WCU to offer new international studies program in fall

Western Carolina University will begin offering a new bachelor of arts degree in international studies this fall following official approval of the program by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors earlier this spring.

The new program is being developed as a “coordinate major” that will draw from existing internationally focused courses taught across the curriculum at WCU while requiring participating students to major in a second program of study, said Wendy Ford, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“This means that while students are learning about international politics, world cultures, languages and globalization, they also will be studying business, communication, history, art or any other discipline offered at Western Carolina,” Ford said. “The result will be unique programs that better prepare students for a variety of career fields with a global perspective.”

A 30-hour program, the international studies major was designed to support a primary recommendation of the UNC Tomorrow commission, which developed a 20-year strategic plan that addresses North Carolina’s needs and how its public universities can help meet those needs. The recommendations included preparing the state’s residents to compete in the global economy of the 21st century.

“The international studies program clearly reflects our commitment to enhancing global readiness as a major UNC Tomorrow initiative,” said Niall Michelsen, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who is overseeing the new program. “UNC Tomorrow calls upon us to increase student proficiency in foreign languages and to expand students’ global and cultural awareness so that they understand diverse cultures and appreciate the commonality of human problems.”

The program also fits with WCU’s focus on synthesis – the ability to integrate knowledge from different academic areas, and to see connections between what students do in the classroom and their extracurricular activities, said Michelsen.

The international studies program will contain four components—an introduction, language courses, core courses and electives. Students will study at least one foreign language through the intermediate level. The core of study will be divided into three categories—politics, culture and globalization. The curriculum includes a “study abroad” option.

 “The program is designed so that students who choose this coordinate major will gain a multi-faceted grasp of globalization, of emerging and enduring political issues, and an appreciation of global cultures,” Ford said. “Graduates of the program should be ready for employment opportunities available in an increasingly diverse, interrelated global economy.”