Expanding Our Boundaries The International Studies Program at UK

By Stephanie Lang

“Globalize yourself” has taken on a whole new meaning in UK’s College of Arts & Sciences.

“Because of increasingly sophisticated technology, the impacts of economic, ecological, political, or health processes in one part of the world can rapidly impact other parts of the world,” said Monica Udvardy, associate professor of anthropology and director of the International Studies Program. “In other words, the issues and problems and topics of traditional disciplines are increasingly global in scope.”

Implemented in the fall semester of 2007, the International Studies Program allows students to transcend a variety of borders.

“Whether those boundaries are geographical, political, cultural, personal, or language-based doesn’t matter. Intercultural competency and awareness of the interconnectedness of the global environment are invaluable in today’s society,” said Abby Hollander, academic advisor of the international studies program.

This interdisciplinary program encourages students to explore global issues in various disciplines ranging from anthropology to political science. Students who major in the program will choose course work focused on an area of concentration — Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Russia and Eurasia.

Once a region of study is chosen, students must settle on a thematic concentration which will allow them to fully explore the culture and complexities of the region. The thematic component includes culture and the arts, international development, global environment, human rights and social movements, international relations, and international commerce. The other major element of the program requires the student to study extensively and master a foreign language.

The preparation students receive from their classes culminates in a senior capstone project.

What attracted Patrick Sgueglia to the new program was a mixture of family history and travel experiences. Having spent extensive time in Italy where his grandfather and father were born, Sgueglia sought a major that would enable him to gain a further understanding of other cultures.

“This is a great way to take more cross-cultural classes,” Sgueglia said. “This program really urges students to look at another culture and allows them to focus on any area they want.”

And, of course, the program encourages students to travel abroad. “I’ve had great experiences while travelling to Italy,” Sgueglia said. “Those unbelievable experiences are why I wanted to get behind the International Studies Program and be a student voice.”

While study abroad is not a requirement in the program, students like Sgueglia say it’s a great way to experience other cultures first-hand. According to Udvardy, students can apply for supplemental funding for study abroad through the Office of International Affairs.

The International Studies Program prepares students for a variety of employment opportunities. Udvardy and Hollander have already worked with several students who are interested in international politics, multi-national corporations, aid work through the United Nations, immigration law, global environmental issues, and work in the artistic world of galleries, publishing, and museums.

“The possibilities for employment really are endless,” Udvardy said.

And the success of the program is readily apparent, after only one semester.

“The response has been tremendously positive,” Udvardy said. “The current number of majors – over 100 – says an enormous amount about the students’ pent-up need to learn more about the world around them.”

Udvardy plans to keep the momentum going through NoGS -- The Network of Global Scholars -- the international studies student organization. “Through NoGS, we want to foster a sense of dedication to international issues and to highlight international efforts, events, and activities on campus so students feel that they are internationalizing the campus,” she said.

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