The Summer Language School in Mexico City (1946-1950)

The plan of a new summer school in Mexico City started in November, but did not take real form until January 1946 when Dr. Robert Owen proposed the creation of a Language Council that would structure the new Language Summer School. With this effort, Dr. Owen was trying to institutionalize an initiative that was limited in its academic outreach.

First Bulletin for the Language Summer School in Mexico City, 1946.

In the 1946 Bulletin, the Language Council is officially announced and the new Language School in Mexico City opens. It has a clear calendar of activities, course offerings, and a General Assembly seminar in which students were able to engage with different Mexican academics and educators. The council was able to secure the Hotel Ontario for lodging and the Education Building for classes. The whole bulletin offers a clear vision of the Language School, more focused on the academics and the opportunities for cultural experiences, downplaying the more touristic nuances of the first two schools.

After the experience in Mexico City, Dr. Robert Owen was concerned about the cost and curriculum of the Summer School. In his report after the summer of 1946, he detailed a few recommendations that were implemented in the iterations of 1947 and 1948: a bigger curriculum, “a number of courses in English for those who know no Spanish but who are interested in the history, geography, archeology, sociology, and other aspects of Mexican life and of international relations”, and a flat rate “that would include transportation, room and board, and tuition”, a similar approach to the first school in San Luis Potosi. The objective was to achieve a broader language school for students of all interests and with all types of language formation. Agreeing with the sentiment during WWII, Dr. Owen wanted students to experience what we today may call interculturality.

1947 Bulletin for the Language Summer School in Mexico City.

The 1947 Language Summer School was the most ambitious. It included a mandatory General Assembly, a varied offering of Spanish courses, and also French and Portuguese. English courses about Mexican history and folklore were also included for those not fluent in Spanish. Up to two courses (six credit hours) could be validated under the American Studies major. A tuition of $475 ($6557 in 2023) would cover transportation -in the Missouri Pacific’s Sunshine Special, lodging, now in Posada San Angelo, and meals. Open to all types of students, veterans were especially encouraged to attend under the GI Bill. 

Although there is no report after the summer of 1947, by 1948 the ambitions of the previous year were held back due to costs. For example, meals were not included in the $310 tuition fee as “[e]xperience has taught us that is more satisfying and somewhat cheaper for each student to take care of his own meals. The average student can eat well on three dollars per day”. Also, French and Portuguese classes were not offered, but an Art class was offered, and the General Assembly seminars were eliminated.

Similar cuts happened in 1949 and 1950 Language Schools. In 1949 there was a cut in the Spanish classes offered, although a new “Special 10 Day Course for Vacationists” was added, maybe as a way to add more funding to the initiative with a fee of $20 per student. (around $250 in 2023). In 1950, a tuition of $75 paid for classes and all other expenses were made by the students, although the brochure provide some options on transportation and lodging. This was the final Language School that we have record of. 

After 1950, Trinity enters a transitional phase. The new Skyline campus was almost ready and move was scheduled for June 4th, 1952. President Everett was also moving away, with the transitional administration of President Laurie coming in. Instead of a Trinity Language Summer School, a Summer School in the new Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey is promoted as a new alternative in 1951, starting a long relationship of cultural and academic exchange with Trinity. The Language Council and Language School director received a fellowship grant to complete research in Mexico. With his departure, the hopes of the Language School came to its end.