MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – When Middlebury College launched its School of Hebrew in the summer of 2008, few observers could have predicted the remarkable success of the Hebrew language program.
But now, 10 years later, the school has experienced remarkable growth in both its size and scope. Whereas the school opened in 2008 with four faculty members and 28 students enrolled in one undergraduate-level summer program, today’s School of Hebrew has more than 40 faculty members teaching 155 students enrolled in any of the school’s five different programs.
“The School of Hebrew, under the visionary leadership of Vardit Ringvald, is fulfilling its mission to professionalize the teaching of Hebrew as a world language,” said Professor Stephen Snyder, dean of the Language Schools. “The School’s growth is particularly impressive in light of the decreases in undergraduate enrollments in Modern Hebrew and across all languages over the past 10 years.”
The school currently offers instruction via a seven-week undergraduate-level session, a six-week program for Master of Arts degree candidates, a three-week program in Classical Hebrew, and a three-week course for lifelong learners of the language. In addition, students at the graduate level in Hebrew can now pursue a Doctor of Modern Languages degree from Middlebury by selecting Hebrew as their primary language and either Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, or Spanish as their secondary language of study.
Through its wide range of offerings in Hebrew, Middlebury is leading by example. As an illustration, Dean Snyder points to the School’s “hybrid MA” in Hebrew that combines face-to-face instruction in the summer months with distance learning courses during the academic year. “This innovation proves to be ideal for our students, many of whom are in-service teachers, and it may provide us with a model for the expansion of our graduate programs across the Language Schools.”
The School of Hebrew has been under the direction of Vardit Ringvald since its founding at Middlebury in 2008. Formerly a professor of Hebrew at Brandeis University, Ringvald since 2013 has been the C.V. Starr Research Professor of Languages and Linguistics at Middlebury College, in addition to her duties as director of the summer school.
“The range of offerings in Hebrew reflect our school’s three main missions,” said Ringvald. “First, to increase the number of people who are proficient in the Hebrew language. Second, to improve the teaching of Hebrew in all educational frameworks. And third, to create opportunities for research to better understand the field of teaching and learning Hebrew in the United States.
“As a result of our wide array of programs and activities, we have become a central place for Hebrew learning in the United States and beyond,” the director continued. “We have students from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and across the Americas.”
The School of Hebrew receives generous support from a variety of sources including the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life—each of which provides scholarships for approximately 30 students in the School of Hebrew.