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Preparing students for an interconnected world

As Lehigh students seek to improve their understanding of an increasingly interconnected world, a rapidly growing program at Lehigh is offering perspective.

Created in 2006, the Globalization and Social Change Initiative (GSCI) brings together teaching, research and service on the historical, social, cultural, economic and political changes brought about by globalization.

On Thursday and Friday, a conference hosted by the GSCI introduced additional voices to the dialogue and addressed some of the key problems related to globalization. The conference, “Global Tensions,” brought together internationally known scholars from across the humanities and social sciences.

Panels addressed topics such as “Migration and Politics,” “Global Political Economy and Identity,” “Diasporas and Media,” and “Religion and the Nation” and featured experts from Princeton University, The New School, Arizona State University, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“It's not often that institutions of higher education reach out to other institutions and invite their faculty to come together in conversation and collaboration,” says Jack Lule, director of the GSCI and professor of journalism and communication. “We had close to 100 faculty members from around the globe here from dozens of universities. It was a wonderful thing for Lehigh's status and reputation, but, more importantly, we had some great minds meeting to take up the problems of the world.”

The conference panels also included many of Lehigh’s own distinguished faculty members. The diversity of their expertise reflects Lehigh’s commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and research. GSCI faculty from the departments of political science, history, journalism and communication, international relations, religion studies, and modern languages and literature lend their knowledge and research related to complex global themes such as global communication, culture and identity, and politics and social structures.

GSCI faculty members Matt Sanderson, assistant professor of sociology, and Bruce Whitehouse, assistant professor of anthropology, for example, examine issues related to transnational migration. John Jirik, assistant professor of journalism and communication, examines how power operates in and through the media. His most recent work draws on a case study of a Beijing newsroom at China’s national TV network.

Elsewhere in the program, Robert Rozehnal, associate professor of religion studies, researches the history and practice of Sufism in South Asia.

The GSCI also plays a critical role in helping students develop a global competency. Through the GSCI, Lehigh introduced a Global Studies major which is designed to prepare students for work and life in a modern and interconnected world. Topics range from climate change to immigration to McDonald’s. International travel, language instruction, and the study of world cultures help round out the program. Global competency is a crucial piece of a student’s experience.

“Developing the Global Studies major was essential to the GSCI's mission,” Lule says. “No student graduating into the world of today can afford to be ignorant of global issues or to be lacking in global competency. Every student will eventually need the ability to study, work and interact with peoples from other lands and cultures.”

Story by Tricia Long

Posted on Friday, October 09, 2009

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