Jan. 25-31, 2002
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Department exploring options as enrollment pressures build
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Allende illuminates U.Va. audience

African-American Heritage Month at U.Va.
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“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
New lecture series features ethics and global health
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Johnson leads others to the law, promotes minority faculty hires

Spanish classes at U.Va. muy popular
Department exploring options as enrollment pressures build

By Matt Kelly

Grappling with enrollment pressure, the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese received a one-time $50,000 grant from University President John T. Casteen III to hire additional teachers to meet student demand.

While department chair Joel Rini says he is grateful for the money, it is only a short-term solution and the department needs a better handle on the future.
Spanish’s problem is its popularity. This semester, there are 12 sections of 100-level courses and 34 sections of 200- level courses, including eight new sections taught by the four additional instructors hired with the president’s additional funds.

The new instructors include a former graduate student and others who have taught for the department before, Rini said. The college requires two years of language all of which can be taken elsewhere but the 202-level course.

Since he cannot count on additional money in coming years, Rini is working out a plan that he said will allow the department more flexible use of its 45 teaching assistants.

Rini’s idea is to have the 100-level courses, which meet five days a week for four credits, scaled back to three classroom days a week. Since graduate students can teach one five-day-a-week class or two three-day-a-week classes, this would free up teaching assistant time, add flexibility to the schedule and allow more sections to be opened.

The challenge is how to give the students independent work for the off days in order to keep the 100-level courses at four credits.

“We need to justify one hour a week,” Rini said.

Assistant professor Emily Scida, director of the required sequences in Spanish, is working with others to develop a Web-based program in which students can take their practice sessions and language drills. Eventually, she said, she wants to post all the students’ workbooks and labs on the Web. Scida’s vision is that the contact with a teacher in class becomes more concentrated, with the student using out-of-class time for written elements.

“I would like to be able to switch [to the new system] by fall,” Rini said. “There are a lot of benefits. We could double 101 and 102 [sections].”

Rini said he also encourages students to take Spanish over the summer because he does not see the interest in the language flagging. He said the dean’s office has been supportive of the department as students and parents have complained that they cannot get into sections of Spanish.

“There is only so much you can do,” Rini said, noting that despite the additional $50,000, he still had to cancel some classes, including business Spanish, to deploy the resources elsewhere.

Rini said the department is also stretched at the upper levels. A survey course for Spanish majors and minors has been converted into a lecture, with examinations and no papers, jumping the maximum enrollment from 35 to 72 students.

David Gies, Spanish professor and former department chair, said the enrollment pressure is perennial.

“The demographics outrun the math,” he said, noting that while the money increases, the increase in students is greater. “It’s a good department and everyone wants Spanish.”


© Copyright 2002 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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