The Global Miami Plan Committee revealed during the last university senate meeting some of the ideas being explored in an effort to tweak the Miami Plan to make it more globally oriented. Among the ideas proposed were a study abroad requirement and foreign language requirement for all Miami University students. It is important to recognize that the Global Miami Plan Committee is in beginning stages and none of these ideas are policy at this point in time. With that perspective in mind, this editorial board believes studying abroad is a choice that should be left to each individual student, whereas a foreign language requirement, with an option of taking alternative cultural classes, would be a beneficial improvement to the Miami Plan that could truly help to shape students into more globally aware citizens.
The potential financial burden and the difficult choices of college life make a studying abroad requirement too inflexible for many students. Many students would, if required to be away from their base campus, be forced to abandon heavy involvement in extracurricular activities and clubs for the sake of meeting a study abroad experience in which they may have no interest. Miami should strive to ensure students are properly prepared for the world outside of the “Miami bubble” upon graduation-this is a moot point. But mandatory study abroad, with too many obstacles for students to overcome, most notably financial, is not the best choice for Miami at this time.
A campus-wide foreign language requirement with an option to take classes geared toward enlightening students of various world cultures could go a long way in achieving this noble goal. Currently, all students in the College of Arts and Science must take foreign classes up to the 202 level. If not for this requirement, many students would not take the time to enroll in a language course and never be introduced to any language besides English-which is truly a tragedy since we live in a time where increased globalization and interconnectedness will make knowledge of foreign languages a crucial asset. In addition, students with special needs or unique circumstances could opt out of the language courses for cultural courses within the same department that would achieve the same eye-opening goals of language studies. Certain programs at the university do require a rigid class schedule, however if a language study becomes a university-wide requirement, individual majors would need to adjust.
With that in mind, many students from other schools within this university face bureaucratic hurdles when attempting to take language classes, and either get turned away or just too frustrated. With a rich array of languages currently being offered at Miami, anything from Mandarin Chinese to Portuguese, any Miami student should be afforded the opportunity to capitalize on those programs.
The committee formed to explore options that make the Miami Plan more focused on global awareness should be commended. The constant exchange of information, commerce, people and ideas is steadily eroding the significance of borders and distance. In order to remain competitive in a globally connected world, college graduates (Miami students included) will need to understand differences in language and culture. Changing the Miami Plan to fit this reality will better serve Miami graduates as they enter careers that demand global awareness and understanding.