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International studies program growth prompts expansion, new name

By Aaron Guggenheim, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 28, 2013

After starting the International Studies Program at New York University, William Clark was recruited by the University to run its flourishing Program in International and Comparative Studies.

Clark, the director of PICS, said the program recently dropped the name “Center in International and Comparative Studies” to bring the title in line with the purpose of PICS — to deliver a rigorous curriculum in international studies to a large number of undergraduates.

The four-year-old program, with five different tracks of study, has been experiencing exponential growth and now has 700 concentrators and 70 students pursuing minors. Clark said the program was developed in response to student interest.

“I think students are interested in things that are international,” he said. “It is a reasonable response to an increasing interdependent world.”

PICS draws upon professors from the University to deliver a flexible and varied curriculum to its students, Clark said. They’re in the process of hiring three professors who will hold dual appointments in PICS and other parts of the University.

“I want to give students the freedom to pursue their interests (but also give them) a rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for after they graduate,” Clark said.

Clark said there were trade-offs for the flexibility afforded by the program, as it was a liberal arts program that encourages development of critical thinking skills and not a pre-professional program.

“The cost of flexibility is that they need to be more entrepreneurial (in the job market) about who they are and what their experience has been,” he said. “I would encourage students to get disciplinary grounding and define themselves as possessing a particular tool box when they enter the work force.”

The diversity in curriculum attracted LSA junior Danielle Butbul to PICS. She said her wide variety of interest happened to fit neatly within the global health and environment track of international studies.

“I got to take every class that I was interested in, and they really are accommodating to fit it into my major,” Butbul said.

Butbul added that international studies could benefit any career, but she plans to go to law school.

“I think that having a global perspective about a lot of different governments and different countries and the way the United States is incorporated and related to those is really important to have,” Butbul said.

LSA senior Danielle Lumetta became involved with PICS on a deeper level by running for president of the major's student advisory council in her junior year when she realized that PICS was struggling to deal with its rapid growth.

She said PICS has undergone many structural changes recently including hiring a new student-orientated director and streamlined requirements — changes that aim to improve the quality of the program.

“They are really changing the face and the people who the program because they realized it was growing so fast.”

Clark said he was proud of PICS and the caliber of students it is attracting.

“We are attracting very smart, very engaged and very energetic students, and it is my pleasure to get to know them,” Clark said.


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