Every few months the Center spotlights a topic
of significance to research university faculty and administrators. Its
approach is Thoughts and Models. The Thought consists of a short essay
on the particular topic being highlighted. The Models represent different
campus approaches to the topic.
Making Interdisciplinary Education Work
Katherine Harrington, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Programs,
University of Southern California
By offering more than 100 minors to undergraduates, USC has found
there is more than one way to interest students in interdisciplinary
learning. One year after introducing a completely new program of
General Education, USC launched one of higher education's most aggressive
offering of minors. Designed specifically to engage students in
the study of more than one area of interest, these minors cover
a wide array of subjects, including "Ancient Religion and Classical
Languages," "Spanish," "Visual Culture,"
"International Urban Development," "Fine Arts: Sculpture,"
"Critical Approaches to Leadership," "Economics,"
"International Media and the Culture of New Technologies,"
"Natural Science," "Business," and "Musical
Undergraduate education at USC changed fundamentally in 1997. One
year later things got even more interesting. In 1997 USC introduced
an entirely new General Education program. Prior to the new program,
general education requirements depended on a student's major and
the requirements varied from nine to eleven courses. With more than
fourteen thousand undergraduate students, a dozen academic units
engaged in undergraduate education and more than seventy undergraduate
majors the "old GE" was - to be perfectly blunt - a nightmare.
With the advent of the "new GE," requirements became standardized
across all academic units. So, whether a student is majoring in
Engineering or Sculpture, Business or Philosophy, Cinema Television
or International Relations, the core requirements remain the same.
The new program was organized around four desired learning outcomes
and designed to help students develop the ability to:
think critically about complex problems
communicate well both verbally and in writing
locate themselves in history
appreciate the diversity of the human condition.
To achieve these learning outcomes students are required to complete
courses in six foundational areas. Students also complete two writing
courses and a diversity course.
The reengineering of general education at USC created more than
an intellectually coherent basis for undergraduate education. It
created an opportunity for the institution to think about undergraduate
education in a deliberate and intentional fashion over a period
of several years. That process of examination led us to a firm belief
that undergraduate education should provide opportunities for students
to study broadly across disciplines as well as deeply in a particular
major. And that is when things got really interesting. How does
a large research university encourage breadth as well as depth?
How do we make available all of the intellectual resources of a
large, complex institution to thousands of undergraduates? How do
we create opportunities for students to draw from multiple areas
of knowledge and ways of knowing?
Breadth with Depth
During the process of reengineering general education, USC came
face-to-face with these questions. As faculty and administrators
sought to address them, they increasingly focused on the minor as
a flexible, underutilized, and relatively inexpensive option and
one that could take advantage of existing resources and interests.
And there were real incentives to creating new minors. Whereas the
"old" GE had been taught by many schools at USC, the "new"
GE is taught exclusively in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.
As a revenue-center managed institution, tuition revenue accrues
to the academic unit teaching the course. Thus smaller academic
units that may have relied on revenue from general education courses
were in need of new income streams.
In addition to revenue incentives, USC created a separate curriculum
committee to facilitate the review of new minor proposals. And so
began a period of aggressive development of new minors in areas
ranging from advertising to kinesiology; history to neuroscience;
visual culture to bioethics. This committee met regularly for two
years and its sole purpose was to review curriculum proposals for
new minors. In all, USC now offers more than one hundred minors.
Many of these minors are interdisciplinary. Bioethics, for example,
includes courses drawn from Religion, Gerontology, Policy, Planning
and Development and the departments of Health Promotion and Disease
Prevention Studies, History, Occupational Therapy, Political Science
and Sociology. The minor in Visual Culture includes courses from
Art History, Architecture, Cinema-Television, Communications, English,
Comparative Literature, Fine Arts, French & Italian and Philosophy.
Interactive Multimedia reaches across Engineering, Communication,
Cinema-Television, Fine Arts and Journalism. At the same time USC
continues to offer more traditional minors in Business, Spanish,
Economics, Art History and Mathematics.
