Giving students the world

By Steven Geller

A new certificate program at a Minnesota college positions students to succeed in a global workplace.

In Minnesota, employers are looking more and more for multi-lingual employees also can demonstrate that they have a global perspective and awareness. Normandale Community College has responded with a flexible international experience certificate.

The certificate requires a five-credit world language course, a three-credit culture and civilization course, a three-credit world languages and cultures department study abroad course and an intercultural communications course. It adds an important skill set to pair with a degree or can be an option on its own to help individuals to advance professionally.

“This certificate fits along with any area of study,” world languages instructor Heidi Kreutzer said. “Learning the language is important, but being able to understand cultural norms when it comes to various circumstances is also a big part of this certificate. Whether you are an educator, police officer, a nurse, a business person or any number of areas these are important and desired skills to have.”

“We wanted to develop a certificate that would get students on the path of learning a new language and demonstrating intercultural competence to prepare them for a workplace environment,” world languages instructor Jen Bouchard said. “Our hope is that students will take one five-credit course and finish up the sequence to pair it up with other useful certificates or degrees.”

The college combined several program strengths to create the certificate. Normandale’s World Languages Department has more language offerings than any two-year college in the state. Language and cultural civilization courses are offered in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Somali (starting in fall 2019). In fact, Normandale is one of the first two-year colleges to offer Somali language classes – something that’s been more in-demand due to the state’s changing demographics.

Through a recent grant with the U.S. Department of Education, Normandale has offered study abroad trips to Diaspora communities that include Peru and Senegal. There’s also a study abroad trip to Miami to learn about Cuban and Haitian communities. Along with these opportunities, Normandale is working with the University of Minnesota to establish an on-campus International Experience Center to focus on initiatives that help students increase their global perspective and awareness.

“There are enough opportunities within courses to help students tailor this certificate to their career interests,” said Bouchard. “We are not experts on every experience a student might want out of this certificate, but we are able to connect them to subject matter experts in those countries or areas. We are trying to build on those opportunities because we want this to be something that catapults them into the next stage of their life, whether it is professional or further study.”

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Steven Geller

is director of media and public relations at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota.