A deeper understanding of international affairs is likely to become even more important in the increasingly globalized economy. This is particularly true for university students striving to find their place in a rapidly changing global culture. Enter San Diego State University’s new comparative international studies major, offered through the College of Arts and Letters beginning in the spring 2012 semester.
The degree program has real-world application, preparing students for an increasingly interconnected world, according to Associate Dean Eniko Csomay, who is directing the program.
“We hope to create 21st century citizens,” Csomay said. “We want individuals to gain a broader perspective on world events, with sensitivity to cultures outside the States.”
Small World, Big Future
The old political, economic, and cultural lines are blurring, through economic factors and national interdependencies, as well as fluid immigration. As the world goes through these changes, it becomes crucial to have a better understanding of foreign cultures, said Lei Guang, director of the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies and a member of the program's curriculum committee.
It’s designed to get students thinking more broadly about different regions of the world, see international issues in a different light and de-center from a Euro-centric, Sino-centric, or an Afro-centric world view,” said Guang.
Csomay said students who major in comparative international studies will be prepared for positions in foreign service, government, non-governmental organizations, as well as for graduate school.
According to Guang, transnational organizations are large employers, and cross-cultural experience can help make students more competitive for a position.
Culture, language central to program
Students in the program will focus on two separate world regions, and compare the two regions in terms of four topics: culture and society, human and social development, populations and borders, and institutions and change.
“Ultimately, students in this discipline will be able to take a prominent topic in global affairs, such as poverty, conflict or globalization, and then look at these themes in a comparative way across geographical regions, considering the cultures and experiences of the people of those regions,” Guang said.
Students will also experience the world regions of their choice by studying language, study abroad and conducting research. Additionally, students are required to minor in a foreign language, another aspect intended to more completely immerse them in the international experience.
“By the time the student completes the major, we will have opened their eyes and enabled them to communicate at the highest levels about the world outside our borders,” Csomay said.
Tradition of International Study
The expectation of a well-rounded student sensitive to other cultures is a main pillar of the SDSU undergraduate experience.
SDSU offers 335 international education programs in 52 different countries, and more than 30 academic programs require international experience through study abroad in order to graduate. The Institute of International Education ranks SDSU in the top 25 nationally and third in California for the number of students studying abroad as part of their college experience. Since 1999, nearly 12,000 students have taken advantage of a study abroad program through SDSU.
The University is also a top producer of U.S. Fulbright Scholars, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Since 2005, SDSU has had more than 40 students receive Fulbright Scholarships, including nine for the 2011-2012 school year.