The University's requirements are relatively loose regarding the
creation of new minors. This is intended to encourage faculty and
department chairs to propose new minors. Currently minors range
from 16 to 32 units. Because USC no longer maintains a separate
curriculum committee for minors, newly-developed programs are subject
to the same approval process as any new course or new degree program.
USC organizes the review of new curricula around disciplines. Thus
a new minor in Chemistry would now be reviewed for approval by the
Science and Engineering panel of the University Curriculum Committee.
Programs (minors or majors) that cross disciplinary boundaries are
reviewed by multiple panels. There is a difficulty inherent in using
a disciplinary-based process to review programs that cross disciplinary
boundaries. Here I use a hypothetical example as illustration.
"If this is really a social sciences minor that's fine, but
I'm not qualified to make judgments in that area. If it is a science
minor then there needs to be more . . . "
(Science and Engineering panel member).
"I guess the science part of this is fine,
but if this is supposed to be a social science minor there needs
to be more courses in . . . for students to have a thorough grounding."
(Social Science panel member).
Although new minors do not tend to provoke the same levels of scrutiny
as newly-proposed majors, approval of programs that truly cross
disciplinary boundaries can be cumbersome precisely because of their
scope and the different perspectives of those involved in the review
process. In addition to reviews by multiple panels, interdisciplinary
programs occasionally run afoul of discipline-based territoriality
(e.g. "How can this department presume to offer a minor in
this area without more units from my area?).
What Students Say
USC is unique among most research universities in that less than
half of our undergraduates pursue degrees in the College of Letters,
Arts, and Sciences. While many of our undergraduate students major
in the humanities, social sciences or life sciences, they also major
in architecture; communication; business; engineering; cinema television;
fine arts; policy, planning and development; music; and theatre.
With almost half of our undergraduate students pursuing "professional"
disciplines one might expect a high degree of single-mindedness.
To the contrary, as the academic quality of our students increases
we find the breadth of their interests increases as well. At last
count, more than fifteen percent of USC undergraduates were pursuing
a major and a minor or a double major. We suspect this figure understates
the number of students enrolled in courses leading to a minor. It
has been our experience that students often pursue minors informally,
declaring only in the senior year or when most requirements have
What is the impact of studying in multiple areas? In an essay about
his studies in Business and Natural Sciences a recent graduate reported
The most significant difference between my studies in Business,
Science, Health Care, and Information Technology is not the material
I was taught, but the way I learned to think and problem-solve.
By combining multiple thought processes, I have identified synergies
between the disciplines and areas for personal exploration. Studying
in multiple fields has equipped me with a toolkit of analytical,
social, and technical skills. These skills have enabled me to
make lifelong friends and mentors, develop my understanding and
awareness of my surroundings, explore my passions, and identify
opportunities to work to improve people's quality of life.
For more information contact Katherine Harrington,
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or see the Web sites: http://www.usc.edu/academics/undergraduate/,
The world in which our students will make their way will be characterized
by constant change, the dissolve of geographic boundaries, and the
globalization of economic and political activity. Due to the advances
in medical technology today's students may live into their 100's.
They may choose to work well into their 80's. And they are likely
to have four or five different careers. The baccalaureate degree
is not the terminal degree for those who will lead us in the 21st
century. Virtually all undergraduate students in highly selective
institutions will go on to graduate school at some point in their
lives. As undergraduates, students have the unique opportunity to
pursue breadth as well as depth. And because of the tremendous variety
and quality of intellectual resources that characterize research
universities, we have a responsibility to encourage such breadth.
USC's President Steven B. Sample often reminds us about "the
extraordinary release of intellectual energy that often occurs when
two widely separate fields of thought are brought together in the
same mind." We aim to give our students these opportunities
in a variety of ways. And offering over one hundred minors gives
our students unparalleled access to interdisciplinary learning.
As Dr. Harrington's essay makes clear, the minor can serve as a creative
vehicle for interdisciplinary study and at the same time allow students
to explore a range of interests. The minors presented here were established
and flourish for a number of different reasons ranging from special opportunities
to administrative mandate to faculty interest. The History of Science
minor at the University of Oklahoma has been in existence for more than
twenty years. Most of the others are relatively recent and were developed
in response to specific needs. Their subject areas vary widely, as do
their structures, their modes of administration and affiliated units.
