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Global Studies Programs: Preparing Students for a Globalized World

Aug. 19, 2013
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Today we see more and more companies shifting their strategies into the global market and societal problems looking to be solved by people who can think outside the box and from a global perspective. From the Peace Corps to Disney, Global Studies majors are working in every field and helping deal with the globalization that is coming to define and shape the 21st century.

As Thomas Friedman famously claimed in 2005, “The world is flat… it’s time to wake up and prepare ourselves for this flat world, because others already are, and there is no time to waste.” What Friedman refers to is a world in which we have become so interconnected—in politics, business, and life—that intellectual capital can be accessed and leveraged literally anywhere. The new global challenges of tomorrow require students to have a globally tailored education. How do American students prepare?

Global Studies majors at colleges and universities from around the country become equipped with multidisciplinary problem solving expertise and gain the language skills necessary to solve the most complex problems of tomorrow across a broad spectrum of industries. They get to apply skills gained from studies in Anthropology, Economics, Business, Geography, History, Political Science or Sociology.

As students return to school and look to a new semester, we at NerdScholar want to highlight academic programs that challenge students to think on a global scale and seek to solve societal problems by approaching them from multiple angles.

Lehigh University

The multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary Global Studies Major at Lehigh University seeks to prepare students for global citizenship with the means to help shape the global future. The program unites historical, comparative and interdisciplinary methodologies to produce critical perspectives on the social, political, economic and cultural effects of globalization.

Lehigh’s program promotes immersion learning with its language and study abroad requirements. Without proficiency in a language, it is nearly impossible to communicate with and learn about the people who speak it. Lehigh requires global studies majors to reach an Intermediate II level of a language other than their native tongue.

Lehigh also requires of its global studies majors to study abroad for a semester in a country that speaks the language they are studying. Study abroad not only opens a student’s eye to an unfamiliar culture, but also influences the way he or she evaluates the complex web of interactions between the global and the local. A current Global Studies major advises future students: “If they are considering Global Studies as a major, tell them it is worth it. If they have chosen it as a major, congratulate them for me. It is a program that takes you places you wouldn’t imagine.”

A Global Studies degree from Lehigh can lead to a variety of career options at companies ranging from global cultural industries such as Disney to mass communication businesses like Rodale Inc. to international governing agencies like the World Bank.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The interdisciplinary Global Studies Major at the University of Illinois allows students to build their own plans of study around the three core components of Global Studies Foundation Courses, Language and Culture Studies and a Thematic Area.

The Global Studies Core gives students a foundation in at least four of the following departments: Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science and Sociology. These courses provide an introduction to global issues, focusing on a basic understanding of the contemporary international system, the current environmental, political, economic and social conditions in the major world regions and the development of foundational knowledge sets and analysis skills.

Global Studies students also have to complete at least 6 credit hours of language study above the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences requirement, usually at least 3 years of a new language. Students focus their studies on a geographic area related to their language study. The areas include: Africa, East and South Asia, Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. A semester study abroad in the chosen area is also required for the completion of the Global Studies major.

Global Studies students not only focus their studies geographically, but also thematically. Students choose one of seven thematic areas, which range from “Wealth and Poverty in a Globalized World” to “Governance, Conflict and Resolution.” To further explore an area of interest and improve research skills, students can choose to complete a capstone project related to their thematic area.

UIUC Global Studies majors have gone on to careers at businesses like Accenture, intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations including Doctors Without Borders.

Carnegie Mellon University

The Global Studies Major at Carnegie Mellon University pulls from the faculties of the departments in History, Modern Languages, English and Philosophy to help teach students humanistic approaches to understanding past and present processes of globalization. The program centers around a core program that includes courses on theory, transnational histories and regional and national histories and cultures.

The Global Studies program required an intermediate or advanced level of proficiency in a modern foreign language and encourages students to take a semester abroad in a region that speaks their chosen language. Language study is considered important not only as a communication method, but also as another perspective through which students can learn about other cultures and societies.

Global Studies students are required to take an advanced seminar as a capstone experience, culminating their studies, and may choose to pursue a Global Studies Senior Thesis as an optional elective.

