Program Spotlight

Q&A: Global Studies degree

We spoke with Don Colley, Instructor of Professional Practice & Undergraduate Advisor for the Geography Department, about the new Global Studies degree.

CAS: What kind of students are normally drawn to Global Studies?

COLLEY: We have three types of students that are really interested in the major. First, students looking to go abroad and either do missionary work, or to work with non-government or nonprofit organizations. The second is someone interested in culture and language. These students are interested in studying abroad through foreign-language immersion. And a third type of student is someone interested in geopolitics and global economy. So they're looking to get an MBA or go into international business.


CAS: What concentrations are offered through Global Studies?

COLLEY: Cultures of the Arts and Humanities, which features classes from English, history, sociology, art, religious studies and philosophy. We really recommend that to students who have a penchant for the humanities. We also have Geopolitics in the Global Economy, which features classes in entrepreneurship, marketing and political science. We find students really prefer this concentration if they are interested in international business. The third concentration, which has proven to be our most popular, is Sustainability. Classes are in environmental science, entomology, biology and Natural Resource and Ecology Management (NREM). Students can choose an option along with the core classes and really diversify what Global Studies means to them.


CAS: What skill sets will students take away from Global Studies?

COLLEY: Within the Global Studies program, we have set up a skill-set option. One thing students can do is take fundamentals of GIS (Global Information Systems) and continue to pursue their upper-division electives if they want to take more GIS classes, which gives them fundamental mapping skills. Another skill set that we offer is our Field Techniques class. This is more historical research and archival research. In the Field Techniques class, students go to ghost towns and look at the history of the ghost town. This offers students the opportunity to learn through interviews and survey work. This is real hands-on stuff. The third skill set is our statistics option. This allows students to pursue upper-division statistics through the Global Studies programs. Students take an intro statistics class and take geospatial analysis, which is statistics for geographers. The fourth option is the language skill set. We take the foreign-language requirement that is usual for any Bachelors of Art, and we ask students to go above and beyond and take two more classes in the language so they come out with at least a language skill.


CAS: What are some careers that Global studies students pursue?

COLLEY: Non-governmental and nonprofit work is the place that most people want to go. Either because they are pursuing a degree from a missionary perspective where they want to go abroad and work for organizations that do water rights in Africa for example, or we expect them to go work at the governmental level petitioning the U.S. government to help foreign countries in that field. And then we have our international business students who will go on for their MBA. They'll do similar work but they're working from a business perspective to offer the same opportunities of helping countries abroad. We also a lot of educators will come out of it. I feel that students come in not planning to be educators but then they pursue the language-immersion skill set and they realize the places where they travel need educators.


CAS: Are students encouraged to study abroad?

COLLEY: Study abroad is one of the three options available for the capstone. Other options include an internship or a mentorship, where you do research in the department. We find the study-abroad option is the most popular. I think that's because there are diverse options in study abroad through the study-abroad office and because part of Global Studies is learning about the world, and students want that experience.


CAS: What expertise do the faculty offer for the Global Studies program?

COLLEY: Because we're all geographers and we have different skill sets, the Human Geography faculty specifically have a good cultural perspective, a unique worldview, they know things about the world, and they're skilled in different regions of the world. Some faculty teach about the geography of Europe, of the Middle East, Russia, or the geography of Indian countries; all of these various things that will prepare students for an understanding of the world. That isn't limited to “here is where a place is on the map” but actually diving in deep to these regions and learning about them. This pairs really well with our study-abroad options, because every semester the Department of Geography offers at least two study-abroad options to two different places. This semester they went to Cyprus and Russia.


CAS: What minors or double majors complement the Global Studies major?

COLLEY: The Spanish minor is very popular. Any language minor will pair well because one of the study-abroad options in the immersion program. Also, students come in with the idea that if they're going to do Global Studies, they're going to go somewhere someday where they're going to need to speak the language. For double majors, we've had a variety of students including a multimedia journalism double major, a history double major and an English double major. Global Studies really pairs well with any double major because of the different concentrations and the opportunities they offer. Global Studies is great for the University because it takes what geographers were already doing and opens it up to the whole campus.


CAS: Why should a student choose Global Studies?

COLLEY: Not only will students learn more about the world, which they can get from taking the Intro to Cultural Geography class, but they'll get a deeper understanding and what it means to learn about the world. I get students who come to Global Studies thinking, “I'm going to go be a missionary and save Africa,” and that's a great perspective to have at the beginning, but by pursuing Global Studies and learning about other cultures it's no longer about just saying, “I'm going to go save Africa.” It shifts to, “I'm going to go learn about water rights, and help people in Kenya dig wells. … I'm actually going to go to South America and teach children to speak English as a second language.” Global Studies prepares the students not only from a cultural perspective, but from a global worldview perspective where they're getting a deeper understanding that many people in the world don't have.