Twenty-First-Century Language Education at the University of Maine: A Road Map

(Two-Minute Read)

Policy in Brief:

Gisela Hoecherl-Alden, assistant dean and director of language instruction at Boston University, argues that UMaine needs to adapt one of the language education models that other universities have successfully implemented if it wants to remain an important regional player and attract high-performing students who are interested in global professional issues.

Fascinating Features:

Global companies increasingly wish to hire college graduates with degrees in STEM or business fields as well as significant language and interpersonal relations abilities.

Skills sought by these employers such as

  • agile thinking
  • the ability to navigate complex situations
  • the ability to work collaboratively and creatively
  • effective written communication
  • clear and concise oral communication

are the same learning outcomes listed on syllabi from innovative proficiency-based language courses. Law schools and medical schools also seek humanities-educated candidates with these competencies who can

  • apply empathy
  • tolerate ambiguity
  • appraise ones self and others emotionally
  • have resilience
  • communicate across social and cultural divides

The following tables highlight the language enrollments, degrees offered, and articulated programs in Maine, UMS, and throughout New England.

Table shows language enrollments in Maine and the Northeast. UMS receives a very small portion of total enrollments at present.

Table showing language degrees offered by UM and competitors. UM has the fewest.

Language enrollments at five regional flagship universities. UM contains the fewest enrollments.

Table shows enrollments for articulated STEM, business, and language majors.


The four preceding tables highlight that students attending universities and colleges in New England hold strong interest in language programs, especially those that combined STEM, business, and language acquisition. UMS attracts only a small fraction of these total students who hold interest in foreign language acquisition. UMS also falls behind in degrees offered in languages and in combined STEM-language or business-language programs. This makes clear the need for rebuilding UMaine’s language program after cuts made in 2008 not on the traditional mid-twentieth-century model of language development but instead on the foundation of innovative programs which combine technical, humanities, and language skills into one program.

This shifts language instruction from models based on linguistic structures and interpreting literary texts to analyzing technical second language materials and learning how to communicate and craft one’s own multimedia messages.

Thus, Hoecherl-Alden recommends that UM’s future language faculty must have the ability to build interdisciplinary language programs from the ground up collaborative with faculty, chairs, and deans across multiple units. Further, these faculty members also need to be experts in teaching students how to communicate information about non-humanities subject matter to lay audiences in two or more languages.

Dig Deeper:

Image of Hoecherl-Alden

Hoecherl-Alden, Gisela. 2019. “Twenty-First-Century Language Education at the University of Maine: A Road Map.” Maine Policy Review 28(1): 17-27 (11 pages, 12-minute read)

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