Carnegie Mellon encourages its Global Studies majors to take advantage of internship opportunities that can lead to exciting and challenging careers after graduation. Recent internships held by Global Studies students include: Conflict Kitchen, Foreign Affairs Magazine, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and the Global Women’s Peace Initiative.

University of Minnesota

The University of Minnesota’s Global Studies majors combine language study, experiential learning, core classes, and a major project with a dual thematic and regional concentration to build a solid understanding of global processes, cultures and issues.

Students choose between “Culture, Power, Place,” “Environmental and Sustainable Development,” “Human Rights and Justice,” “International Political Economy,” and “Population, Migration, Identity” and combine this thematic concentration with a regional focus, choosing between: Africa, East Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Russia, and South Asia. This concentration requires at least 4 semesters of rigorous study of a spoken language in their region.

The core courses “Knowledge, Power and the Politics of Representation” and “Theoretical Approaches to Global Studies” give all students a common background while experiential learning and the completion of the major project requirement allows each student to personalize their studies and gain expertise in a field of interest. The major prepares students to work in public, private and non-profit organizations dealing with global and cross-cultural issues.

Global Studies majors can look forward to a variety of career options that require a global perspective. Students are good candidates for jobs ranging from the US State Department to the World Health Organization to Teach for America.

UNC Chapel Hill

Global Studies majors at UNC Chapel Hill complete an interdisciplinary curriculum that draws on the tradition of the University’s liberal arts focus. Students focus on a thematic and world area concentration. Themes include: “International Politics, Nation-states, Social Movements, “Global Economics, Trade, Development,” “Global Health and Environment,” and “Transnational Cultures, Identities, Arts.” Thematic concentrations are further focused when students choose a world area, picking from: Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe.

UNC’s Global Studies program has a strong language focus. As well as taking classes in thematic and geographic concentrations, students are required to reach proficiency by either completing 6 levels of one modern foreign language or 4 levels of a primary modern foreign language and 2 levels of another. This represents at least 6 semesters of language study, preparing students for study abroad opportunities. While study abroad is not required, it is highly encouraged for Global Studies majors as a way to deepen their understanding and gain new perspectives on other cultures with different histories, politics, economies and cultural ideals.

Global Studies majors may choose to apply to graduate with honors. These students take a year-long seminar composed of two classes, one taken in the junior spring, the second taken in the junior fall. Honors students will also write a senior thesis posing a unique and interesting research question and requiring the conduction of significant original research.

A multitude of internship opportunities are available to UNC Chapel Hill Global Studies majors. Recent experiences include internships at: International Development Enterprises Water and Sanitation in Cambodia, The Clean Water Ministry in Ecuador and The Scottish National Party in the British Parliament.

Colby College

Colby College’s Global Studies Major allows students to investigate global issues from a variety of perspectives. Combining anthropology, politics, history and economics, majors gain expertise in multiple geographic areas in order to understand “the changing face of the European community, instability in Mexico, or the dramatic changes in China and Russia.”

The program is centered on a core curriculum requiring an introduction to anthropology, economics, government and history. Courses relating to cultures and places as well as themes in Global Studies are also required. The program focuses on helping students deepen their understanding of how international policy is made by preparing them to analyze the world through courses on the environment, international institutions, trade, and finance.

Students focus their studies through a regional, policy or functional concentration to develop a greater degree of specialization. Regional concentrations are required to coincide with language study and study abroad. The four established policy and functional concentrations are: “International Relations/ Foreign Policy,” “International Economic Policy,” “Development Studies,” and “Human Rights/ Social Justice.” A seminar project or independent study within a student’s chosen theme is required to capstone the Global Studies major.

One of Colby College’s own students described the program like this, “The great thing about global studies at Colby is that it’s multidisciplinary. I can take theoretically “random” classes outside of my primary department to build a broader base of understanding and problem solving. No two global studies majors are exactly alike– everyone makes the major their own with so many different combinations.”

Colby Global Studies graduates can be found anywhere from the Peace Corps to the State Department to policy institutions and international banking.

Paper Airplane and Globe Image courtesy of Shutterstock