Capitalizing on one of the hottest employment trends and the need for more world-savvy graduates, Eastern Kentucky University has launched an undergraduate degree program in Globalization and International Affairs, the first program of its kind in the Commonwealth.
The four-year, interdisciplinary program aims to graduate “culturally aware students who are comfortable in a variety of international public-sector, private-sector and non-profit positions,” said Dr. Fred Ruppel, interim chair of the Department of Economics, which houses the new program.
Students will be accepted into the program beginning this fall. Actually, one student who had already taken many of the courses (which have been offered through various departments) plans to complete the degree in the Spring 2009 semester.
A political science major with minors in international studies, business and French, Angie Zoller will only need 21 additional hours of the Globalization and International Affairs major to graduate.
“After graduating from this program, people are more likely to be conscientious and have a broader sense of the international community,” Zoller said. “Our individual horizons will expand, and the University will graduate students with a better awareness and concept of how to assess situations involving international affairs.
“Building relationships is one of the most important things one can do, and I think the best way to build relationships abroad is through learning about topics such as what would be covered in this major. Therefore, we can relate and conduct business in a respectful manner.”
Zoller has every reason to be excited about her future. According to Laura Melius, director of career services at EKU, Kentucky ranks 19th nationally in foreign exports, with more than $17 billion in goods exported annually, and approximately 85,000 Kentuckians work for firms directly held by foreign investors.
“With this level of investment and international trade,” Melius said, “Kentucky employers and those nationally are in need of college graduates who have an understanding of global economies and how Kentucky and the U.S. can continue to compete in the global market. Career opportunities exist in these businesses involved in foreign trade and operating internationally.
“For those individuals interested in working in public service, careers in diplomacy, foreign affairs and international/community development are available. Opportunities can also be found in the non-profit sector in such fields as human services, public health, disaster relief, policy development, program evaluation and volunteer coordination.”
The program combines core courses from the fields of geography, history, political science and economics and includes electives from anthropology, as well as foreign languages and humanities. The idea of a Globalization major first surfaced at an EKU Spotlight event, when Dr. Richard Sambrook, then the Interim Chair of Geography and Geology, approached Ruppel with the idea of an interdisciplinary program focusing on international places and events. Ruppel, Sambrook, and four other Chairs within the College of Arts and Sciences then collaborated on the curriculum design.
Ruppel said he and his colleagues set forth five objectives for the program. They intend to prepare graduates to:
• analyze cultural, economic, geographical, historical, political and social forces affecting globalization.
• identify factors that impede or encourage globalization.
• evaluate the impacts of increasing globalization on individuals, communities, regions and nations.
• integrate globalization ideas and concepts from the various disciplines into a unified whole, and
• compete well for international positions or for domestic positions requiring international expertise.
“They will have not only a solid foundation in the study of all aspects of global culture,” Ruppel said, “but will have applied critical thinking skills in multiple disciplinary contexts, necessary in meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing work environment in business, in the non-profit sector and in government work.”
Noting that employers seek students who have actual experience in dealing with cross-cultural and multicultural perspectives, Dr. Sara Zeigler, chair of the Department of Government, added the program allows students to “move beyond the tolerance for diversity demanded of all graduates to a more nuanced understanding of its implications.”
Many courses in the program are offered online and through interactive TV, but Richmond campus coursework is required, especially in upper-division courses.
“This is an opportunity for EKU students to become ‘internationalized’ at no cost above and beyond their education,” Ruppel said. “Interest is already high and within four or five years, I think it will be one of the top ten majors in Arts and Sciences.”