New certificate program enhances curriculum – and resume – of students in any degree field

Claire Sheppard

UAH’s new Global Professional Pathways Certificate Program gives students like Claire Sheppard, pictured here in Barcelona, the opportunity to integrate cross-cultural communication skills into their chosen careers.

Photo courtesy of: Claire Sheppard

In an effort to help students integrate cross-cultural communication skills into their chosen career, the Department of World Languages and Cultures and the Global Studies Program at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) have partnered to introduce a Global Professional Pathways Certificate Program. Participants are required to take 15 credit hours of a foreign language and spend a minimum of four weeks studying abroad in a country that predominantly speaks their target language; they are also encouraged to incorporate an internship or research experience into their time abroad. The program then culminates in a one-credit-hour capstone course entitled Global Professional Portfolio, during which participants evaluate their foreign language proficiency and their experience abroad, and assess how it has helped them prepare for a global career in their field.

"This program provides our students – regardless of major – a clear path to combine foreign language study with experiential learning abroad opportunities, significantly adding value to their major and enhancing their career opportunities," says Dr. David Johnson, an associate professor of global studies and German and the director of UAH’s Global Studies Program. "In addition, the program’s abroad component enables students to discover new strengths and abilities, learn to adapt and respond to challenges, and return home with new ideas and perspectives about themselves."

Tegan Guillebau

Tegan Guillebau spent seven weeks in South Korea, where she visited the DMZ in Paju.

Photo courtesy of: Tegan Guillebau

Albertville, Ala., native Tegan Guillebau, a junior finance major and Spanish minor, decided to add the certificate to her degree program in large part because of the study abroad component. She’d long been interested in traveling to South Korea, where she would like to live and work after graduation. "My hopes are to teach English in South Korea, so studying abroad there opened my eyes to a career path that I feel more strongly for than any other I’ve thought of prior," says Guillebau, who spent seven weeks in Seoul over the summer. "It also shows future employers that I’ve had experience in this country, and I can speak Korean if need to get my point across." As a result, she says she would "definitely recommend this certificate and study abroad" to other UAH students, especially those who are interested in or already involved with learning a foreign language. "It’s just a couple of extra courses that allow you to become more globally aware and suited for international professions," she says. "And, as a student who completed a study abroad, it is a great tool to utilize for immersion in language learning and to simply view life from a perspective that’s different from your own."

Chris Smith

Chris Smith, who is spending 14 months in Germany, is pictured here on the viewing tower at the Rathaus in Hannover, Niedersachsen.

Photo courtesy of: Chris Smith

For Chris Smith, a junior aerospace engineering and German double major from Charlotte, NC, the certificate program seemed an ideal way to improve his language skills with "not too much extra work at all." That said, he is going well beyond the program’s minimum requirement of four weeks abroad by spending a total of 14 months in Germany, both as an intern with an aerospace company in Braunschweig and as a student at Hochschule Bremen. "Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will help you to grow as a person and gain independence and cultural understanding," says Smith. "After I graduate I plan to start my career in the engineering industry or return to Germany to complete a master’s degree. This program will help boost my resume, show off my German skills with a more tangible certificate, and set me apart from other language learners."

Unlike either Guillebau or Smith, senior Claire Sheppard was already committed to doing an international internship as part of her degree program in foreign language & international trade. But, she says, "I thought that the certificate would help me focus on the skills I was learning abroad and how to use them in future careers." So this past summer, she headed to Barcelona to complete her internship with Solartys, the solar energy and energy efficiency field of the non-profit business network Secartys, and improve her Spanish language skills. "I think this certificate will help me reflect on the soft skills that I acquired this summer, such as critical thinking and problem solving," says Sheppard, who was raised in Huntsville, Ala. "It has made me appreciate my time abroad more than I would have otherwise, and it has helped me multiple ways – I have grown as a person and developed different skills while I was in Spain."

And still one more advantage yet awaits these students, points out Dr. Sean Lane, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. It’s the competitive edge that they, as participants in the program, will enjoy as they embark upon their professional careers. "When employers are asked which skills are most valued in new employees, they routinely rank intercultural knowledge and competence near the top of the list," says Dr. Lane. "Furthermore, applicants who can document their ability to speak different languages and navigate different cultures clearly separate themselves from others applying for the same position. This program gives students from majors across the university a rich, memorable, potentially life-changing experience, while also preparing them for an increasingly globalized world. We are proud to be able to offer it."