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History of the Department

Although Spanish has been offered at Western Michigan University since 1919, the Department of Spanish is relatively new. Its status as a separate department, as of July 1, 2003, came about largely as a result of growth in undergraduate and M.A. programs, as well as the implementation of the Ph.D. In recent years the number of students studying Spanish has increased considerably at the national level and even more so at Western. In fall of 1981 there were 367 students enrolled in Spanish courses at WMU. In fall of 2003 there were 1533. Of these students, over 525 were undergraduate majors or minors and 42 were graduate students.

The department has an important role in teaching undergraduate students who wish to learn Spanish for a great variety of reasons. All students in Arts and Sciences either must test out of that college's two semester foreign language requirement or complete it here. Spanish is the language most often selected by students. Still, most take Spanish because they think it will be useful or simply because they like it. In fact, about 60% of all Spanish students at WMU are enrolled in intermediate or advanced courses. Over one-third of all Spanish students become majors or minors, an extraordinary number compared to other universities. These students come primarily from:

The undergraduate curriculum is characterized by its emphasis on language acquisition and by its well-balanced course offerings on the culture of Spain, Spanish America and Hispanics in the United States. Both undergraduate and graduate students of Spanish may complete a portion of their program at the Universidad de Querétaro in Mexico, and the Universidad de Burgos or the Universidad de Cantabria in Spain, institutions with which Western has close ties.

The rapid growth in the M.A. program, created in 1990, and the increasing number of students who desire to continue graduate study, resulted in the establishment of the Spanish Ph.D. in the spring of 2003. There is a strong demand for Spanish faculty in American universities, as well as for competent Spanish teachers at the secondary and community college levels. Our graduate programs have attracted exemplary students from the United States, Spain and Latin America. The courses we offer are well structured and of high quality. The curriculum is based on the premise that students need to comprehend and appreciate the breadth and uniqueness of Hispanic culture in its totality before they choose to limit their focus to selected portions of it.

We believe the greatest strength of our department is the faculty. Without exception, they are active and accomplished researchers, as well as dedicated teachers. They understand that they are involved in a team effort to promote academic excellence and they are energized by that goal and by each other. The greatest challenge facing the department will be to keep ahead of the demands of an ever-increasing number of undergraduate and graduate students. We are committed to meeting that challenge and to providing the very best instruction and research opportunities to WMU students at all levels.