Monday, September 15, 2008

UIS implements Global Studies major

By Courtney Westlake

When UIS made some changes to the general education curriculum several years ago, it opened the door for the addition of a new major focused on global awareness.

Since the early 1990s, UIS has offered a minor in international studies, and now, beginning in Fall 2009, UIS will offer a major degree in Global Studies within the College of Public Affairs and Administration.

“We decided to build into the new general education curriculum, a new goal that all students have to take course in global awareness, and students who came in at the lower division would have to take courses in comparative societies,” said Dr. Steve Schwark, who put together a proposal for the new major two years ago. “To do this meant adding new faculty who could teach those courses in a variety of topics. For the first time, we really had a faculty that could offer a full major in global studies.”

The implementation of a Global Studies major matches the direction that is occurring in global and international studies programs across the country, said Dr. Hilary Frost-Kumpf, who will teach courses in the major.

“These programs are very interdisciplinary and are pulling from topics like geography, political science, history, anthropology, women's studies and environmental studies because all of those disciplines are boundary-crossing,” she said. “So we're really tying into and looking at what's happening across the country in terms of these studies.”

The new program at UIS will consist of an introduction course called Introduction to Global Studies, taught by Frost-Kumpf, and six other core courses at the 200 level, Schwark said. The core courses will cover topics in political science, history, economics and a course that will require students to look at different cultures, such as world literature, cultural geography or world cultures.

At the next level, students will be able to choose a concentration in Globalization or Politics and Diplomacy.

“There is also a self-designed concentration that consists of four courses that might deal with a part of the world like Africa or Latin America, or students might choose to focus on a functional topic like human rights or women's issues,” Schwark said. “And then students come back together and take a capstone class in which they will put together a project or paper that will be a culmination over what they learned in previous semesters.”

Global Studies majors will be required to develop intermediacy competency in a foreign language and also encouraged to study abroad.

“The study abroad programs have expanded considerably on campus in the past 10 years. This is a way to build upon the direction and competencies that the university is already taking,” Frost-Kumpf said. “We’re very committed to the goals that the university has set to expand global awareness for UIS students and to be able to do that through an entire major is very exciting.”

Along with study abroad, another exciting aspect of the Global Studies program is the opportunity for students to obtain internships abroad, Schwark said.

“More and more students understand that we live in a global economy, that we live in a world in which it’s really important to have experience dealing with people who speak different languages and know about other cultures,” Schwark said. “If they can add to that and can say they had work experience, where they worked in London or Paris or East Asia, this adds an extraordinary amount to their resumé.”

While the focus right now is to establish the Global Studies program at the bachelor’s level, Schwark and Frost-Kumpf anticipate the degree possibly being offered online in the future. Both faculty members are excited about the possibilities to enrich the lives of students in the program and encourage global awareness.

“When prospective students see that we offer a Global Studies major, we think this will attract students to our honors program, as well as transfer students who will see for the first time that they can get degree in global studies,” Schwark said. “There are not that many of these in the state of Illinois, at least at state universities. Any student who understands that we’re becoming an increasingly close-knit, global community will be intrigued by this.”

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