Michael Metcalf – who devoted much of his more than 30-year career to promoting foreign language and culture studies – is ensuring University of Mississippi students have opportunities to achieve high levels of language proficiency by studying abroad.
The former executive director of the university’s Croft Institute for International Studies has contributed a $200,000 gift establishing the Professor Emeritus Michael F. Metcalf Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment. It will provide scholarships to rising junior and senior international studies majors, enabling those with financial need to immerse themselves for a semester or an academic year in the language they are studying.
“I was motivated to designate this gift for study abroad because extended time in another country is so important for the acquisition of advanced proficiency in a foreign language, which is an important goal for all international studies majors,” Metcalf said.
Metcalf knows the benefits of studying abroad first-hand. His first international experience was a two-month stint working in a dairy cooperative in the Norwegian city of Stavanger the summer after his freshman year of college. This work experience and living with a Norwegian family involved no formal language instruction, but it lay the groundwork for his future interest in language and culture study.
“That experience piqued my interest and provided me with a broader cultural understanding not easily found in a classroom setting,” Metcalf said.
“When I returned to Harvard for my sophomore year, I took an advanced course in Norwegian that strengthened and deepened my knowledge and instilled in me a love of languages. I took an intensive course in Russian the following summer, and I attribute my success in both languages to having gained confidence in learning Norwegian the previous summer,” he said.
Metcalf graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history before pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Stockholm University in Sweden. In addition to obtaining his degrees at Stockholm, he taught history courses in Swedish while serving as an acting university lecturer.
Metcalf is fluent in Swedish, German, Danish and Norwegian and has a working knowledge of French, Russian and Spanish. He has written several books and articles on Swedish history and translated five scholarly books from Swedish into English.
The Croft Institute for International Studies, founded in 1998 with a $60 million gift from the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund, focuses on teaching students how to thrive in our interconnected global community. Overall, the almost 700 Croft alumni have studied one or more of 16 different languages and studied abroad in 51 countries.
Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute and associate professor of history, said Metcalf’s gift will provide needed support for many students.
“Sending Croft students abroad – to experience a different culture and advance their language proficiency – was integral to the original curriculum that Dr. Metcalf designed as the institute’s first executive director from 1998 to 2007. Croft alumni regularly tell us that studying abroad was a transformative experience, and Dr. Metcalf’s generous gift will strengthen that core element of the program,” he said.
Dinius continued, “When we review potential study abroad programs to decide whether they are suitable for our international studies majors, we consider above all two questions: First, does the university offer foreign language classes that will allow our students to advance their proficiency? Secondly, does the university offer classes – in the target language and/or in English – that our students find interesting and that they can use to satisfy an upper-division international studies course requirement?”
Metcalf said he hopes his scholarship gift will encourage other donors to assist highly motivated international studies majors to become proficient at an advanced level in their target languages.
“Traditional foreign language teaching in the United States emphasized mastering the grammar of the language and reading literary texts,” Metcalf said. “The proficiency method of language instruction used at the Croft Institute also exposes students to foreign language texts from the social sciences, natural sciences, business and other fields, preparing them for using their target language in professional settings.”
Metcalf was serving as the assistant vice president for international education and director of the Institute of International Studies and Programs at the University of Minnesota when he was tapped as the first executive director of the Croft Institute.
“Building the brand-new international studies program at the University of Mississippi was exciting, and I could not have done it without the input and support of both the Croft faculty and the international studies majors whose suggestions were invaluable,” said Metcalf.
After his leadership role with the Croft Institute, Metcalf became associate provost for international affairs at the university in 2007 and interim chair of the department of public policy in 2011.
Since retiring from Ole Miss in 2013, Metcalf has followed the growth and development of the Croft Institute closely from his home in Minneapolis. He has also kept up with the impressive professional lives of Croft graduates whom he taught as freshmen in government service, academe, the military and many other fields.
To make a gift to the Professor Emeritus Michael F. Metcalf Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment, visit online here. For information on supporting the scholarship endowment or the Croft Institute for International Studies, contact Brady Bramlett, associate director of development, at email@example.com or 662-915-3081.
By Tina H. Hahn/UM Development