In all cases the minor provides a focus for faculty and students in disparate
fields to examine a subject of mutual interest in an interdisciplinary
Other universities have also created exciting and innovative minors that
promote interdisciplinary study. While space does not permit us to profile
all of them, we refer you to our Resources
page for links to additional programs.
Minor in the History of Science
The History of Science Program at the University of Oklahoma
was launched in 1949. The catalyst was a bequest of rare books by
an alumnus who also sought the creation of a program to study the
materials. With the appointment of the first faculty member in 1953,
the University laid the groundwork for a program that now encompasses
a dozen faculty members in two colleges and the university libraries.
Today the History of Science Department grants MA and PhD degrees
and teaches approximately 800 undergraduate students each year.
Until 1971, the History of Science Program was part of the History
Department, although administered formally by a special committee
that reported to the University President. When History of Science
formally became a separate academic department in 1971, it granted
graduate degrees, but did not establish an undergraduate major.
This produced a situation in which undergraduates had very little
connection to the Department; the vast majority of them took only
one course in History of Science.
The minor, introduced in 1980, was an attempt to encourage students
to take more classes and develop a proficiency in the field. Members
of the department considered exposure to the history of science
by undergraduates in all fields to be a valuable component in their
When the College of Arts and Sciences revised its General Education
requirements in 1987, the Department took advantage of this move
to encourage students to satisfy these requirements with a history
of Science minor. The Department consciously sought to give students
the opportunity to choose a thematically unified curriculum in Western
and non-Western cultures, rather than dilute their studies further
with a grab-bag assemblage of General Education courses. This pragmatic
approach resonates with the practical educational goals of current
undergraduates and fits nicely into the crowded matrix of departmental
On several occasions the Department has considered devising a major
in history of science but concluded that our effectiveness at the
undergraduate level is greater by offering a minor that helps students
integrate their major field of study with a broad historical and
conceptual view of science in the world. By virtue of the Department
faculty members' interests and expertise that span ancient through
modern science and cover most modern disciplines, nearly all students
can find connections between their history of science classes and
their own major fields of study.
The History of Science minor at Oklahoma is somewhat unique because
it is offered by a single department, a department that is, by definition
of its subject matter, interdisciplinary. There are many History
of Science programs around the country, but most of them are housed
within a larger department (often history) or composed of consortia
of faculty whose primary appointments are in diverse departments
and colleges (the sciences, humanities, social sciences, and even
the professions). In the former case, students often minor in history
of science as a way of specializing in the study of history, parallel,
for example, to a history minor in Latin American studies. In the
latter case, departmental barriers can compromise the interdisciplinary
nature of a minor.
Because history of science is inherently interdisciplinary, the
History of Science Department is a frequent catalyst for lectures,
colloquia and guest presentations that bring together multiple departments.
A recent guest presentation sponsored by the department brought
together History, Classics, Geosciences, Folklore, the Natural History
Museum and Native American Studies, while a lecture series co-hosted
with Mathematics involved Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Philosophy
and History. The department also enjoys contacts with affiliated
faculty from other departments whose interests converge with history
of science. Sometimes this results in guest lectures in courses;
most often, it appears in the form of individual work with students.
A somewhat unusual aspect of our Department, in contrast to similar
History of Science Departments in other universities, is its chronological
breadth. Of the dozen faculty members in the program (eight in the
department, two in the History of Science Collections, and two in
the Honors College), five specialize in periods before 1700. We
have resisted the tendency of faculties at many other schools to
concentrate exclusively on the relatively recent past. In general,
dual appointments have not materialized within the department. However,
this lack of formal cross-departmental appointments does not hinder
interdisciplinary activity. Many members of the faculty are also
affiliated with or participate in the activities of other departments,
centers and programs on campus.
