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College offers new languages

Meg Handelman | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Beginning this fall, students enrolled in the international economics major will be able to choose five additional languages in their course of study, a change that will better position these students for careers in foreign operations, a press release stated Friday.

“Beginning this fall, University of Notre Dame undergraduate students interested in pursuing international economics as a major can choose from among five new language options: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German and Russian,” the release stated.

These languages will be offered in addition to French, Italian and Spanish, which are already available to students.

Established in the summer of 2012, international economics is the newest major in the College of Arts and Letters. The program “combines substantial coursework in the Department of Economics with advanced training in language and culture,” according to the release

Professor Richard Jensen, Gilbert F. Schaefer Professor and Chair of Economics, said the department always intended to add more languages once the University approved the proposal for the international economics major.

“Nearly 30 students now have declared the major with only the romance languages as an option, so it appears the demand for this new major with all languages will be substantial,” Jensen said.

Jensen said that the major was designed to prepare students for jobs in foreign operations for major firms, NGOs or governmental agencies.

“It is more likely to hire a student with both expertise in economics and in language and culture of the country than a student with only expertise in economics or a student with only expertise in language and culture,” Jensen said.

Dayle Seidenspinner-Núñez, chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, said this collaboration will address a key area of interest for students in his department. The change will be specifically valuable for students majoring in Chinese or Japanese in addition to business or economics, he said.

“We are excited to offer this opportunity for our students to pursue both fields of study in a more integrated way,” Seidenspinner-Núñez said.

German is expected to be a popular option for International economics majors as well, Denise DellaRossa, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the German program, said.

“One just has to look at the current global economic crisis to see the leadership role that Germany is playing – and will continue to play,” DellaRossa said. “Combining the study of German language and culture with the study of economics is a natural move for the two disciplines.”

David Gasperetti, chair of the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, said knowledge of Russian language and culture will be a valuable commodity as that nation seeks to once again become a major player on the international stage.

“Students who combine the study of economics with Russian will be preparing themselves to engage with one of the most important economic developments of the first half of the 21st century,” he said.

Elizabeth Mazurek, chair of the Department of Classics, which houses the College’s Arabic language program, said this is a time of unprecedented political change in the Middle East as well. She said Arabic language and culture studies will be crucial for students seeking to understand consumer markets in the region.

“An important part of the Arabic curriculum at Notre Dame is the study of Islam, which goes far beyond the Middle East and influences consumer markets in large parts of Africa and Asia as well,” she said.

No matter which course of language and cultural studies students choose, Jensen said the new international economics major can position them to become leaders in business, government or nonprofits.

“The more languages that are involved in this major, the more Notre Dame students can benefit from it,” Jensen said.