Academic journal article Honors in Practice

French a la Carte: Maintaining a Language Program on a Shoestring

Academic journal article Honors in Practice

French a la Carte: Maintaining a Language Program on a Shoestring

Article excerpt


While the size of our honors college environment is almost always a positive, its smallness has decided disadvantages when it comes to the study of less popular foreign languages. Fewer students, fewer subject offerings, and the absence of multiple sections all have a negative impact on language programs. Shrinking budgets have not helped matters. Despite these disadvantages, the French program at Florida Atlantic University's Harriet Wilkes Honors College has steadily grown from a total number of sixteen students in fall 2005 to forty students (more than 10% of the student population) in the fall semester of 2009. To achieve this outcome, Florida Atlantic University's honors college employed effective strategies that could be successful in other disciplines within honors at other institutions.


The Harriet Wilkes Honors College had its first intake of students in the fall of 1999. Robert J. Huckshorn, then vice president of FAU's northern campuses, championed our unique setup. The honors college was established on FAU's Jupiter MacArthur Campus, some forty miles from FAU's main campus in Boca Raton. Designed to be a curricularly independent, freestanding, four-year honors institution, the honors college exists alongside--yet independent of--the other colleges in FAU's Research II university. With a single exception in the history of the college, faculty members are external hires.

A tenure-track French professor was hired and began teaching in the honors college in fall 2000, but moved on after three years. An adjunct professor was brought in to teach first- and second-year French on a part-time basis but left after two years. Insufficient critical mass had been built up to offer upper-division French classes. At the time, the honors college students' interest in French did not appear to be growing, and upper-division French had been more or less written out of the program.

When I commenced work as an adjunct professor at FAU's honors college in fall 2005, the budget line for a French professor had disappeared as the then dean had made the strategic decision to reallocate this money to other disciplines. Housing prices in Florida had skyrocketed, and in order to attract new faculty to meet growing student demand in the social sciences, salaries had to be increased. As a part-time adjunct professor teaching anywhere from eight to twelve credits per semester, I am paid out of the "non-recurring dollars" funds. The "budget" for the French program is $14,000 per year, or $3,500 per four-credit class for two classes each semester. Upper-division French classes have either been offered for free or paid at a lower rate based on numbers of students enrolled.

Given the absence of a real French program and the near impossibility of students' even minoring in the language, it has been difficult to attract students. Students who feel they may want to go beyond fourth-semester language do not choose French. Those who feel strongly about minoring or majoring in French even before they have started college do not enroll in the honors college in the first place. Seeing four of my best students transfer out of the college in order to pursue their love of the language has been a bittersweet experience.

While the honors college's small student population means smaller class size and more contact with professors, it also, unfortunately, means fewer course offerings. Not only are upper-division French classes technically unavailable at our campus, but students who would not normally be grouped together in lower-division classes are classmates. Larger universities are able to separate "true beginners" from those whose test scores place them into the first-semester class even though they have up to two years of high school French under their belts. Moreover, some large campuses offer French classes for French speakers who need instruction in reading or writing the language and restrict that category of student from joining typical first-through-fourth semester French classes. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.