At the housewarming event at North Quad Residence Hall that took place last week, the University delivered a message that it is shifting its priorities. The University is presenting itself as an institution whose liberal arts education is focused on incorporating an international experience.
Considering the large amount of reorganization, funding and attention being given to resources and departments that are motivated by a social justice and global education model, I foresee the University shifting toward a culture similar to colleges like Carleton College in Minnesota, Oberlin College in Ohio and Kalamazoo College. These colleges — according to the Open Doors 2009 Survey on study abroad participation — sent more than 80 percent of their students to study abroad at least once during their undergraduate career. The University is on a path to create an atmosphere like these schools in which it is commonplace for more than half of LSA’s undergraduate students to study abroad at least once before graduation. But unlike other institutions, the way that the University is integrating a global immersive experience into the curriculum of the College of Literature Science, and the Arts is unique.
LSA is making efforts to shape its curriculum to become increasingly global. For instance, the Department of Intergroup Relations has created the Global Scholars Program residential learning community, which is housed in North Quad. The GSP is distinct from other residential communities on campus. It exposes undergraduate students whose intentional interests are to have an international experience within a domestic locale.
Courses like University Courses 178 — Global Understanding — show that LSA is committing itself to shaping a global experience. When I was a GSP student in Global Understanding, I took classes with students from Seoul University in Korea and the University of British Columbia in Canada via video-conference. Students from both Seoul and UBC were included in the twice-a-week classroom instruction I was in.
Another instance in which the University is distinguishing IGR as a leader in global education is through its dialogue courses. These courses give students the opportunity to have a dialogue with their peers about imagery, social class, race, prejudices and religion. The common thread between courses like Global Understanding, IGR dialogue courses, North Quad’s Global Scholars Program and LSA’s encouragement for undergraduates to study abroad is the potential for change. The common theme is hope and a commitment that demands responsibility.
By encouraging students to go beyond their comfort zone in IGR courses or study abroad programs, the University is providing a space for students to learn from and engage in the global community in a meaningful way. By taking strides to internationalize LSA’s curriculum, the University is displaying the value that they place on a liberal arts education.
Globalizing the liberal arts curriculum of the University gives LSA students the platform to understand different kinds of people and various traditions held around the world. Recently, when I asked a few of my peers to describe their study abroad experience, many explained their experience in a way that described increased understanding and global consideration. They remarked that their positioning in the world had expanded. They have adapted to other schools of thought and communities of people in a way that no textbook could have ever taught them. It’s a new kind of learning.
The transition to include more global components in education is a positive move for LSA. With higher value placed on receiving a global education outside the walls of the University, school officials will open students up to the possibility of establishing cultural and social sensitivity that surpasses their own limitations.
The implication of this shift carries great weight. Perhaps if more students take an active interest, the cultural dynamic of the campus will change.
The University has taken on the responsibility to create globally-minded citizens whose future decisions might affect the entire world by prioritizing a global education. I applaud the University for restructuring their focus. It’s about time that some academics understand that the best learning comes from doing.
Brittany Smith is an LSA junior.