Board of Visitors approves linguistics undergraduate major, law doctorate in juridical science

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During the Board of Visitors meeting, the Board approved two new academic programs. REBECCA KLINGER/ The Flat Hat

When the College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors met at the end of last week, the Committee on Academic Affairs voted to approve a new undergraduate major and a new degree program at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law to meet student interest and industry standards.

Provost Michael Halleran announced the creation of a new Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics, a program that is currently offered through the Roy R. Charles Center’s interdisciplinary studies program.

Before the major is finalized, it must be approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

English and linguistics professor Jack Martin, who serves as the director of the linguistics program, said that he believes students who complete linguistics coursework deserve to have an official major that reflects that effort.

“Our students take 35 credits of courses in Linguistics: they deserve to have a degree that reflects their coursework,” Martin said in an email. “Having a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies doesn’t really convey as much information.”

“Our students take 35 credits of courses in Linguistics: they deserve to have a degree that reflects their coursework,” Martin said in an email. “Having a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies doesn’t really convey as much information.”

For the last 43 years, linguistics has been an option through the interdisciplinary studies program. Martin said that after attending Board of Visitors meetings in November, he learned about the newly approved bachelor’s degree in Japanese studies.  This prompted him to consider the process of creating a new bachelor’s option for students currently pursuing coursework in linguistics.

 “All we are doing now is taking that same major and converting it to a B.A. in Linguistics,” Martin said in an email. “Most students and faculty are not even aware of the distinction.”

“All we are doing now is taking that same major and converting it to a B.A. in Linguistics,” Martin said in an email. “Most students and faculty are not even aware of the distinction.”

To finalize the approval of the new degree, the College must submit a proposal to SCHEV. Martin said that he is currently working with the College’s Office of Institutional Accreditation and Effectiveness to write a 40-page proposal. Six years ago, the program developed its own prefix (LING) for courses, which is a step Martin said lends itself to the creation of the new degree.

If  SCHEV approves the new bachelor’s degree, the College will become the first university in the state to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics. Rival University of Virginia offers linguistics through a similar interdisciplinary studies program.

Down the line, Martin said he, along with other linguistics faculty members, hopes for linguistics to become a department instead of a program.

“That being said, I would definitely like for my degree to reflect precisely what I studied,” said Cameron Shifflett ’20 I don’t see why we shouldn’t have our own major.”

“Okay, so I’ll say that I don’t honestly know all the ins and outs and logistics of changing the major from an interdisciplinary major/minor to a Linguistics major/minor,” Cameron Shifflett ’20 said in a written statement. “That being said, I would definitely like for my degree to reflect precisely what I studied. I don’t see why we shouldn’t have our own major.”

“Okay, so I’ll say that I don’t honestly know all the ins and outs and logistics of changing the major from an interdisciplinary major/minor to a Linguistics major/minor,” Cameron Shifflett ’20 said in a written statement. “That being said, I would definitely like for my degree to reflect precisely what I studied. I don’t see why we shouldn’t have our own major.”

During the Feb. 2019 meetings, the BOV also approved the creation of a new degree track at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law. Currently, law students can obtain a Juris Doctorate, a standard three-year law degree that also prepares students to pass the state bar exam.

Starting in Aug. 2019, the law school will also offer an S.J.D. or a Doctorate of Juridicial Science degree. These degrees emphasize independent research and writing, unlike J.D. degrees. In the United States, these degrees are sometimes considered the equivalent of a doctoral degree in law and would be attained after completing a J.D. degree.

According to the BOV, adding an S.J.D. track would make the College’s law school more competitive and help it keep up with industry standards. In addition to emphasizing research, an S.J.D. is also useful for lawyers who want to practice global business law or practice law internationally. The BOV’s resolution said there is increased demand for such practice within the law industry.

After approving the resolutions creating a new bachelor’s degree in linguistics and an S.J.D. track at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, the Committee on Academic Affairs said that it would be presenting information about a proposed bachelor’s degree in education to the rest of the Board during the April 2019 meetings.