Fields program lacks applicants

Yale’s Fields Program, which offers interdisciplinary resources for students interested in international careers and studies, has begun reviewing applications for the 2009-’10 academic year.

The program, which is currently entering its second year, enables students to pursue advanced language study tailored to their academic majors. But Fields has attracted little attention, garnering only 18 applications this fall, which program administrators attributed to a lack of publicity. Still, students in the program said it has allowed them to coordinate their academic interests and gain a global perspective on their studies at Yale.

“In the context of globalization, students need to have transnational and transcultural competence,” said Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl, director of the Center for Language Study, which administers the program. “The Fields Program is not just about being advanced in your language skills. It’s about applying them, for the sake of studies, career options and explorations throughout the world.”

According to the program’s Web site, Fields students have access to “independent study, regular sessions with a native-speaking language partner, mentoring from a professional in the student’s major field of interest, fieldwork opportunities such as internships and study abroad.”

Van Deusen-Scholl and Vincent Cangiano, who is the official coordinator of the Fields Program and the Directed Independent Language Study program, currently run the program, which provides accepted students with individualized funding for study or work abroad and teaching support.

One such student, Kelsey Zubke ’11, studied Arabic in conjunction with economics through the program last year, Van Deusen-Scholl said. Zubke worked with a language mentor in New Haven last summer and is now continuing her studies abroad in Damascus, Syria.

Last year, after receiving a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program accepted its first cohort of nine undergraduates, selected from 32 total applicants. Cangiano said he sent informational e-mails to all residential college deans at beginning of this semester with the hope that the program would gain more visibility this semester. Still, the program received fewer applications this year than it did last year. The program will likely accept about eight to 10 students, who will be notified on Nov. 1, Cangiano said. He added that CLS hopes to obtain a new grant once the three-year funding expires.

Van Deusen-Scholl, who said she expects the program to become a national model for other universities, said she and her colleagues are working to publicize Fields better in the future.

And with more exposure, the program will further target undergraduates interested in languages not offered at Yale, Van Deusen-Scholl said.

“Students from all classes are eligible, but the largest number of applications and accepted students from the first cohort were juniors,” Cangiano said. “Because the main program activities, beginning with the language partnership, don’t start until January, students are really studying for a calendar year,” he said. He added that he thinks students benefit from the full semester of private language study before pursuing summer-abroad experiences for study, research and work.

Liza VanGundy ’10, a Fields student and political science major, said that for her, the program offers an opportunity to improve her spoken Russian and build her political vocabulary.

While three foreign language professors interviewed said they support the Fields Program’s aims, not all had previously heard of it. Arabic professor Beatrice Gruendler said the program’s offerings are especially practical for Arabic students planning to work in the Middle East, and Ayala Dvoretzky, the coordinator of the Modern Hebrew program, said the Fields Program “sounds like a wonderful chance to let students delve deeper [into language study].”

Dvoretzky said she knew about the Fields Program but that none of her students had applied.

Another Fields Program student, Brandon Berger ’10, said he has already seen his interdisciplinary pursuits come to fruition. Berger, an environmental studies major, said he has found working with his Spanish tutor “rewarding.” The experience was also instrumental in his internship this past summer with a Puerto Rican renewable energy company, Berger said.

“Environmental studies is a really local concern,” he explained. “And being able to speak a language is so important for both work in the field and in the business world.”

Other participants in the program have taken summer internships with Fields support in Vietnam, China and Turkey, and have majored in subjects ranging from psychology to architecture and mathematics, according to CLS records.

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