There is perhaps no other department on campus that teaches students
from a broader range of majors. We get students from virtually every
science taught on campus, engineering, all of the humanities, the
social sciences, and the professional schools (journalism, architecture,
and library and information studies). Other colleges on campus have
recognized the unique interdisciplinary potential of history of
science for their undergraduates. Some of them have asked the department
to teach courses populated exclusively by their students, but we
have vigorously opposed this because of our philosophy that history
of science courses work best when comprised of students from a broad
range of disciplines, each student bringing a different perspective
to the table.
There does not seem to be a particular undergraduate major that
draws students to a History of Science minor. The 29 minors over
the past two years have pursued majors in Art, Chemistry, Economics,
Engineering, Geography, Geology, Health and Sports Sciences, History,
Journalism, Letters, Mathematics, Microbiology, Philosophy, Physics,
Sociology, and Zoology. The sciences predominate, but students in
the humanities and professional schools also choose our minor. Informal
conversations with students, especially science majors, suggest
that the history of science provides a perspective that their discipline
lacks. Mathematics majors, for example, may study the development
of group theory from a formal, structural perspective in their math
classes but never encounter the context in which its founders were
working. Pre-medical majors are often attracted by the human aspects
or the policy elements of science, which supply a counterpoint to
the approaches of their discipline. A few of our minors have gone
on to study history of science in graduate programs.
For colleagues who are designing new minors, I offer two items
of advice. First, assess carefully the place of your discipline
within the institutional culture. Is there a role, or some niche
that your program can fill within college or university requirements?
The best minors flow naturally from relationships or connections
already in place, rather than by trying to force unnatural bonds
between disciplines or institutional parts. Second, get advice from
others; people who have already formed similar minors, departments
within your institution that have minors, college or university
academic advisors, students on your advisory board all can provide
useful suggestions and help avoid painful mistakes.
For more information contact Steven J. Livesey, Professor and Department
Chair, Department of the History of Science, at email@example.com,
or see the Web site: http://www.ou.edu/cas/hsci/minor.htm.
Minor in Violence Studies
Emory University launched a minor in Violence Studies in 1997. The
catalyst for its creation was an informal, grass-roots initiative
involving several faculty who wanted to promote important interdisciplinary
learning. The group's efforts were supported by then-Provost Billy
Frye. The group, which included members from disparate fields, believed
that study of the causes, effects, and forms of violence in our
culture offered an ideal focus for such interdisciplinarity. As
the Web site for the minor notes, "Violence Studies fosters
interdisciplinary inquiry about violence through social science,
behavioral and biological research, through the analysis of historical
texts and artifacts, through the interpretation of cultural representations
of violence, and through ethical reflection on the meaning of violence
and its exercise."
Based in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Violence Studies
minor is part of a larger program in Violence Studies which has
its own Program Director, Administrative Assistant, and Internship
Director. There are seventy affiliated faculty members from divisions
across the University including Sociology, Psychology, Art History,
English, Women's Studies, Religion, Public Health, and Law, among
others. The Violence Studies program offers a number of classes
in conjunction with other departments and programs, and it also
regularly offers such courses as "Conflict Resolution; Skills
for Life," "Sexual Violence Prevention," "The
Public Health Approach to Violence," and "Directed Research
on Violence." In addition, the program hosts a range of speakers
and symposia on topics ranging from violence in the media to disputes
over the death penalty.
Thus far, approximately 65 undergraduates have completed the Violence
Studies minor. The students display a similar range of interests
as the faculty, although most of the minors come from programs such
as Sociology, Psychology, Political Science, and other popular "pre-law"
Since the minor exists as a program, not a department, virtually
all of its faculty hold appointments elsewhere. The program offers
faculty replacement funds to units providing the instructors for
the "Introduction to Violence Studies" course. Because
of its interdisciplinary nature and its reliance on faculty from
diverse units, the Violence Studies minor requires broad-based support
and programming for its establishment and maintenance. Demonstrating
significant support for the program across multiple disciplines
is crucial in securing and keeping the financial resources that
are necessary to sustain it. Faculty hoping to establish a similar
kind of program, therefore, would be well advised to begin by enlisting
support from faculty and students across their institution.
