Minutes of November 6, 2006
3 p.m., Holmes Student Center – HSC 505

Present: Bose, Cassidy, Dowen, Hartenhoff, Levin, Olson, Prawitz, Russo, Stravers

Guests: Donna Askins, Research Associate, Office of the Provost; Anne Birberick, Chair, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures; Carolinda Douglass, Coordinator, Assessment Services; Joe Grush, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Jamie Rothstein, Assistant to the Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences;

Dowen called the meeting to order at 3:05 p.m. It was moved and seconded to approve the minutes of October 30, 2006, and the motion passed unanimously.

Dowen welcomed Joe Grush, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Jamie Rothstein, Assistant to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Anne Birberick, Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures who are attending the meeting to discuss the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures review.

Grush provided an overview of the department. He said that this department has multiple languages and literatures programs that teach students to speak, write, and understand the history. We call this department “our United Nations” because there are many different cultures on the faculty and the chair brings them together, which can be challenging. The department is technology rich; the Foreign Language Multimedia Learning and Training Center is one of the two top facilities of its kind in the nation. The center has satellite hookups to all the capitals in the world, which allows students and others to view the news in many different languages. During the past decade, this department has made remarkable progress on scholarly activities, and our students are better educated because of this. The major challenge for the department is that we do not want to become a department of Spanish; we want to keep the literatures and languages that we currently offer. There is a wonderful synergy between the department and the Southeast Asian Studies Center. Many of the Southeast Asian languages are taught here at NIU. The challenge is how the department offers all these courses with limited resources. This is a department that has grown in a lot of ways, most significantly in scholarship.

Birberick thanked the members of the subcommittee, especially for their suggestions in terms of assessment. The department has 25 tenured and tenure-track faculty members. We are a young department; we have two full professors at this time. Our faculty firmly believe in combining research, teaching, and service. This fall we had our first career day, and 35 students participated. We plan on holding a career day every semester. We currently teach 14 languages, have four majors (French, German, Russian, and Spanish), and two master’s specializations (Spanish and French). We are committed to ensuring students have a global competence, which include study abroad opportunities in France, Austria, Spain, and Costa Rica. We have three study abroad scholarships for students, and we participate in a Fulbright faculty exchange. We also have the Foreign Languages Residence Program (FLRP) that will be celebrating its 35th year next year. Currently there are 50-60 students who participate on the floor and other students who attend dinner programs. Our Foreign Language Multimedia Learning and Training Center is a state-of-the-art center, and regular equipment upgrading for this center has been built into the budget. The center was the first to do video streaming on campus, and we have a state-of-the-art software translation program. The center has a wonderful support services staff and graduate assistants that help everybody with their needs. Cassidy added that APC members toured this facility the last time the programs were reviewed, and it is a wonderful facility.

Dowen presented the subcommittee report and complimented everyone involved on a well-written program review. He said the strengths of the department are the Foreign Language Multimedia Learning and Training Center, business partnerships, Foreign Language Residence Program, good library support, strong assessment model, and dedicated faculty. The department has a truly dedicated faculty, and this is great. Birberick stated that she feels a great deal of pride to be the chair because I have absolutely great colleagues. We do have in place a very strong assessment model, which has received good reviews. We use portfolios for assessing student learning; two faculty members were asked to present this model at an assessment conference. Cassidy stated that the partnerships you have with businesses is also a strength. Birberick added that the Trados software acquisition grew out of a contact with an alumnus whose son is attending NIU. Trados is translation software for companies engaged in commercial translation for group projects. Our students learn how to use this software, and this gives them an edge when seeking employment.

Dowen said that one of the discussion points is that the department serves four undergraduate majors, two master’s specializations, and has course offerings in 14 languages. How does this all fit together given your resource constraints? Birberick replied that the department uses instructors to teach some languages, and we might only have one person teaching a language. We try to partner with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies for Fulbright scholarships.

