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International Studies Major Approved at UW-RF


APRIL 1, 2005--The UW System Board of Regents approved a new interdisciplinary major in international studies at UW-River Falls in February.

Starting fall 2005, students can earn a B.A. or B.S. degree through the International Studies Program, an interdisciplinary program that draws upon faculty and courses from all colleges at the university.

"The demand for workers with international expertise has increased dramatically over the last decade in almost every public and private sector occupation," says political science Professor Wes Chapin, who, along with other faculty, students and administrators, helped shape the new program.

The University has offered an international studies minor since summer 1995. Initially six students enrolled, and the program quickly expanded to more than 100 minors. "It is expected that there will be more than 20 majors the first year, and possibly more," says Chapin. "We expect the program to grow to 50 or 60 majors within five years."

Gorden Hedahl, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences where the program will be housed administratively, says that many faculty, students and staff from across campus were involved creating the program. "It is clear that our faculty and students recognize the need for this program," said Hedahl. "The international studies major will provide an extremely valuable option for our students to prepare for lives and careers in this rapidly changing world. Our students are increasingly taking advantages of the international learning opportunities provided by this University, and it is essential that we provide an academic framework for students to examine and understand the global and international issues that will impact their lives."

Students will take a core set of courses designed to provide an understanding of critical international issues confronting global society in order to develop research and analytical skills necessary to evaluate international phenomenon from an interdisciplinary perspective.

With that foundation, students will select among directed electives that will give them skills relevant to their career plans, such as in agriculture, business, economics, history or political science. Then majors will pursue one of the University's many study abroad opportunities, such as the new traveling international classroom, led for the first time this year by Chapin, or a long-standing program such as Wisconsin in Scotland or study tours to countries such as Belize, Greece or Italy. In addition, students will also acquire basic foreign language skills as part of the major.

At the completion of the program, students are expected to identify key agricultural, economic, political, historical, social, cultural, and geographic trends and issues at the global level and the linkages to domestic levels.

They will also gain first-hand experience with at least one foreign culture, be able to collect, assess and apply information to the study of international issues, evaluate global issues from an interdisciplinary perspective. Other areas of competence include communicating effectively, organizing and conducting inquiry and analysis, and demonstrating an intermediate-level competency in a second language, equivalent to at least two years' course work.

The new major meets both the UW-RF and UW System missions. In 2004 the UW-RF Faculty Senate approved a requirement that all students complete at least one course dealing with global perspectives. In addition, the UW-RF mission statement directly addresses a "global awareness and sensitivity to other cultures" as well as a commitment to providing "opportunities for students to live, study and travel abroad."

One of the UW System's goals in its 2003-04 Accountability Report is to increase the number of degree recipients who have studied abroad to at least 25 percent of its graduates across its campuses. The new major also meets the UW System mission by strengthening the international dimensions of learning, teaching, research and service.

I believe that it is highly appropriate that this major was approved by the Board of Regents at the same time that they selected our new chancellor, Don Betz, whose field of study is international relations," said Hedahl. "Although he was not involved in the development of the major, it will be fun to find ways that he might connect with the students in the new major."

Chancellor-elect Betz, who starts his post July 1 and holds a master's and doctorate degrees in international relations, and experience at the United Nations on the Question of Palestine and as a journalist in Beirut, Lebanon in the 1970s, was very excited about the program.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for students," said Betz when he visited campus March 14. "Our economy is influenced by the international system, and to capitalize on its strengths and place students in positions of value is definitely a sound investment. This program will make our students strong employees, entrepreneurs, educators and individuals."

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Last updated: Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:21 Central Daylight Time

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