Courses and Requirements
Students who pursue the minor are required to take six courses:
"Introduction to Violence Studies," a "Violence Studies"
Internship, and four or more additional courses, chosen from at
least three separate departments. A number of eligible courses are
listed on the Violence Studies Web site, but students may also petition
to have a particular class accepted even if it is not formally part
of the program. The introductory course, which is the core class
in the minor, is always co-taught by two faculty members, one from
the social or behavioral sciences, and one from the humanities.
The internship is the capstone course. Taken by students in their
junior or senior year, it requires at least eight hours per week
of work dealing with violence in a community organization and participation
in a weekly seminar with other students in the minor.
For more information contact the current Director, Dr. Beverly
Schaffer, or Administrative Assistant, Art Linton, at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 404-727-7176; or check out the Web site: http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/VS.
The 2002 syllabus from Emory's "Introduction to Violence Studies,"
as well as syllabi from violence-related courses at other universities,
may also be found in Violence in American Society: A Curriculum
Guide, edited by Suzanne Goodney-Lea (American Sociological
Minor in Human Rights
The University of Connecticut Minor in Human Rights has an unusual
history. The University designated the Fall Semester 2001 as the
Human Rights Semester. The semester featured more than 50 seminars
and workshops on human rights issues. The semester events included
exploring issues at the University level as well as on the global
stage and, as Chancellor John D. Peterson noted, created "a
dialogue regarding what should be happening on campus and in our
nation." Every school and college, all the cultural centers
and institutes, and dozens of departments either offered programs
or sent representatives to serve on panels discussing the issues.
The interdisciplinary minor in Human Rights was a natural progression
emerging from the Human Rights Semester. It is an inter-departmental
and interdisciplinary program, developed by a committee of faculty
members from a variety of departments within the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences.
The minor developed out of the interest of students in exploring
such questions as, "What are human rights? How has the concept
of human rights evolved? How and why have human rights been violated,
both in the United States and abroad? What protections against human
rights exist, and how can these protections be enhanced and made
more effective?" These are the kinds of questions that students
choosing to minor in Human Rights are encouraged to pursue. Students
receive interdisciplinary instruction in theoretical, comparative,
and historical perspectives on human rights through classroom courses,
and gain valuable practical experience in the human rights field
through a supervised internship.
Courses and Requirements
Students enrolled in the minor are required to take fifteen credits
from three distinct groups. Group A consists of two core courses,
one from History and the other from Political Science. These core
courses offer students a broad overview of the concepts, theories,
and history of human rights and ensure that students are provided
with a foundation from which to develop their own unique perspective
and intellectual pursuits.
Courses in Group B are designed to provide a thematic focus to
the minor. Students choose two elective courses from a select list.
The courses, offered in Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy,
Political Science, Sociology, and Women's Studies, highlight human
rights issues with regard to a particular group. For example, the
Anthropology course on Australian Aborigines; History courses that
explore issues surrounding human rights violations against Native
Americans, African Americans, and Japanese Americans; or the Sociology
course exploring Asian Indian Women and Activism. Other courses
provide more of a subject focus, exploring topics such as economic
human rights, human rights and the law, or theoretical concepts
of prejudice and discrimination.
In Group C, students supplement their coursework with an internship
in a human rights-related agency, organization or group. Internship
sites can be tailored to fit individual students' interests and
goals. The internship enables students to enrich and explore what
they have learned in the classroom through practical experience.
The assessment of the internship is based on the completion of a
portfolio in which students synthesize their internship experiences
with knowledge gained in the course work they have taken to fulfill
the requirements for the Human Rights Minor. The portfolio may consist
of an analytical paper or papers, a media production (such as a
photography exhibit or video), or some combination of these.
To date, some forty undergraduates have chosen to minor in Human
Rights. While approximately half are majors in Political Science,
other students have majors in such diverse fields as Anthropology,
History, Sociology, Economics, English, Physiology and Neurobiology,
Education, Peace Studies, and Family Studies. Human Rights minors
include students enrolled in the University's Honors Program as
well as students who have been designated Honors Scholars, the University's
highest undergraduate honors award.
