Faculty Spotlight

Katie Gantz in regalia

Professor Katie Gantz won the 2010 Homer Dodge Award for Teaching Excellence.


Alumni Spotlight

Ellen Kernan

After graduating from St. Mary's in 2006 Ellen Kernan moved to Guatemala and lived in the Western Highlands for two and half years. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer and was able to establish a sustainable health education program in three rural villages.


About the Program

ILC department

The Department of International Languages and Cultures is committed to the study of particular societies around the world, with the aim of bringing forth an understanding of the worldview and cultural perspective of peoples who live outside the English-speaking world. Our approach is humanistic, giving attention to the cultural productions, including the literary traditions, as well as the cultural agents of the societies we study. We are particularly concerned with promoting the development of both linguistic and cultural literacy. Language is one of the main mediums through which human beings express their specific cultural identity in relationship to the human race in its totality. For this reason, in order to understand a culture on its own terms it is necessary to approach it through its own linguistic framework. We need to study languages besides English in order to understand cultures other than our own from their own internal perspective. Through the expertise in the Department of International Languages and Cultures, students can gain exposure to a large variety of cultures from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

As human beings we are increasingly confronted with the need to live in a globalized context. Patterns of international economic, political, social and cultural exchange and interrelatedness increasingly define how we are to live, work and relate to one another. One of the major challenges facing our society is to understand and learn how to work collaboratively with other societies in search of common interests. This challenge is especially crucial for the United States because it is at the same time one of the most powerful international agents, economically, politically, culturally and militarily, as well as being a society that, because of geographic and historical circumstances, has evolved with a high degree of isolation. The U.S., however, can no longer maintain this isolation given its international role, as well as its internal demographics. We are increasingly in need of professionals who have both linguistic and cultural literacy that extends beyond the English-speaking world.

The major within the Department of International Languages and Cultures offers concentrations in Chinese, French, German and Spanish languages and cultures, as well as Latin American Studies. The Chinese concentration provides coverage of the Chinese-speaking world. The French concentration provides coverage of both Metropolitan France, as well as the broader field of Francophone cultures in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. The German concentration focuses on areas of German language and culture. The Spanish concentration covers Spain and Latin America, with particular attention to the great cultural variety within the Spanish-speaking world in the Americas. The Latin American Studies concentration allows students to study this important region of the world through a multidisciplinary approach.

The major incorporates an elective 8-credit intra or cross-disciplinary field of focus in language, literary or cultural studies beyond the core courses in the area of concentration. 12 credits in the case of Chinese, and up to 28 credits in the case of Latin American Studies. This integrated elective field of focus enables students to combine their area concentration with study in other fields, either within or outside the department. Students preparing to pursue postgraduate studies in their area of concentration, or planning a career in teaching or translation, are advised to take their elective credits within that area and language. Students who wish to pursue a double major or who seek careers in international fields such as business, diplomacy, law, or are interested in social service careers, are encouraged to take their elective credits in an appropriate cross-disciplinary area. We encourage our majors to participate in E.E.L. (Early Exposure to Languages), which affords an opportunity for students to teach aspects of language and culture in a local school. Students can also get to know our TAs from abroad, learn about the TAs' home cultures, and practice language skills in a relaxed environment by attending activities in the international suite where the TAs live.

We strongly advise majors to spend time abroad to gain both linguistic and cultural fluency and confidence. The experience abroad can be pursued in various manners: study abroad with our own programs or with those of other colleges and universities, internships with international organizations or governmental agencies abroad, or "au pair" or other work related experiences. Some of the experiences noted above can be pursued for credit, others not. It is important that students begin to think about experiences abroad as early as possible during their career at St. Mary's, and that they discuss their interests with a faculty advisor within the department. Students are expected to either choose a faculty advisor in the department, or to discuss their plans within the major with the Chair of the department.