Stephen Snyder Named Dean of the Language Schools

Stephen Snyder, Middlebury College professor of Japanese studies, was recently named dean of the Language Schools. We caught up with him during a busy February to find out what he’s thinking about as he looks forward to the summer 2015 sessions of the Language Schools. 

Embracing a new role

I’ve spent the past 25 years teaching Japanese language and culture, a job I’ve always found both stimulating and rewarding, but the chance to be similarly involved across 11 different languages is proving to be even more exciting. Working with the directors and faculty to help develop global citizens is one of the most gratifying experiences I can imagine. Each summer, our schools foster individual cultures in Vermont and California, while sharing a focus on language learning through classes and cultural activities. One of the particular privileges of my new position is to be able to move among the schools for lectures, performances, and other events. 

The importance of the Middlebury Language Schools—today more than ever

Recent events in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and France have made it clearer than ever that understanding across cultural divides is one of the greatest challenges facing our world. The Language Schools teach not only languages but also how to navigate the complexity of intercultural encounters. The demand for individuals with true linguistic fluency and nuanced cultural understanding continues to grow, and the so-called “flat world” of advanced technology and global industry has, ironically, highlighted the crucial need for local knowledge. The Language Schools will be relevant, indeed indispensable, as long as local cultures exist and communication among them is valued.

Opportunities for collaboration

The Language Schools overlap with other Middlebury entities in obvious and fruitful ways. We regularly collaborate with Middlebury’s undergraduate language departments on curriculum development and also work closely with the Middlebury C. V. Starr Schools Abroad to prepare students for their study abroad experience and recruit students from other institutions for our programs around the world. Many of our graduate programs are operated in conjunction with the Schools Abroad and also with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, allowing students to complete their degrees in a shorter time span. We share marketing resources with the Institute’s Summer Intensive Language Program and are working on ways to better align our programs. I’m also talking with colleagues at the Institute about possible ties between the Translation and Interpretation Program and the Language Schools.  

Centennial 2015 celebrations!

I am fortunate that my first full summer as dean coincides with this once-in-a-lifetime event! The Centennial Symposium, The Local App: Language and Culture in a ‘Flat World,’ will take place on July 16 and 17, and will be followed by a series of concerts, cultural events, the awarding of honorary degrees and medals to Language Schools supporters, and a gala ball complete with fireworks. Most remarkably, the Language Pledge will be temporarily suspended (for the first time in a century!) so that students and faculty can fully participate.

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