Human Rights minors may do their internships in a variety of settings.
One student developed classroom lessons in human rights for students
in the elementary school in which she was volunteering. Another
organized a campus chapter of a national organization advocating
for the United States to support the new International Criminal
Court. A student worked with attorneys in a law clinic supporting
children's rights. Yet another student helped a statewide anti-poverty
organization with its research and lobbying against cutbacks in
needed social services. Regardless of the setting, all students
doing internships produce portfolios in which they bring a "human
rights lens" to bear on the problems or issues with which they
One of the main reasons for the success of the Human Rights minor
is the backing and support of the Chancellor of the University,
as well as that of the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
In addition, the minor was crafted by an interdisciplinary committee
of faculty who were able to interest their department heads and
colleagues in participating in the minor. Having the participation
of these various departments also helped, and continues to help,
recruit a diverse group of students. Finally, the minor is successful
because the electives were to a great extent chosen from existing
courses, eliminating the need to create many new classes for the
minor students to take.
By providing this minor within the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences, the University of Connecticut provides a unique minor
valued not only for its interdisciplinary nature, but also as Veronica
Makowsky, the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences noted,
"for its emphasis on the humanities and social sciences."
For more information contact Beth Frankel-Merenstein, Director
of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, at Beth.F.Merenstein@uconn.edu,
or see the Web site: http://www.humanrights.uconn.edu.
of Massachusetts Amherst
Minor in Information Technology
The Information Technology (IT) Minor at the University of Massachusetts
Amherst is a campus-wide, interdisciplinary minor that draws on
faculty in disciplines across the University. Its establishment
was encouraged by the academic leadership of the University, all
ten of the University's colleges and schools, the UMass System President's
office, and the Commonwealth Information Technology Initiative (CITI),
a state-wide program launched by the Massachusetts Board of Higher
Education. Each of these units sought to create a vehicle for students
of all interests to enhance their IT knowledge while pursuing majors
of their own. The goal of the program is to enable any interested
student to confidently employ IT, and to secure an intellectual
platform from which to develop capacity to innovate, using IT in
The 15-credit-hour program requires one prerequisite, intended
to provide the technical background to pursue two other technical
courses. Students must also complete a "broadened inquiry"
course, intended to round out an understanding of IT's effects from
various perspectives. In choosing the two remaining courses students
are encouraged to tailor their studies to their own fields, to advance
their specialized uses of IT.
The IT minor is the vanguard of the CITI program, which "seeks
to strengthen, modernize and expand computer science and information
technology programs at Massachusetts public higher education institutions."
Of the 55 IT courses now offered at UMass Amherst, 20 were developed
or substantially redesigned thanks to CITI support.
The IT minor is its breadth. Where some institutions have introduced
programs in Information Technology noteworthy at producing technical
specialists, the UMass Amherst program seeks instead to increase
the number of IT generalists across all curriculums. The goal is
to enhance disciplinary specialization through a comprehensive IT
curriculum, to acquaint students with the range of IT issues germane
to their fields, and to equip them to learn more. Because of its
flexible curriculum and interdisciplinary orientation, the IT minor
has broad appeal on campus. It is already attracting the interest
of students in communication, English, business, natural resources,
economics, education, journalism, art, public policy, and many other
disciplines. In addition, students in technical majors, such as
computer science and engineering, are increasingly looking to the
IT minor to complement their technical training. A survey conducted
on campus last year found that 31% of respondents were somewhat
or very interested in taking the IT minor. These students represented
an encouraging mix of disciplines and demographic groups. However,
because of budget constraints, enrollment is limited to about 50
graduates per semester. The capacity of the program will expand
as additional funding is secured and as current methods of course
forecasting and planning are improved.
The IT minor is administered by the UMass Amherst Information Technology
Taskforce, formed in 1998, and comprised of faculty and staff from
all schools and colleges. The University Faculty Senate approved
the IT minor in May 2002. The minor is led by a faculty chair chosen
by its curriculum committee, and it reports to the Provost through
a rotating "lead dean." Even though strong relationships
need to be forged with all deans, and each advocates for the program
in some way, it is nice to have one dean that considers it her or
his specific charge to champion the program. A welcome byproduct
of this cross-campus administration is that many cross-campus relationships
have formed, often between members of seemingly dissimilar departments
that previously had little opportunity to even know each other.
