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Language of excellence

April 25, 2012

While the members of Alpha Mu Gamma speak many different languages, they are all fluent in success.

The new student organization — which was officially approved by Drake’s Student Senate in February — honors academic excellence in foreign language study. The organization creates opportunities for students to apply their language study through a variety of programming, events and activities.

The society only admits students with an “A” average in at least two language classes and a “B” average overall. First-year students can be associate members, but students are not eligible for initiation until they complete at least two courses in the same language. While Drake’s chapter is no longer accepting applications for membership this semester, qualified students can apply in the fall.

The organization’s inception at Drake is due largely in part to a group of ambitious student leaders, as well as several dedicated faculty and staff members.

Christen Bain, administrative assistant for world languages and cultures, conducted a survey in the fall among eligible students in order to gauge student interest in a foreign language honor society. Bain graduated from Drake in 2008 and studied both French and Spanish. She helped launch Drake’s French Association last year.

“Looking back at my experiences, these kinds of clubs and organizations can really augment the academic experience,” Bain says. “I was really excited to see a lot of student interest in this sort of honor society.”

Bain researched various honor societies and then approached several students who expressed interest in taking the next step. The students found a willing advisor in Marc Cadd, associate professor of German and director of world languages and cultures. Bain led the students through the steps necessary to become an official student organization.

One of these students was Taylor Harris, who’s majoring in law, politics and society as well as international relations. She also is completing her Certificate of Competence of Language and Culture in both French and Spanish, and her commitment to language studies helped her become the organization’s first president.

“Studying foreign languages and cultures is one of my passions, and it is a very important ideal for Alpha Mu Gamma,” Harris says. “I felt that it was something that I would definitely want to help start.”

Drake’s Alpha Mu Gamma chapter now has 28 members who were initiated on March 11, including at least one member from each of Drake’s seven offered languages: Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. The initiation was the group’s final event of National Foreign Language Week, which members promoted by chalking sidewalks around campus.

While most of the organization’s efforts so far have gone toward completing its first initiation, Alpha Mu Gamma plans to conduct language fairs and service learning opportunities, bring in speakers about language in the workplace and advocate study abroad opportunities.

“Hopefully, we will grow and continue to have new ideas for events in the future,” Harris says. “Ultimately, we hope to get more people involved with languages at Drake and for our organization to gain respect and prominence on campus.”