Dual Major in Foreign Languages Boosts Grads

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Fluency in a foreign language greatly improves a college senior’s chances of getting a job for which he is qualified, especially if he wants a position in, or related to, international business.

Eighty-two percent of all seniors proficient in a foreign language find employment before or soon after graduation, according to the foreign languages department of Youngstown State University.

“Eighty percent of businesses want employees with international experience and cultural competence,” the department says. “The [federal] government will repay up to $10,000 a year of student loans, offer signing bonuses and give full-ride scholarships for qualified individuals with foreign language competence.”

“We certainly would like to see more double majors,” says the chairman of the department, John Sarkissian, and he would like to see the Williamson College of Business Administration and the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services encourage their students to pursue a minor in a foreign language.

So if a student has a dual major in a foreign language and business administration or economics, the assumption is he can write his own ticket.

Surprisingly, few students pursue such a dual major. Two women who did at YSU just graduated. Both had one major in Spanish, the other in business administration or economics.

Corinne Bocci, who grew up in Sagamore Hills, will enter the doctoral program in economics at Ohio State University this fall and plans to teach economics at the college level. The focus of her studies will be public finance.

Heather Miller of Cornersburg, who studied biology as well as business administration, will enter business. While Miller took Spanish in high school, her twin sister took French and is serving with the Marines in Japan.

A third student at YSU, Ellen Chittester of Reynoldsville, Pa., just finished her freshman year and will major in Italian as well as business administration, she says. She wants to pursue a degree in marketing. “YSU has one of the best [programs] in what I wanted,” she says.

Chittester says she is looking forward to taking classes in behavioral economics and international trade.

None wants to work as a translator.

While other colleges and universities in the region have many students pursuing dual majors, none The Business Journal approached could find a student with dual major where one was a foreign language.

Both Miller, who was in YSU’s honors program, and Bucci, passed the OPI -- oral proficiency interview -- test “with flying colors,” they said matter-of-factly.

Like Chittester, they discovered their affinity for languages while in high school.

“I found I had a talent for languages,” Bocci relates. “I knew I wanted to do a language [at YSU]”

“I’ve started learning Italian,” Miller adds.

She started out as a mathematics major – “I like formulas,” she explains – and along the way to graduation spent a semester in Costa Rica studying plant life and coral reefs. She proved indispensable to her fellow students when the group went to markets there.

Both Miller and Bocci took many of the same classes -- business and economics as well as Spanish.

“We took the undergrad version of graduate-level courses in comparative economics and macro- and micro-theory,” Bocci says, as well as statistics.

Bocci studied in Spain by herself in 2011, staying at Salamanca, she says.

Miller and Bocci say they have read many of the major works written in Spanish and Chittester had begun reading Dante’s Divine Comedy in Italian when she was interviewed.

Miller had just finished Don Quixote and has read authors Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda and Octavio Paz.

Chittester spent 11th grade in Italy as a foreign exchange student and had just returned home to attend a funeral when she was interviewed. A death in the family interrupted her study trip. She was to return to Italy for three more weeks.

“I have good fluency in [speaking] Italian,” she allows, but is still working on reading the language of Dante.

Chittester has been pleased by her times abroad, her opportunity to experience the culture as well as immerse herself in the language.

Miller and Bocci say the same of their time in Costa Rica and Spain.

Pictured: Heather Miller

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the MidJune edition of The Business Journal.

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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