NMU received a two year grant in August from the U.S. Department of Education in order to enrich and improve the international studies program.
The money will be used to create four new tracks for international studies major as well as form a new introductory course for international studies majors and minors. There will also be additional money for faculty to travel, to learn more and better develop courses within the four new tracks.
“We’re going to have a better curriculum for students. That’s for sure,” said NMU Professor Tim Compton, department head and professor at modern languages and literatures and academic administrator for the international studies major and minor.
The grant is for $156,892, and comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s International Education and Foreign Language Studies program. The grant is designed to strengthen and improve international and foreign language studies in American education. Approximately 30 different universities received the grant this year.
The four tracks for the major will include European art or politics, African geography, politics or art, Latin American art or politics and Asian studies.
“We’re not going to create a track that students can’t realistically pursue,” Compton said. “I’m confident we can create two tracks soon. I think we’ll probably be able to do Asian studies fairly quickly.”
Currently, there is no introductory course for the international studies major and minor. The new course will focus on a wide variety of topics, including global conflicts and their history. Compton said the course is also very important to encourage international studies majors and minors to meet one another early on.
“I think it’s going to help them with networking,” Compton said. “We know that in our current employment situation that it’s more and more important to network. So we think that having students together from the beginning, knowing who each other are, is going to pay dividends for them.”
Rebecca Ulland, a Spanish professor at NMU who is preparing the introductory class, said that it will create an opportunity to learn about careers in the international field and provide an introduction to different areas of the world that they could focus on later in their college careers.
“Right now, there’s a career exploration element in the capstone seminar for the major and we want to move that to the beginning, to help students earlier,” Ulland said. “We want the students, by the end of their major, to demonstrate global awareness, so we’ll learn about different regions throughout the globe so students can focus on them.”
Ulland also said the course is not just limited to international studies majors and minors. She said this will be a good opportunity for those curious about international studies to explore the subject.
“It will help students decide what they can do with the major and decide if they want to take this major and run with it,” Ulland said.
Compton said the money for faculty travel will be well used in creating and improving courses for the four new tracks.
“We feel the trickledown effect that students will see from our faculty training will be significant,” Compton said. “We’re also going to bring people in to help give us training in both language teaching and assessment.”
Jessie Price, a junior international studies major, said she felt the new changes to the program will be beneficial.
“There’s not a lot of structure and direction given to the program now, so I think it’s good that they’re going to be doing these changes,” Price said.
Compton said the changes in the program will help complement a student’s study abroad experience, which is a required component of the major.
“There are all sorts of jobs about in the international fields,” Compton said. “There are plenty of jobs for people that are willing to live abroad, willing to learn languages, and willing to learn. This is a great major to do that with.”
Increasing the international program and opportunities at NMU is part of the Roadmap to 2015, and Compton said they felt the support from the university has been very beneficial to the program.
Ten years ago there were about 25 International Studies majors and no minors. Today, Compton said there are about 85 students majoring and 25 minoring in the program.
“It really is a field that people are recognizing the value in,” Compton said.