Southern Oregon University will offer a master's degree in Spanish teaching, created for regional high school, middle school and community college teachers who may earn it in three summers spent studying language and culture in Ashland's sister city of Guanajuato, Mexico.

Southern Oregon University will offer a master's degree in Spanish teaching, created for regional high school, middle school and community college teachers who may earn it in three summers spent studying language and culture in Ashland's sister city of Guanajuato, Mexico.

The master of arts degree was created in consultation with active teachers and will fill out their cultural understanding in such areas as film and poetry, so they can teach students in more engaging and relevant ways, said Dan Morris, SOU director of foreign languages.

The degree grew out of work with the Southern Oregon Foreign Language Articulation Project over the last decade, interfacing mostly with Ashland High School and North Medford High School — and is one of eight such programs in the U.S. to fashion the program from the start of high school to the end of college, he said.

The master's degree was approved in September by the Oregon University System. SOU is the only nondoctoral university with the program.

"Last year, we did a lot of workshops and a lot of assessing and improving the teaching," said Morris, whose department has five full-time Spanish teachers.

Scott Rex, SOU Spanish teacher and supervisor of student teaching in foreign languages, said the degree program will have 60 to 65 students enrolled (22 entering each year) and is geared to strengthen teachers' knowledge base about Spanish-speaking societies through instruction and by living in homes of families in Guanajuato.

The language immersion program in Guanajuato is called the Summer Language Institute.

"It does a lot for our foreign language department and will be meeting the needs of our community and across the country," said Rex, noting that having the degree at such a small college will add to the prestige of SOU.

National and international faculty members are invited to teach in the program based on their area of expertise, resulting in a diverse array of courses and teachers, said Morris.