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MU implements new department

Creation of Global and Intercultural Studies department to offer opportunity

Miami University is in the process of creating a Department of Global and Intercultural Studies, to be housed within the College of Arts and Sciences. Under discussion for nearly a decade and in the works since 2012, the implementation committee hopes to have the department in place this fall.

The purpose of the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies is to "[foster] among students a strong intercultural awareness that will inform their citizenship practices, locally and globally, and contribute to solving global problems," according to the Report of the 2014 Global Studies Implementation Committee.

The new department will consolidate several existing Miami programs, and, in the process, seek to strengthen those programs and increase the effectiveness of their coursework. These programs include American Studies, Asian/Asian American Studies, Black World Studies, International Studies, Latin American Studies and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

"The incorporation of these global and intercultural programs into one vibrant unit is likely to enhance the visibility and viability of these programs," the report said. "The immediate creation of a department will foster the integration and connections among programs, and would streamline the workloads of the program directors."

Phyllis Callahan, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and former dean of CAS, formed the initial committee for this department during the 2012-2013 school year. It is one of several structural changes she has led in the last few years.

"When I was dean of CAS, one of my priorities was to work with our curricula to delineate pathways for students to navigate areas of interest easily," Callahan said. "This was part of that initiative."

In addition to her work with the Global Studies Implementation Committee, she also played a significant role in the creation of the Media, Journalism and Film department, which combined the Communications department with the Journalism program, as well as the merging of Botany and Zoology into Biology.

"We were really trying to make our curricula more easily navigable," Callahan said. "Global studies is an area we [have] reason to believe is a high priority for students."

And, many of the affected program directors agree. Kimberly Hamlin, director of American Studies (AMS), said there is a lot of support for this department and many on faculty are excited about the committee's report.

"I think it offers some possibilities for exciting collaboration between faculty," Hamlin said. "And, it's important to note, too, that all of the programs will retain their independent identities … and our majors will retain their independent curricula."

Of the six interdisciplinary programs that will fall under the global studies umbrella, AMS is one of the smallest ones. Though the program only has about 40 majors and 20 minors, Hamlin said, it reaches hundreds of students through its Miami Plan classes (AMS 205 and AMS 207) each semester.

"We think that by having more visibility [through the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies], it will give more students an opportunity to encounter our curriculum and find us."

Rodney Coates, interim director of Black World Studies (BWS), echoed Hamlin's support for the department.

"What it does is it corrects a problem with the initial creation of the programs, that separated them out into discrete units, without realizing that we are all interconnected as programs," Coates said.

BWS is another small program, with about 25 majors this year. Coates said about 120 students take the introductory course each semester, and the thematic sequence draws about 200 students. Still, the program could benefit from additional visibility, he said, which a consolidated department would provide.

"It takes us off the footing of a program and gives us the vantage point of a dynamic and involved department called 'Global and Intercultural Studies,'" he said. "It helps the programs get out of their silos and into a much more dynamic exchange of ideas."

The university intends to implement the Department of Global and Intercultural Studies immediately - which, in administrative terms, means as soon as all necessary pieces are in place. In this case, the committee expects that to be as early as fall 2015.

However, to meet that goal, much must happen in the coming months. The committee must successfully identify and hire a department chair, as well as develop the curriculum of the global studies department to account for the curricula of all existing programs.

But, beyond the initial implementation, the committee recommended further development of global studies at Miami. A new Global and Intercultural Studies co-major is under way, which will serve to complement existing majors as well as recruit others into the department.

"The idea of the co-major is that it would actually help bring students in to one of the [global] majors," Tom Crist, co-chair of the Global Studies Implementation Committee and Director of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, said. "We also think this co-major would complement lots of other existing majors in other departments, where a student who is in [one of the sciences] or business or engineering wants that global component."

Callahan agreed the co-major will be a beneficial addition to the department, providing more opportunities for transdisciplinary study and coupling students' original majors with a global perspective.

And, looking ahead, the committee suggested the global studies department eventually be developed into a larger unit, like an institute or a school.

"A school would suggest a broader mission and scope, appropriate for the breadth of the field of study … A school of global studies is the best structure for coordination of academic programs and scholarship across a range of departments and divisions that currently work in areas closely related to Global and Intercultural Studies," the report said.

For now, though, the committee is focusing its energy toward the establishment of the department.

"It brings more opportunities for close collaboration, and for faculty and students to work together in areas that have a mutual interest and mutual seams," Callahan said. "It's something students can engage in - understanding the connections between different programs and parts of different majors."

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