Program objectives for this year include developing a formal program
assessment plan and tools for capacity planning, enhancing the campus
infrastructure to better support interdisciplinary IT, and creating
a culminating experience option to encourage talented students to
innovate by pulling together their studies in their major field
with their IT coursework.
For more information, contact IT Taskforce Chair Glenn Caffery,
Department of Resource Economics, at email@example.com,
or see the Web site: http://www.umass.edu/itprogram/index.html.
Faculty at Binghamton University were interested in providing for
their undergraduates an education with an international focus that
was truly interdisciplinary. They sought to remove, or at least
reduce, one of the major obstacles that stood in the way of students
gaining meaningful and well-integrated global perspectives and international
experiences during their undergraduate years. Specifically, the
understandable desire/need of students to obtain a credential that
will prepare them for employment or post-baccalaureate in a particular
discipline (e.g. psychology, nursing, mechanical engineering, or
management) often makes the internationalizing aspects of their
education rag-tag and disconnected from their major field of study
and even from each other. Therefore Binghamton offers students in
the University's Harpur College of Arts and Sciences and in all
four professional schools (Decker School of Nursing, Watson School
of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Education and Human
Development, and School of Management) two unique options in international
and global studies: the International Studies Certificate Program
(ISCP) and the Global Studies Integrated Curriculum (GSIC).
Going Global: Concentrations in International and Global Studies
International Studies Certificate Program
Binghamton's ISCP has existed for a couple of decades but has
risen to prominence only in the last nine years under the leadership
of Binghamton's first Director of International Education, hired in
1994. It leads to the awarding of a Certificate in International Studies.
The program requires a substantial but highly manageable selection
of courses and internationalizing experiences culminating in an individualized
senior project under the direction of a faculty member. The ISCP enables
students to "integrate foreign language, cross-cultural coursework,
and a study abroad or international internship experience. The ISCP
is designed to be flexible so that both liberal arts and pre-professional
students can enhance the international dimension of their undergraduate
degree." The program has attracted students from all five schools
at Binghamton and has enabled students in fields as disparate as biology,
electrical engineering, and nursing to obtain a coherent, faculty-supervised
complement to their major field of study.
There are four basic requirements for completion of the International
Studies Certificate Program:
- Eight credits in foreign language instruction or use at the
Intermediate (or higher) level, the latter of which can be satisfied
in many languages by enrollment in Languages Across the Curriculum
study groups in courses throughout the University.
- Two courses in multi-cultural or cross-cultural disciplinary
areas, chosen in consultation with the Coordinator. This may include
courses to fulfill the General Education requirements in three
categories: Global Interdependencies, Aesthetics, and Pluralism
in the United States.
- A minimum of six weeks of either (1) university-level study
abroad or (2) work internship (in the U.S. or abroad) in an international/intercultural
- One one-credit independent study that brings together the student's
cumulative international experience during their years at Binghamton
and abroad and/or work experience and its relationship to their
coursework and career/personal goals. The student writes a 6-8
page essay in consultation with an independent study supervisor,
who must be a Binghamton faculty member. Students may elect to
undertake a larger or more creative project (e.g. videography,
poetry anthology, photo essay) for additional credit.
Global Studies Integrated Curriculum
A second, more in-depth option for students interested in international
and global studies is the Global Studies Integrated Curriculum,
initiated just two years ago in Fall 2001. The GSIC was first proposed
and developed in 1998 by Binghamton's International Education Advisory
Committee as an enhancement to curricular internationalization and
was later adopted as a model for other "integrated curricula"
by a university task force on undergraduate learning. The GSIC concentration
resembles a major in the number of required credit hours, but like
a traditional minor, the GSIC can only be taken in addition to another
recognized major and there is no circumscribed body of knowledge
or theory to master. Instead, GSIC students engage with relevant
issues in a range of courses in different departments and schools,
and bring their own specialized knowledge in the major to bear on
the global issues addressed in GSIC courses.
