The School of Liberal Arts launched its interdisciplinary program in International Studies in 2006. Consistent with national trends during an era of globalization, the new major and minor grew quickly during years when more traditional disciplines in the social sciences and humanities began to decline. The advisory board who designed the program represented the departments of English (Jonathan Eller), History (Michael Snodgrass), Political Science (Scott Pegg), and World Languages and Culture (Gabrielle Bersier). Also serving on the founding board were Susan Sutton, an Anthropology colleague who then directed IUPUI’s Office of International Affairs, and Steven Tuchman, a prominent local immigration lawyer and Honorary Consul for Denmark in Indiana and Kentucky. Dr. Pegg directed the program until 2011, when Dr. Snodgrass assumed the role. In 2013, the advisory board agreed to rename the program Global and International Studies to better distinguish it from the field of international relations and to emphasize our students’ interests in broader issues like economic globalization, migration, religious studies, or environmental affairs.
From its founding, the GIS Program was and remains a customizable thirty-three credit hour major that permits students to concentrate on one of five global regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Students take an additional three classes in any one of six topical concentrations, which range from social movements to global development. The only required courses remain our program’s two annual offerings: Introduction to International Studies and the Senior Seminar Capstone. Since it is an inter-disciplinary major, GIS students must take elective courses from at least four different departments or schools, and we agreed that students may take electives from such IUPUI schools as Public and Environmental Affairs, Public Health, and the Herron School of Art. The founding board agreed that all majors would study a world language to the third year and we upheld this requirement even when the School of Liberal Arts reduced its prerequisite from two years to one. Finally, given that students at an urban university face unique financial challenges, the advisory board decided to limit the study abroad requirement to the acquisition of only three credit hours. Since its inception, our students have completed this requirement by both full semesters of study abroad as well as briefer programs offered by IUPUI over spring break.
Given that our program’s two course offerings generate little tuition-related revenues, the program benefits from financial support offered by IUPUI’s Office of International Affairs. Under this plan, the OIA extends approximately $7,500 annually to the GIS Program. That funding has supported student attendance at a local global speaker series, faculty participation in international studies conferences, and the hosting of guest speakers. In 2020, the program director reached an agreement with IUPUI’s Study Abroad office to utilize funding providing from the OIA to create a supplemental study abroad scholarship for Global Studies majors taking part in a program of four or more weeks. Under this plan, students who earn the competitive International Experience grant – a $1,000 scholarship offered by Study Abroad – will receive a $1,500 supplement. We are currently offering five such scholarships annually, and our students also secure financial support for study abroad from various Liberal Arts grants and the Honor’s College. Student surveys indicate that the study abroad requirement is the most attractive feature of the Global and International Studies major.
Since its inception, the program attracted a very diverse and high achieving cohort of undergraduate students. More so than other majors in Liberal Arts, many of ours are first- or second-generation immigrants from countries in Latin America, West Africa, and the Middle East. Many earn double majors in such fields as political science and economics, and minors in world languages or communication studies. They actively participate in extracurricular organizations like the African Student Association or the International Peer Mentoring Program. Finally, GIS majors historically rank tops amongst students receiving study abroad scholarships and, since 2010, five of our majors earned the Faculty Medal of Academic Distinction, the highest honor awarded each year by the School of Liberal Arts.