduate school of Translation, Interpretation and Language Education (GSTILE) and the Graduate School of International Policy and Management. MIIS is a training ground for individuals who have a global focus and are socially conscious, driven by the zest to produce sustainable and equitable solutions to global challenges and improve policies, practices, and understanding. The institute is committed to ensuring that its graduate students experience deep collaborative learning, develop language skills and intercultural communication, and possess ample opportunities to learn and apply practical and professional skills.

The Language Studies Department 

Prof. Pablo Oliva, Ph.D. Associate Prof. Chair of Language Studies gives us detailed account of the LS work at MIIS. Content-Based Instruction (CBI) in foreign languages at MIIS plays a pivotal role in our students' professional development. CBI provides a rich discipline-specific content for language proficiency to develop. At MIIS, the Language Studies (LS) department designs the curriculum taking into account topics closely related to students’academic interests and professional needs in various proficiency levels. Students can develop their linguistic skills, specialized vocabulary, and professional academic content in the target language. Our students are exposed to lectures, discussions, round tables, and debates. Professors also invite experts from around the globe to talk about topics of interest and share their expertise with our students. A few topics in the Language Studies Department include:

  • Democracy, Human Rights & Sustainable Development
  • Security and Disarmament
  • Public Speaking
  • Environmental Studies
  • Social Justice
  • Business Communication
  • Public Diplomacy

 These topics are studied in seven languages offered on campus: Arabic, Chinese, English for Specific Purposes (EAPP), French, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and outside our campus (Non-regular Languages: Navajo, German, Persian Farsi, Portuguese, Hindi, Korean, Urdu, Turkish)

Specialization In Language Studies For Professional Purposes

Starting the Fall semester in 2020, MIIS administration approved the new Language for Professional Purposes Specialization. This new addition's objective will have a significant impact and incentive to strive for higher linguistic achievements in their chosen professional fields. The specialization can be completed by students who study at the intermediate and advanced levels in their foreign languages and complete three out of four deliverables while taking twelve units of the target language instruction. For example, students taking a course in our department at the intermediate or intermediate plus levels may, as part of their coursework, deliver a persuasive, original professional talk in the target language showcasing individual research for around fifteen minutes, followed by Q & A. This would count as one deliverable. In Language Studies, we believe that the new specialization will incentivize closer collaboration with colleagues and different stakeholders within the university to benefit our students. We also hope that the new specialization will attract more students with advanced foreign language skills to enroll in MIIS. We look at this exciting development as an important step toward strengthening the MIIS brand and its mission of educating professionals to advance understanding, promote peace, and drive change in quest of a more more equitable society.

A Few Highlights About Our Work In Language Studies Pre And During Covid 19

Prof. Rana Issa

Arabic Professor Rana Issa together with the International Cultural Gathering (ICG) club, the Intercultural (ICC) committee, and Digital Learning Department (DLINQ) organized a week-long celebration of International Cuisine via zoom. In this exciting event, we cherished the cultural diversity of our MIIS campus! Students, faculty, staff members, and community members participated in this event. Professors and students and community members shared their favorite recipe from their home country as they cooked from their own house. 

Prof. Sabino Morera

 We believe in interdisciplinarity as one of the main pedagogical principles at the Institute. We take pride in our multilingual, multicultural Monterey Model courses.  The Monterey Model epitomizes the Institute. It is a unique approach developed by the Language Studies faculty that promotes meaningful target language learning and brings policy and management students with translation and interpretation students to facilitate learning in the target language. In these courses, we explore global events and issues at the national, regional, and international level as we also become aware of cultures other than one’s own to further global citizenship education through empathy and critical analysis.

Guest Biologist Aníbal F. Parera

In Spanish, the Biologist, Aníbal Fernando Parera from Buenos Aires, Argentina, in his talk, explored food consumption patterns and their impact on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions as well as how this brings about country inequalities around the globe. He explained and exemplified how economic growth declined globally due to Covid19; this has resulted in several positive impacts  for flora and fauna.

Prof. Anna Vassilieva

Prof. Anna Vassilieva has been the Program Head of Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute for over 20 years. In her content based language courses, she focuses on the impact of culture, language, literature, and history on current Russian domestic and foreign policy, Russian leadership, and media, in addition to teaching her students public speaking, professional interviews, and presentations in Russian. Dr. Vassilieva is also the founding director of GIRS (The Graduate Initiative in Russian Studies), the project funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York. MIIS students who opt to pursue their masters’ degrees at MIIS have unique opportunities to study contemporary Russia and US- Russia relations through meeting with invited leading experts, journalists, authors from Russia and the United States, pursuing fully funded research trips to the Russian Federation and attending professional conferences. GIRS also hosts a seven-week Monterey Summer Symposium on Russia, a leading non-degree program that boasts a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, bilingual curriculum offered to outstanding graduate students of Russia and Eurasia from the top American and European universities. Students have the chance to enhance their professional skills by attending varied workshops on podcasting, Harvard negotiating boot camps, diplomatic memo writing, and engage in networking opportunities.

Prof. Marie Butcher

Prof. Marie Butcher is the Program Head of EAPP(English for Academic and Professional Purposes). The department serves international students (from Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia) in all disciplines offered at MIIS —which range from International Environmental Policy to Non-Proliferation Studies to Translation and Localization Management Studies, among other possible majors. The Professor explains: “In EAPP, we work closely with students to help them hone their skills, increase their confidence in presenting, debating, negotiating, researching, and presenting their research in a cogent presentation or academic paper.  Similar to our colleagues in Language Studies, we offer a content-based approach to deepening language acquisition and proficiency.”  At MIIS, it is possible to customize courses to make them relevant to students’ most immediate needs.  For example, when the first Shelter-in-Place/ COVID lockdown orders were introduced during the Spring of 2020, Prof. Butcher pivoted our curriculum to have students research the responses in different countries and regions. In another course, Business Correspondence, she asked students to study the immediate impacts of the shutdown in their respective industries and conduct interviews with experts in their fields to make predictions about how their industry would adjust.  This approach allowed students to gain greater confidence and adapt more successfully to the new restrictions and online learning, while the pandemic was unfolding.  As a result, students reported greater confidence about how to adapt to the changing environment, both academically and looking ahead to their expectations as professionals. Prof. Butcher adds: “During the Fall 2020, we put an emphasis on increasing content related to equity, diversity, and inclusion.  Within the EAPP program, we hosted 4 virtual events with special guests, among whom were Ambassador Busia (Ghanaian Ambassador to Brazil) and Verlaine-Diane Soobroydoo, Coordinator of the joint United Nations-African Union initiative African Women Leaders Network (AWLN).  Students were able to deepen their understanding on issues related to gender and race, while perfecting their skills in moderating a session, posing questions in a Q & A session, and writing about their reflections and what they learned from the speakers.  If there were to be a motto in EAPP, it would be: Stay flexible and meet the students where there is the greatest need.”

We will share more insights about Language Studies (LS) in future issues.

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