Douglas’ end means program must move

By Rhea Riley

After 40 years, the Foreign Language Residence Program will be forced to relocate due to the deconstruction of Douglas Hall over the summer.


In the fall, FLRP will occupy the entire fifth floor in New Residence Hall West.

FLRP occupies the entire second floor in the B wing of Douglas. The program requires each of its students to attend dinners Mondays through Thursday in the C and D cafeteria in Douglas. Douglas will be deconstructed this summer as a part of the Bold Futures plan to extend Lucinda Avenue and create a 10-minute walkable campus.

“We were looking at other [residence] halls,” said FLRP coordinator Gregory Ross, who has held the position since 2000. “New Hall had more of the logistics that we were really looking for and for the future of the program.”

Ross said New Hall will allow speakers of each language to live in their own cluster and will give participants convenient access to New Hall’s cafeteria.

“We like to focus on community,” Ross said. “The privacy issue was a big issue, and plus New Hall had a cafeteria where we can have the privacy needed to practice our language skills.”

Program participants focus on only speaking the language they’re studying. The program immerses students in the language they are minoring or majoring in while they live on the same floor of other foreign language students.

Program participants receive one elective credit.

In addition to the dinners, language nights are held where participants give presentations focusing on the culture and traditions of the place or places their language is used. Each group’s native speaker decides when the students give their presentations.

These presentations allow students to practice their speaking skills and give them insight into other cultures.

Honors Program

Because the Honors Program’s living-learning community is in New Hall, Ross hopes students who previously declined to live in the FLRP’s Douglas floor will reconsider as the program moves.

“We lost a lot of students to the Honors Program, so I hope some of those students we’ll be able to pick up this year,” Ross said. “I’m positive, I feel positive. If I didn’t, I don’t think I would’ve made the decision [to move to New Hall]. I think that as time goes on, perhaps New Hall will be more affordable to all students at NIU. We can focus a lot more on the individual languages. I think it’s a positive move. I’m looking forward to it.”

A former member of FLRP attended Douglas’ farewell event Sunday. She reminisced and looked at photographs with fellow alumni.

“When I heard they were moving the program, I was devastated. I cant imagine Douglas not being there,” said Karen Buffington, a former FLRP member who graduated in 1999. “I’m very grateful that I was there when it was at Douglas.”

Tuition changes

Maria Senf, a native German speaker from Potsdam, Germany, is a leader for the German table. Each language requires a native speaker.

“For me, the program is really nice,” Senf said. “I also speak French and Spanish, so it’s nice to speak to the other natives.”

As the native speaker for FLRP, Serf’s room and board and tuition up to 12 credit hours a semester are paid by NIU while she resides in Douglas.

Ross said with the move to New Hall West, native speakers will still receive free room and board, but they will be asked to pay their own tuition due to state-wide budget concerns. NIU is preparing for a potential $12.5 million funding cut from the state.

Senf started participating in the program in 2012, when Ross requested she join. The program features French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Japanese speakers.

“Something that is probably the most rewarding for me in the program is that I can see how [the American students] themselves improve their language skills so much,” Senf said. “Just from being here for a semester, or a year, you really see how much their language skills improve just because they really have to participate and they are speaking so much of the language on a daily basis. They improve so much.”