Dowen noted another discussion point was that some software support is based on soft money. Birberick explained that the only software support on soft money was Trados, which was originally donated to the center. After a period of time we had to renegotiate site licenses, but we paid significantly less than the original quote due to an alumnus stepping into the negotiation process.

Dowen said that the physical facility is another item for discussion. Birberick stated that the department is located in Watson Hall, and with the exception of a handful of faculty, most faculty share an office. In some offices there are three instructors. All of the graduate assistants are in one office in the basement of DuSable, and we would like to change this. Russo asked if the GAs hold office hours. Birberick replied that they do, and this is really hard when the GAs are working with students. Cassidy asked if it was uncommon in the college for faculty to share an office. Grush responded that it is not completely rare, but this department has more faculty sharing offices than anyone else in the college. It really is a challenge. When you do scholarship, you like to have a quite place to work.

Dowen stated that in the student learning outcomes section you should replace the word “understanding” with something that is more measurable. Birberick noted that she has mentioned this to the people involved in assessment, and we will discuss this at a future time.

Dowen said given the intensity of the work load, how are you planning on retaining your high-quality faculty? Birberick said that average teaching load is three plus three courses each semester for everyone regardless of rank. We are upfront about this in our interview process, and we tell potential candidates that this will not change as they move up the ranks. This is problematic. We have discussed it many times, and I am not sure how best to handle this situation. When possible, we assign faculty two sections of the same course so the prep work is less. This is feasible with Spanish, but not Thai. I also try not to put probationary faculty on committees. We do try to be supportive. One way that we do this is to make sure the faculty can make copies, go to conferences, etc. We work on the things that we have control over. Cassidy asked if the reason your faculty is young is because after obtaining a few years of experience they leave for other positions, or is it due to retirements. Birberick replied this is due to retirements. Some positions have been lost because of rescissions or reallocations. Grush added that these are faculty with high teaching loads and quality scholarship. If you reduce the load, you won’t have the richness of the department. Birberick added that we have had problems in hiring because of the teaching load. Candidates sometimes find other positions that offer them a three plus two or two plus two teaching load. We did hire a faculty member in the German area who stayed two years and then took a job with a lower teaching load. Cassidy asked if the salaries were competitive. Birberick said that the salaries are fine. The problem is that even after reaching the rank of full professor you have a three plus three teaching load. Bose asked how you convince the faculty to write grants and be active scholars. Birberick replied that in every department there is probably a percentage that do not perform as well as they should. I think of my faculty out of 25 members there are 3 who are not active, and 1 of the 3 is becoming more active. I don’t have a lot to play with to reward the faculty. I do try to make the faculty know that they are valued members of the department and appreciated. Grush added that the teaching load for the department was set at a time when a high portion of faculty were not engaged in regular scholarship. Now this is not the case and should be adjusted, but we don’t have the resources to change this. This is not fair to the faculty. This load is the highest in the college given the scholarly productivity. Russo asked if you could look within the college for reallocations. Grush replied that right now we are trapped. Every department in the college except for one has experienced growth. Reallocation is not a viable option at this time. It would just move the problem somewhere else. Bose stated that given this kind of productivity, can the dean have some discretionary funds that he could give to the chair? Grush noted that we have done one-time recognition rewards to tell the faculty how much we appreciate what they are doing. It is a very congenial place. It is also a nice problem to have, but there are no readily available resources to solve this problem. Cassidy said that you talk about strong support from an alumnus; are there other alumni you could seek support from? Birberick replied that we have just begun to reach out to our alumni, and our 35th anniversary celebration of the FLRP program should help with this. We have another alumnus who will be highlighted in our upcoming newsletter. This person donates money for a study abroad scholarship, and she is now teaching in the Chicago lab school after having left the field of international banking. We are starting to form links with our alumni, but this takes time.

Stravers asked if the department has some gems about how you do assessment, and are there some documents explaining how this is done. Birberick replied that our assessment plan spells out our processes, including how we do electronic portfolios. For the baccalaureate programs we have a one credit hour course in which students produce portfolios. We have a faculty member teaching the course who helps the students put the portfolios together. This is what my colleagues talked about at the conference they attended. Askins stated that she would be happy to write an article about this for Toolkit. Birberick responded that we would be happy to provide you with information.

