Carnegie Mellon University

Hand-written reproduction of a poem from Li Bai (701-762 B.C.) by CMU student Isabelle Augensen as part of Chinese Calligraphy and Culture class

February 05, 2019

Exploring Languages and Cultures Speaks to CMU Students

By Michael Henninger

Nearly half of all Carnegie Mellon University graduates take classes in the Department of Modern Languages. In any language, that's saying something.

Forty-eight percent of 2018 Carnegie Mellon graduates took a Modern Languages course. Nationwide, there are only 7.5 modern language course enrollments per 100 students, according to the most recent report conducted by the Modern Language Association.

For Susan G. Polansky, the head of CMU's Department of Modern Languages, that participation rate, and the fact that it has held steady since the university began tracking data in 2003, is remarkable.

"Celebrating 100 years of modern languages at Carnegie Mellon has brought the opportunity for festivity and reflection about engagement with multiple languages and cultures on campus and beyond," said Polansky.

Amy Burkert, vice provost for Education, spoke at Modern Languages' 100th Anniversary celebration in October.

"Students at CMU want to take language, not because they have to do so but because they want to, at numbers that are the envy of peer institutions," Burkert said. "The Department of Modern Languages has had a real, tangible impact on our students, faculty, institution and community that has contributed to our climb to a global stature."