Modern Languages faculty present at Ohio State

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Faculty in the department of Modern Languages had the opportunity to present at The Ohio State University’s Community Engagement Conference on Wednesday, January 23 in Columbus, Ohio. Faculty members Dr. Kristen Hetrick, Dr. Jared List, and Dr. Joshua Pope presented their successes and findings from creating a number of different partnerships and initiatives with organizations in the Crete community, encouraging their students in modern languages to engage not just with those on campus, but with people in the Crete community as well.


Hetrick, List, and Pope’s presentation, “Sustaining a Welcoming Community: A Multifaceted Approach in Rural Nebraska,” brought a unique perspective to an audience of primarily faculty and staff from Ohio State and other larger institutions. Ohio State University has the fourth most undergraduate students of all colleges across the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.


Hetrick, List, and Pope were joined by Ryan Hinz, adult education coordinator and instructor with Crete Public Schools and Nancy Tellez, community assistance director with the City of Crete in their presentation, who joined the presentation via Skype. The group stationed in Crete were the only presenters from Nebraska at the two day conference, which had hundreds of attendees.


“People seemed surprised with how diverse Nebraska is and they were impressed with the efforts we had been making,” Hetrick said. “Some Ohio State faculty and staff were thinking about what they can do in Columbus to mirror what we do.”


List, Hetrick, and Pope highlighted how the modern languages department developed and enhanced their partnerships and relationships with community organizations. All three faculty members have organized a number of activities to have their students engage with those in the community.


For example, modern language students have “conversation tables” with local community members who do not speak English as their first language. These can happen at a variety of places, including the weekly community dinner at the United Church of Christ in Crete and at ELL (English Language Learning) classes.


In addition, Hetrick, List, and Pope have their LAR students do scavenger hunts in downtown Crete to help students get familiar with the immigrant-owned businesses in the area. Also, in year’s past, Pope has had his Spanish conversation classes work on a project that engages with the community. In 2017, students in his class worked with meteorology students to create severe weather pamphlets in Spanish that were distributed to local businesses -- one on tornado preparedness and one on driving in winter weather. “These are things that newcomers have not experienced or think much about prior to coming here,” Pope said.


This academic year, Pope’s class worked with immigrant advocate groups to create a Know Your Rights video, with the help of LPS and Doane media productions students, specifically with Nebraska law in mind. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, roughly 38% of Crete’s population is Hispanic or Latino.


“Every community is going to have some organization that helps immigrant community members,” Hetrick said. “What we’ve learned is reaching out to those organizations is the best way to figure out how you can be helpful.”


Hetrick, who is the National Fellowships Advisor at Doane, says that the experience Doane modern language students receive outside of the classroom is very beneficial to them when applying to become a Fulbright or JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) scholar.


“A good number of our students who have gone on to earn a Fulbright or JET grant have had experience in the ELL classes,” she says. “These students can say in their essays that they have already done some of this in my college community and it’s something that I enjoy.”


“One of the major benefits for our students to do this is tying it back to Doane’s mission, to be engaged citizens,” List says. “From a broader perspective, working with the community gives our students the opportunity to live out that engagement. From a department of modern languages standpoint, the intercultural communication interactions, use of different languages, the empathy/sympathy develop of being a language learner.. all of that is powerful.”


Natalie Andersen ’19, a Spanish Education major at Doane, has volunteered at community dinners, at adult ELL classes, and has student-taught at Crete Public Schools, giving her a number of opportunities to engage with members of the community, while also enhancing her Spanish speaking and teaching skills, outside of Doane.


“I think the mission of the modern language department to have the student actively engaged with the community is amazing,” Andersen says. “We are all language learners at different stages of learning. I value the opportunity to engage with the community. It’s something not a lot of other schools provide for their students.”


The faculty in Doane’s modern languages department all have ties to Ohio, which initially sparked their interest in the conference. List and Hetrick both received their Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, in 2013 and 2012, respectively and Pope received his master’s degree in Spanish from Bowling Green State University in 2006.


Doane’s Department of Modern Language offers majors in German and Spanish. Doane is one of the few universities in the United States that makes it a requirement for Modern Language majors to study abroad with full financial aid for at least one semester. Students who do travel abroad have a $1,000 travel scholarship at their disposal when studying abroad.


To learn more about Doane’s Department of Modern Language, click here.