USM’s plan to add diversity to the curriculum by requiring incoming students to take an international core requirement class is a good move. Students should graduate USM with a better understanding of other cultures and taking a class with an international component could provide more awareness about global affairs to students.
Today’s economy is much more globalized than it was even 25 years ago. Because of this, it’s important that students graduate with at least a basic understanding of the world economy, politics and other cultures. As we graduate and enter the work force we will be competing for jobs with other national and international students who are already gaining world experience through education and study abroad programs.
USM is not the only one promoting the importance of global knowledge. Since 2005, the Association of American Colleges and Universities has been leading the nation with its Liberal Education and America’s Promise initiative.
It took several years of collaboration among colleges, universities, businesses along with an ‘analysis of accreditation requirements’ to come up with new objectives for 21st century student learning.
Diversity and global learning together stand as one example of the high impact educational practices that LEAP promotes. Many universities and colleges throughout the nation have adopted this model and are already exposing their students to more diverse curriculum and programs.
Some students leave USM with an understanding of the world beyond Southern Maine, or the United States for that matter, but requiring students take classes with an international component will create a more cohesive education for all students.
Although an additional core component might cause more stress for some students whose departments already offer courses with some international focus, the core curriculum committee of the faculty senate has organized a working group to design the new core requirement. The working group will look into possibilities for students to have overlapping courses, however there still might be some students who will end up having to take more credits.
The decision might generate some resentment from students who already think it takes too long to finish the general education requirements. But students graduating with a four-year degree should have been exposed to an international course during their college career. Technology and globalization are making the world smaller; we shouldn’t pretend the world ends at the Canadian border.
Regardless of the degree you get, at some point in your career you may travel outside the country. You also may attend an international conference or perhaps you will work with international clientele.
For those of us who have traveled beyond the territorial lines of the United States, we have found that citizens of other countries don’t always have a positive image of our education system but initiatives like LEAP could change things.
Although making students take one class with an international component won’t make them experts on world affairs, it could help them be more aware of the global community.