SMC language department wins $25,000 award

Emmi Joutsi is waiting for a seat in the language department’s computer lab. First 10, then 15, and now 20 minutes have passed as she waits against the lab wall, eyeing the other student’s competing for the lab. She thinks it shouldn’t be like this—after all, she only wants to do what’s required of her. It’s 30 minutes before Joutsi can get a seat to work on her project. Fortunately for Joutsi and many other students, this waiting game may soon be over. A $25,000 award just granted to to the SMC Modern Language Department from the college’s President’s Circle will be used to find a solution to the crowded labs.

The first of its kind, the Innovation & Progress award, will be used to purchase a three-year license for a web-based program that will provide students with remote access.

The online access to lab resources aims to free up more spaces for students to access their lab hours without the constraints of location and time. Toni Trives, chair of the Modern Language and Cultures Department, says she is honored to receive this award. “The 24-hour student access to our lab resources will immeasurably help our students speak, write and think better in the many languages we offer,” she says.

SMC Spanish Professor Maria Erickson, who led the effort to receive the award, says the program will make it easier for students to complete their required 15-hour-per-semester lab attendance, especially for students that have to balance other obligations, such as schoolwork, work schedules, and the limited lab hours available.

This program, Erickson says, will also allow students a much more comfortable setting in which to practice speaking out loud.

Some students, however, aren’t so sure if the new program will be so successful. “I like the idea of studying at home in the lab, but that might be difficult for some people,” said Ben Miles, an SMC student taking a language class with a lab. “For me, I could never do that. My house is too distracting.”

“What’s to stop a student from just keeping their computer on, and they’ll do something else and every once in a while just move the mouse so that it doesn’t log you off?” Miles asked.

Miles has not, however, had any problems in finding space in the lab, saying that he doesn’t “really find it difficult—the labs are usually pretty empty.”

Joutsi agrees that, despite the wait, she is still able to get into the labs.

The creation of the President’s Circle Award for Innovation & Progress will support programs and departments that directly serve students, including each of the instructional departments, the various student support services, and other programs, such as the library, as well as auxiliary services.

While some may have concerns about the new system, others are looking forward to taking advantage of it.

Hazel Lamson, a SMC student who has previously taken French 1, thinks that the new resource will be “convenient,” recalling times when, due to other obligations, she just couldn’t make it to the lab.

“There won’t be so much pressure,” Lamson said. “You can do it on your own time.”

According to it’s own website, the SMC Foundation President’s Circle was created in 2001 as a private support group for the college. Its approximately 200 members contribute a minimum of $1000 annually. These unrestricted funds are used for the enhancement and support of the campus’ programs.

In addition, The SMC Foundation, which was founded in 1956, awards various other scholarships to individuals throughout the year. Each year more than $600,000 is given to 750 to 800 people.