With a student-faculty ratio of 11-to-1, Concordia’s small class sizes are a large draw for prospective students. However, sometimes classes become a bit too small, and programs are left with only one faculty member.
Programs such as French, Chinese, and German each only have a single professor to plan curriculum, teach courses, and engage with students, as well as run the program smoothly. They have been downsized in recent years, due to declining enrollment and a shifting budget. If there is not enough interest in a program, then there can be too many faculty members for the number of students enrolled. As a result, there is much interprogram cooperation from students and staff alike.
Dr. Cassandra Glynn teaches courses in both the education department and the world languages department.
“It’s fun to take a break from preparing teachers to teach languages and just get to be the one doing the teaching. I also like and respect my colleagues in world language and cultures, so it’s fun to be able to spend time with them and to collaborate on ideas,” she said.
Relationships are not only developed and strengthened with other faculty members, but with the students as well.
“I would say that a small department does have the potential to contribute to student engagement. There are fewer students, so students may also feel like they can take more ownership and be more involved,” Glynn said.
Dr. Gay Rawson, the sole professor in the French program, agrees with Glynn.
“I have the chance to develop close relationships with my students and watch them grow from beginning to advanced students who are interculturally competent ambassadors for what we do,” Glynn said. “Our class sizes are actually big right now but even so, over the years, I get to know students on a deep level, work with them closely, and support their interests at the same time that I try to challenge them and push them to the next level.”
Sophomore Sam Overby doubly experiences the pros and cons of a small program, as she is currently enrolled in both German and Chinese.
“I think that there’s a higher level of comfort when you’ve been with the same instructor for a while. And I like to know what to expect in a class,” she said. “The only negative thing is that there’s not many courses offered.”
While developing those meaningful relationships with students is a positive aspect of the small programs, these programs come with challenges of their own as well. But Rawson rises to the occasion, creatively solving the issues.
“A downside is that I’m the main person students hear from. If they don’t like my teaching style, it can be a challenge. But, to balance my voice, I am even more intentional than I was before about organizing guest speakers in all levels and every class,” she said.
Intentionality in the world languages department seems to be a recurring theme, especially when it comes to BREWing: Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World.
“Our students are well prepared and making differences in the world, on a local and global scale. We embody the college’s mission in important ways. I don’t think one can be global or responsibly engaged in the world if one does not have an understanding of another language and culture,” Rawson said.
With intentionality and cooperation, those involved in these programs make the best of a difficult situation. Students tend to be more comfortable with a professor they have had more than once, but course variety is somewhat limited. First-year enrollment is up this fall, but the programs have not had any faculty members added.
Annie is a senior double-majoring in Environmental Studies and Heritage and Museum Studies, as well as minoring in German. She loves adventures, coffee, and dogs. This is her third year with the Concordian.