Italian degree OK’d at main UA campus

Interdisciplinary Master’s also approved

A teacher and students wear face masks during a lesson at a high school in Rome in this Sept. 13, 2021 file photo. The Italian language on the blackboard suggests that the students are being tested on how scientists determine the length of one second. (AP/Andrew Medichini)
A teacher and students wear face masks during a lesson at a high school in Rome in this Sept. 13, 2021 file photo. The Italian language on the blackboard suggests that the students are being tested on how scientists determine the length of one second. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

ARKADELPHIA -- The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board on Friday approved a Bachelor of Arts degree in Italian for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The state panel's decision, which the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas system had approved earlier this year, comes after a recent decision by a separate campus -- the University of Arkansas at Little Rock -- to drop a French language degree program.

The Higher Education Coordinating Board approved several new degree offerings at the state's colleges and universities -- from the Bachelor of Arts in Italian to 100% online degrees in subjects ranging from organizational leadership and interdisciplinary studies -- during a meeting Friday at Henderson State University.

Italian is the fourth-most studied language worldwide, "with an average of 2.3 million students, [and] Italy is also the number one non-English speaking destination for American students studying abroad," according to UA-Fayetteville. "The University of Arkansas has the Rome Center, which can host roughly 100 students each semester and has created opportunities for research experiences and internships."

More than 25 Italian offices in Northwest Arkansas relate to multinational retail giant Walmart Inc. with more than 200 Italian companies registered with the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce Texas, "the chamber associated with our consulate region."

This offering will prepare graduates to "enter the workforce and engage with the world's eighth-largest economy," according to UA Provost Terry Martin. Students have been requesting this program for the past five years.

"We believe the program will begin with roughly 15 students adding the major annually, [and] after the third year, we project enrollments to grow to 25-30," according to the university. "Within the three-five year period, we project 28-32 graduates."

The program, which will start in the fall semester, "does not need any additional funding because we currently offer all the courses required for a major," according to the university. "We will offer content courses on a three-year rotation to allow all students the ability to enroll in every course."

This also fills a gap, as there is no Italian major program offered in the entire region, according to the university. The closest programs are at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, or University of Dallas, which is private.

Jim Carr, a member of the Coordinating Board's academic committee, said he initially planned to oppose the Italian degree, because he doesn't view it as a "language of the 21st Century" and would rather see resources devoted to teaching Chinese and Arabic. But he said that when he learned about all the organizations and businesses that could benefit from students graduating with this degree, he changed his mind. He would, however, still like to see Chinese and Arabic gain more attention from the state's colleges and universities.


UA received approval for a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, another program the trustees authorized earlier this year.

The Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, which will start in the fall semester, fills a gap within the university's graduate offerings, supporting graduate students whose academic interests and career goals are not currently served by existing degree programs or span two or more subject areas, "very similar to our bachelor of arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, which currently has 117 students," Martin said.

Like the other interdisciplinary graduate programs, the Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies -- which will be online -- will require research and coursework in at least two disciplines and ask students to thematically link their graduate program of study through an interdisciplinary thesis or capstone research project.

This coursework will be offered by faculty from every college at the university, and no new faculty will be required for this program. But two new courses -- an introductory/research methods course and a research capstone course -- will be required, according to the university.

"Demand for this program is based on the overwhelming enrollment in the undergraduate program to fill a need for both degree completers, as well as students who are not currently served by our degree program offerings," according to the university.

"There are many students who left the university without a graduate degree in good standing due to personal/professional issues who would now have the opportunity to complete a graduate degree online through this program, [and] with no other similar programs available in the state, this program will fill a need that is currently being filled by out-of-state institutions," according to the university.

"By year five, we expect approximately 40 students to be active in the program at any given time and for 10-15 degree completions per year."

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