Program History

Foreign language programs have existed in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI since the early 1960s.

They were initially part of a single foreign language department, administered by the first chair, Margaret A. Cook, a professor of French. Through the late 1960s, the foreign language department was quite small, with one dedicated faculty member, each, in French, German, Spanish, and one jointly appointed in both German and French.

By the 1970s, each language program had grown to achieve degree-granting status. They were, then, split of into separate departments with four full-time faculty members in French, German, and Spanish.

In 1990 our own Classical Studies Program joined the fold as well as a program in Japanese Studies with one tenure-line faculty member in each. Both programs were administratively housed in the German Department.

Six years later, the chairs of the three separate language departments discussed the curricular and administrative impact of combining the programs into a single unit. By July of 1996, the Department of French (comprised of French and Arabic) and the Department of German (comprised of German, Bahasa Malay, Classical Studies, Japanese and Russian) were united and formed the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures, which later became World Languages and Cultures (WLAC).

The word “cultures” was included in the departmental name to signal a move from the focus on literature toward the exploration of the broader cultural dimensions of language study. In July 1997, the Department of Spanish (which also housed Italian) joined the merged department.

The Department of World Languages and Cultures and the Classical Studies program have grown and flourished within the IU School of Liberal Arts. Today, the WLAC department is one of the largest in the school and plays an active and engaged role in preparing students for the increasingly globalized world of the present and future.