Image: Mark Couture leads a Spanish class for student affairs staff
Mark Couture, head of Western's modern foreign languages department, leads a Spanish class for members of the university's Division of Student Affairs.

CULLOWHEE - What do several high-ranking Western Carolina University administrators, a medical doctor, a few administrative assistants and some of the Talent Search staff have in common?  All are members of the university's Division of  Student Affairs, and they all volunteered to take Spanish lessons this semester. 

The idea grew out of a conversation with a staff member about the needs of the university's Hispanic population, said Robert Caruso, vice chancellor for student affairs.  “As we begin to serve increasing numbers of Spanish-speaking students and their families, we need to become more comfortable with their language and culture,” Caruso said.

He approached Mark Couture, head of Western's department of modern foreign languages, who agreed to teach a basic Spanish language class at lunch time for eight weeks.  The people who are taking these classes have varying levels of proficiency in Spanish, ranging from none, to a-little-but-rusty, to conversational.

Couture is providing in-class practice along with pages of vocabulary and grammar for after-class study, but the class carries no academic credit.  As a result, Caruso said, everyone is able to learn or brush up on basic phrases and greetings without the pressure of grades and exams. 

Caruso said about 15 people are taking the Division of Student Affairs Spanish class.  They'll evaluate the results at the end of eight weeks and decide whether to continue.  The need to focus on Hispanic issues is important, and Caruso believes the Spanish language class is just a first step.

“Damos un pequeño paso adelante,” he said.  Put another way, “We are taking a small step forward.”

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Last modified: Monday, March 14, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Western Carolina University