Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Patricia Obenauf.


Foreign language education has a long history within higher education. However, since the late 1960s, foreign language enrollment, measured by percentages of students taking language courses, has declined by almost 50% in American colleges and universities. The author contends that much of this decline can be explained by three concomitant forces; including (1) the rise of professional programs that are constrained by an exactness of education that precludes study beyond rather narrowly defined plans of study; (2) the lack of language learning success that foreign language students demonstrate upon completion of language programs; and (3) the failure of language departments to extend the concept of language and culture learning beyond traditional language-for-literature based curricula. When coupled with societal forces that view language learning as an essential tool in the nation's economic/political battles and intra-university notions of accountability that view a department's centrality to the university based on its ability to generate revenue, foreign language departments face internal and external challenges to their long-term survival. The author believes that an in depth understanding of the perspectives of others within higher education can assist foreign language programs recover their own place within universities and establish strategic cross-disciplinary alliances that will secure the long-term success of foreign language programs. The present study, based on the theoretical frameworks provided by Bandura's socio-cognitive theory and Bourdieu's models of Field and Habitus, uses qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews and document analysis, to explore the perspectives of faculty from three academic colleges (Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Business) toward the role and purpose of foreign language education within the context of the university. Finally, the author suggests that the findings of the study point to the need to develop an ecology of foreign language learning that allows for a reconceptualization of the modern foreign language department in higher education.