GV cancels master’s program in applied linguistics


Courtesy to College Learners

Zsolt Palmer

The pandemic has put a squeeze on Grand Valley State University’s budget, which has tightened recently and caused the cancellation of various programs around the university. One such program to be cut was the master’s program in applied linguistics.

After struggling to gain enrollment for some time and hosting a relatively small student body of only a few dozen, the program was sunset last semester. Students in the program found out about the cancellation in an email sent out by the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where they were assured they would still be able to graduate, but no new applications to the graduate program would be accepted.

It was not long after this news that the certification of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) was denied approval by the Provost’s office. The TESOL certification was a faculty project of the master’s program having begun two years ago and would have been an extra accreditation to students within the applied linguistics graduate program.

“I understand the reasons for canceling the master’s program,” said Douglas R Mooney, a graduate student in the applied linguistics program. “What is more concerning to me is that they denied the proposal to issue a TESOL certificate. The Applied Linguistics Department had been working on this proposal for two years, and had gotten it to the Provost’s desk’s, where it was then denied.”

The TESOL certificate is an extra accreditation that graduate students can earn on top of their diplomas, with little extra work involved. It has the potential to improve employability to many employers and boost resumes, as many graduate students in the applied linguistics graduate program go on to become teachers around the world.

“A supplement to our degree is this TESOL certificate, which allows us better employment opportunities both abroad and domestically,” Mooney said. “I’ve heard from faculty that this certificate can stand alone. It is not separate from the degree, but the proposal was to embed this certificate into the coursework.”

Some students and faculty agree that the certificate proposal has a range of applications, warranting approval based on the amount of internal support it had.

“The university should approve it,” said Shinian Wu, a professor of English at GVSU. “Anyone who graduates with the MA degree would automatically receive such a certificate, but the university nevertheless denied it, despite the fact that the TESOL certificate proposal has passed all faculty governance committees.”

Attempts by faculty and graduate students to appeal the decision of the Provost have so far not been met with much success. 

“Any new certificate program is proposed by faculty and goes through various levels of review: the dean of the college, the college curriculum committee, the university curriculum committee, and the provost’s office,” said Chris Plouff, Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Through this process, the need for the program, the appropriateness and rigor of the curriculum, and the resources needed to support it are all vetted.”

The position of the Office of the Provost is that the certificate has been denied and its status is no longer in question. Despite this, the graduate students and faculty of the graduate applied linguistics program will continue to attempt to appeal the decision. 

“There may be some technical reasons why they can’t approve it, but as a university which cares about its students, they should find a way to grant the certificate, even if the program is going to close in a year and a half,” Wu said. “It’s not about us; it’s about the students. This certificate is especially useful for our students seeking English teaching jobs overseas. I sincerely hope the university will reconsider its decision to help our students brave the world and succeed in life.”