By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Before their respective football teams met on the Doyt Perry Stadium turf, the presidents of Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo met to sign an agreement that promises to be a winner for both institutions.
Meeting on the third floor of the Sebo Center overlooking the field where the teams were preparing for kickoff, BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey and UT President Sharon Gaber signed an agreement giving more structure to the course exchanges in foreign languages between the two MAC rivals.
That rivalry, Mazey said, is strong in sports, but when it comes to academics, BGSU and UT are committed to collaborating so they can to provide their students the most opportunities.
In this case, those opportunities are in foreign languages. UT students already are taking online Italian course through BGSU, and in spring BGSU students will start taking Arabic courses at UT. In 2018 the two schools will share offerings in French and German.
“We are pleased to enter into this partnership with The University of Toledo, which will provide exceptional educational experiences for both BGSU and UT students,” Mazey said in a statement announcing the agreement. “As one of BGSU’s core values, we welcome opportunities to collaborate. This agreement combines the strengths of both universities, resulting in efficiencies that support students’ degree completion.”
The agreement was prompted by the Governor’s Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency that had state colleges and universities look at under-enrolled and duplicative programs within their region.
Foreign languages were identified as a possible area for collaboration between UT and BGSU.
“By sharing resources, we will be able to provide our students access to more foreign language education opportunities to better prepare them for success in the global marketplace,” Gaber said.
“We all know we live in a global economy,” Mazey said, “so it’s very, very important that we do this. Foreign language is where it starts.”
“More and more of our kids are going into international business whether they know it or not,” said BGSU’s Dean College of Arts and Science Raymond Craig. “It’s a global economy. They have to be prepared. They have to be able to see things from the perspective of the other culture. Knowing the language and having some education in the culture allows them to have that perspective, and that makes business go better.”
This semester BGSU merged its two foreign language departments into the Department of World Languages and Cultures. A similar rebranding is occurring at UT.
While there is increased need for this, Craig said, language study in secondary schools is suffering.
Fewer students are studying fewer languages, he said. And now there is more demand for Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Korean. The universities are left to pick up the slack, he said. That means finding the resources to provide courses. Joining with UT is a way of providing that instruction in a more efficient manner.
Offering a course in Arabic has been “hit or miss” at BGSU, while it had been a strength at UT, he said. BGSU, on the other hand, has enough interest to offer the online course in Italian and is stronger in French and German.
UT students will also be able to take advantage of BGSU’s study abroad programs.
Provost Rodney Rogers said that while some collaboration is already underway, the agreement provides the formal financial arrangements needed to make it permanent.
Other collaborations are underway including a three-way Art History initiative with the two universities and the Toledo Museum of Art.
To the extent working together strengthens the two institutions, that will be good for the local economy, Mazey said. Education and health care “are the engines of future growth in the area.”
This collaboration provides fuel for that engine.