A new S.S.T. alternative known as the Latino Studies Semester will begin in the spring of 2010, taking place primarily in Goshen.

According to Tom Meyers, director of international education, "This program makes it possible for students to have an immersion experience in northern Indiana."

Goshen College students currently have two options for international education: the semester-long Study-Service Term or a choice of 12 credits from a cluster of elective courses offered. Although the majority of students choose to participate in S.S.T., a number of students cannot afford to do so due to athletic commitments or life circumstances that prevent international travel.

According to Meyers, the Latino Studies Semester will provide students with a third option – a group immersion experience in a more accessible location. "The hope is for a significant amount of contact with Latinos in Goshen and the surrounding area," Meyers said.

The new domestic option will be similar to S.S.T. in structure, with the main difference being interaction with host families. Although students will live on campus during the semester and not with host families, the hope is to connect each student with a family they will interact with on a weekly basis.

Two semesters of Spanish language study are required, and the term will include several visits to Latino communities in Chicago and Indianapolis. Though Spanish classes will be a part of the program, it hasn't been determined where the classes will take place.

In addition to language, students will study Latino history and culture in the United States as well as arts and literature of Latinos. The Borderlands class is encouraged for students who can leave Goshen for May term.

Instead of devoting six weeks to a service assignment as the international S.S.T. program offers, students who participate in the Latino Studies Semester will work on a service project throughout semester. "As they study and serve ... they will deepen their understanding of how service to others reflects a commitment to live according to the example of Jesus Christ," said Meyers.

The idea for a domestic S.S.T. has been brewing for some time. Meyers said the C.I.T.L. grant included money for a domestic S.S.T unit when it was issued to Goshen College by the Lilly Endowment in 2006.

The international education office will work closely with Rebecca Hernandez, director of the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning, to appoint a regional coordinator who will oversee many of the technical details. "C.I.T.L. has many connections in the community already that will bear relationships," Meyers said.

In order to get student input, Meyers presented the idea in two classes with high numbers of student-athletes and non-traditional students. "I thought that it was a great idea for commuters and people that can't go because of sports or just can't afford it," said Yaneth Hernandez, a sophomore.  "[The program] would give students who aren't comfortable leaving the country an opportunity to experience another culture," added Shane Kurtz, a junior.

Students may now sign up for either the spring 2010 or summer 2010 unit of the Lation Studies Semester. The S.S.T. enrollment form is available online at www.goshen.edu/registrar/Forms.