Skip to main content Skip to main content

Despite pandemic, Modern Languages sees enrollment jump

The department offers strategies for strong retention and growth in the era of COVID-19.

By Lunden MacDonald, Ph.D.

December 9, 2020

Ann Williams in classroom; close up of map; student smiling at the camera.This fall, the Metropolitan State University of Denver Department of Modern Languages boasted a substantial increase in enrollment across all major and minor programs:

  • 17% for Japanese
  • 25% for French
  • 34% for Spanish
  • 50% for German
  • 76% for Italian

Here’s how the department beat enrollment trends and how leaders and instructors hope to sustain those numbers moving into spring.

Maintain service to the mission and vision of MSU Denver

More than 45% of students in the department are students of color, and more than 50% of majors identify as Hispanic. Successful programming, including American Sign Language offerings, promotes access and inclusion that reflects MSU Denver’s Hispanic-Serving Institution status and institutional goals. The department also meets students where they are in terms of flexibility and affordability by offering fully online pathways in several programs and low-cost or no-cost pathways in German, Spanish and the Spanish Translation Certificate.

Promote student satisfaction and care

Connection is the foundation for success. Students within the department connect to their families via language, culture and lived experience, and the disciplinary focus of the department allows us to replicate this bond on campus. Instructors then enhance this naturally personal relationship by aligning professional practice with social-emotional support:

  • Department faculty members offer a high level of personalized and specialized advising appointments and work closely with College of Letters, Arts and Sciences-assigned advisors to ensure that no students “fall through the cracks.”
  • Within the boundaries of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, faculty members confer with one another as a team, providing wraparound support to students across courses.
  • The department performs individualized outreach campaigns each semester to rally registration and increase retention. These campaigns, performed by administrative staff and faculty alike, help keep a finger on the pulse of the advising needs and social-emotional challenges students are facing and provide the opportunity to connect students to campuswide support services.
  • During COVID-19, the department has sent encouraging notes and letters to students to shore them up when they are overwhelmed and to remind them that their faculty members are here for them even when classes are virtual.

Continue to offer high-quality programming that is available virtually

While co-curricular activities have been hampered by pandemic restrictions, the department traditionally offers opportunities for extracurricular engagement that take students beyond the classroom and into the University and citywide communities. The department consistently offers a wide array of engagement opportunities that enhance the student experience and bond students to the department and the University, resulting in an elevated student desire to progress toward their degree. Some of these activities include:

  • The annual Translation Colloquium
  • Interpreter workshops
  • The annual World Languages Conference
  • World Languages Week
  • Study-abroad opportunities
  • Language clubs
  • Sponsored activities such as movie nights
  • Annual awards and graduation celebrations
  • Book-discussion and reading clubs
  • Publication of a department newsletter that allows students to keep abreast of department happenings and opportunities for engagement

These activities provide students with an opportunity to get to know faculty members and one another outside the classroom and contribute to the powerful sense of community. Students know that their education will encompass more than just their classroom experience, and this engagement is keeping them connected to MSU Denver and on the path to degree completion, despite the disruption of the pandemic.

The Department of Modern Language’s approach to retention has paid off, and the department is on track to maintain its strong retention and registration numbers in spring.

Topics: Best practices, College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Enrollment, Excellence, Retention, Student Success

Edit this page