The Spanish major at PLNU needs student support under the pressure to meet enrollment numbers. Fall 2017 statistics on the PLNU website show only five Spanish majors, including those double majoring. Professor Jacqueline Mitchell, the head of modern languages, explained the prioritization study that the university carries out every year.
“At the end of our program review, one of the things that came out not so favorably was the lack of majors,” Mitchell said.
While Mitchell estimated around 50 Spanish minors, she noted that it’s the majors that carry significance for statistical purposes. After the program review, the Spanish department was set with the task to increase the number of majors.
“Historically, we’ve always had a small major. So growing it to a big major is really daunting,” she said.
If students are interested in studying Spanish, placement exams are available for those with high school credits to expedite a major or minor. The pressure to expand the major is additional incentive for students to come support the program at their events.
Given PLNU’s unique location, 21 miles from the Mexican-U.S. border, knowledge of the Spanish language and culture can be incredibly useful. Applied health science and Spanish double major Noelle Wada said, “With location, there are so many opportunities, locally and in Mexico, to speak Spanish and to explore Latin American culture and Spanish culture.”
Her knowledge of the language and culture is helpful on mission trips to Mexico, as well as living in Southern California during the school year. Working toward becoming a speech pathologist, Wada added, “Spanish in any public health field is helpful.”
Department Chair Carol Blessing emphasized the importance of understanding other cultures. She said, “Once you’re not interested in the cultures that surround us, it leads to prejudice and misunderstandings.”
The Spanish program, as well as all language programs in the department, give students the opportunity to expand their worldview.
“If we have no more language majors, it shows our institution as being much narrower, less cosmopolitan, less concerned about the rest of the world,” said Blessing.
With easily accessible opportunities to learn new languages and cultures, it’s up to students to take advantage of them. Blessing said all students are welcome at cultural events that the department puts on. She said, “There’s often good food involved, and you might learn something as well.”
The next event is Café Latino on Wednesday, November 15 from 7–9 p.m. in the ARC. Free coffee and music will be offered as students celebrate language, culture and diversity.