Dowen said that the last recommendation was to provide a follow-up report in three years on enrollment and faculty resources for the Russian program. There is currently one faculty member and one major. Birberick added that this faculty member is teaching four to five courses per semester. She is committed to the baccalaureate program and willingly elected to teach four courses a semester. She is on sabbatical this semester and her students need extra courses next semester, so she will be teaching five courses next semester. Grush noted that she is receiving additional compensation. She is one of the persons trapped into serving the students who are midway through the program, and her own scholarship suffers. Cassidy said that this summer there was an extensive discussion about the Russian program. Even though the data show one major, there are more students who have picked this as a second major and also other students who have picked it as a minor. Douglass asked what the Russian students were doing this semester. Birberick replied that we have someone teaching Russian 101 and 201, but we are unable to provide classes at the 300 and 400 level this semester.

Dowen said that the strengths of the undergraduate programs include the high standards, curriculum updates, increases in the number of majors, dedicated faculty, and strong students. Dowen asked Birberick to talk about the nature of the students in the programs. Birberick noted that foreign languages students are generally high achieving students because these programs take a large amount of commitment, and it is a lifetime learning process. Students tend to make a lot of progress, make a lot of progress, plateau, fall back, and then make a lot of progress again. This is not a linear process, and it is not easy. We usually have high-quality students who are very motivated and who have a great deal of interest in study abroad programs. Cassidy stated that you also have quite a number of students in teacher certification as well. Birberick replied that there are approximately 90 students in these programs. Many times the students in these programs earn awards. Olson stated that you mentioned enrollment growth in some majors; what were the majors that experienced growth. Birberick responded that French went from 33 to 47 students, German had 17 students and now has 31, Russian increased from 1 student to 3 students, and Spanish increased from 125 students to 196 students. We also have 207 students taking a minor [including German (8), Classics (6), French (30), Italian (5), Japanese (40)]. Stravers asked how many faculty are involved in teacher certification. Birberick responded that the B.A.s in French, German, and Spanish all have a full-time tenured faculty member and one full-time supportive staff member supporting the programs. We have instructors who are hired on a case-by-case basis who provide student teaching supervision. Dowen said that other strengths of the programs were the electronic portfolios and the Foreign Language Residence Program.

Discussion points for the undergraduate programs are the physical resources, the faculty work loads, and the Russian major that only has one faculty member.

The recommendation is to prioritize. Has the department looked at doing a strategic planning process where it looks at where it wants to go and how it is going to get there? Birberick said her philosophy is to take care of the programs we have currently and strengthen them. Right now we are stretched, and we should not be adding new programs. This has made for some hard choices. There is great desire among the faculty and the university to offer Arabic, but there is no money for this. For a couple of years we had Fulbrights come in and teach Arabic, but we were not able to get a Fulbright person this year. We will request a Fulbright next year for the Russian program. Grush added that the department makes choices not to do things. There has been an interest expressed in offering Polish, and there is a large Polish community in the Chicago area. We had to look hard to see if we could really do this. We are looking at trying to secure a stable funding base for this initiative. This is part of the challenge of the department. When students say can you do more of this, it is difficult to say no. Birberick noted that in January 2006 President Bush put Russian back on the critical languages list, which we think will increase interest in this program.

Dowen asked what is the nature of the students in your master’s program. Birberick replied that we have a lot of students in French and Spanish, and a lot of our students are school teachers who take courses at night. They are an interesting group of students, and we are delighted to have them. We maximize resources by offering split courses at the 400 and 500 levels. The students enrolled in the 500 level course are offered additional work or more challenging work. Some of master’s students have gone on to seek Ph.D.s. At the master’s level, we have the largest Spanish program in the state of Illinois.

The meeting adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Carolyn A. Cradduck