Toward the end of January 2019, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) shared the news about its Master of Arts in Translation and Localization Management (TLM) degree program being reclassified into a (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) STEM degree.
“The reclassification acknowledges that the TLM program requires high-level technical skills, including advanced computer skills and knowledge of programming languages,” program chair Max Troyer said in the article.
Along with the reclassification comes an extended Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, a period when international students can apply to remain in the US for one year to pursue a career in the language industry. As the program has been reclassified as a STEM degree, international students are now eligible for three years of OPT.
Slator contacted Troyer for more details about the reclassification. He said, “I think this reflects the technical nature of managing localization projects, localization engineering, and internationalization engineering.”
Troyer said the program will stay under its Masters of Arts designation (as opposed to a Masters of Science), noting that Middlebury looked at what other schools did with their MA programs after being reclassified into STEM degrees — and “most kept the BA or MA,” he said.
Asked about changes within the program that led to the reclassification, Troyer said that, up until fall 2017, “all TLM students had a near-native level in their second language.” After that point, however, Middlebury started to accept students who were at a conversational level in their secondary language.
“The logic was that we were interested in recruiting those without degrees in language, such as business administration, economics, science, computer science, etc.” Troyer said.
“Our program had become extremely technical; we cover two programming languages in depth”
“When the TLM program was created, the CIP (Classification of Instructional Programs) code we now use didn’t exist. So when we evaluated the program in 2017, we realized we needed a new CIP code because the vast majority of students were becoming project managers, qualified to handle technically challenging projects,” he said.
According to Troyer, “It’s true that, over time, our program became more technical, and that it was simply time to choose a new CIP code that better reflected the curriculum.”
He added that over the next three to five years, Middlebury will be “really amping up” in terms of adding material that falls within categories such as automation, data science, and artificial intelligence, ensuring the STEM classification is even more appropriate.
More Students Expected
Troyer said the extended OPT period is definitely an advantage for international students as, historically, most would take advantage of the opportunity. “I believe that the majority of international students will apply for the 24-month STEM extension,” he said.
Will reclassification attract more students in the long run? “I’m a little worried about this actually,” Troyer replied.
“For years, we had about 30 students per year; and, starting in 2017 with the redesign of our curriculum, we went up to about 60 incoming students. We did this again in 2018 and we’re on track for doing it again in 2019,” he said.
“It’s true that, over time, our program became more technical, and that it was simply time to choose a new CIP code that better reflected the curriculum.”
Troyer admitted, “With the STEM news, I’m nervous we might have up to 80 incoming students, and this would mean about five sections of each required course. We limit class sizes to 20 per section, and we have around 20 translation and interpretation students who are taking localization courses.”
Still, overall the move is good news. “American schools are, generally, relatively expensive compared to schools outside the US, so international students who invest in a masters in TLM at the Middlebury Institute are getting a little more value for their investment. Definitely a net gain!” Troyer concluded.