To maximize the coherence of the program while also providing ample
room for a diversity of interdisciplinary approaches, the program
director, in consultation with an interdisciplinary faculty steering
committee, each year builds the curriculum around a particular theme,
the Global Studies "Theme of the Year." For 2003-2004
the theme is "Labor." Previous themes were "Environment"
and "Cities." Projected themes include "Trade and
Cultural Exchange," "People and Technology," and
"Human Rights." Themes are sufficiently broad to permit
a range of approaches and debates, but also specific enough to make
one year's course offerings very different from the course offerings
in previous years. The integration phase of the concentration occurs
in the capstone seminar in the senior year where students work together
to bring their experience and education to bear on an interdisciplinary
team-based project centered on the Theme of the Year.
There are four basic requirements for completion of the Global
Studies Integrated Curriculum:
- At least four credits in the Global Studies Foundation Course.
From year to year, this course originates in different departments
and covers different material. Accordingly, students may accumulate
credit by taking this course more than once, up to 12 credit hours
- Twenty-four credits in Global Studies Electives (including up
to 8 additional credits of the Global Studies Foundation Course,
at least 16 credits at or above the 300 level, and no more than
8 credits from a single discipline).
- Eight credits in foreign language instruction or use at the
Intermediate (or higher) level, the latter of which can be satisfied
in many languages by enrollment in Languages Across the Curriculum
study groups in courses throughout the University.
- A four-credit Global Studies Capstone Project.
Both the ISCP and the GSIC not only count enrollment in Binghamton's
unique Languages Across the Curriculum course-specific study groups
toward their requirements but they also link closely to Binghamton's
extensive study-abroad programming. Both the ISCP and the GSIC attract
large numbers of students to their courses. The ISCP awards 50-75
certificates each year to students from all five of Binghamton's
constituent schools. The GSIC, now in its third year of existence,
expects a dozen graduating seniors in a wide variety of majors to
receive the first batch of Global Studies Concentration final-transcript
notations in Spring 2005.
The recent growth of the ISCP and the creation of the GSIC have
depended upon three key elements: (1) strong and well-publicized
commitment by the President and Provost to comprehensive internationalization
as a first-level priority for the campus, (2) experienced and creative
support by a full-time Director of International Education specifically
empowered to serve this priority, and (3) dedicated and prominent
faculty leadership in the form of a highly active International
Education Advisory Committee specifically charged to make curricular
and other recommendations. Without the first, the second would not
have been present, and without the second, the third would not have
had the logistical resources or even the provostial charge to recruit
more faculty to the cause of internationalization or to devise new
means to further that cause.
For more information contact H. Stephen Straight, Professor of
Anthropology and of Linguistics and Vice Provost for Undergraduate
Education, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see the Web sites: http://oip.binghamton.edu/iscp.htm,
If you have an interdisciplinary minor you would like listed on the Resources
page, please send
us a brief description (250 words maximum). Be sure to include the
name of the program as well as a link to a Web site or the name and email
address of a contact person.
INVITATION: We invite you to take the lead in framing
future Thoughts and Models.
If you're interested and have a "Thought" in mind, please
send us an e-mail: reinventioncenter.
We will identify "models" that relate to it.
Thought will consist of a short essay focusing on an issue central to
undergraduate education at research universities. The specific topic to
be addressed may vary. It may for example relate to an institutional challenge,
an aspect of student learning, a societal need, or a recent research finding
that may influence the way undergraduate education generally or in a specific
discipline is conceived and delivered at research universities.
Thought will be accompanied by reports on programs and experiences that
exemplify or expand upon the Thought. The models will be drawn from different
research universities, utilize different strategies, and, to the extent
possible, focus on different disciplines. Collectively, they will become
part of a database that will yield insights into what works or does not
work and why.
Together, the Thoughts
and Models will be incorporated into reports to be distributed through
this web site, professional society newsletters and our own mailings.
We welcome your comments and look forward to hearing from you.