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Globalization hits UCLAReed Hutchinson/UCLA Photographer

Globalization hits UCLA

Globalization is a big word. But a new major in global studies aims to give UCLA students the tools to understand it.

Geoffrey Garrett, the vice provost of the Institute, has been instrumental in bringing a global studies program to UCLA. The new major will combine language proficiency and a summer abroad with a variety of courses from multiple disciplines.

By Adam Foxman, Daily Bruin Staff

The first core class for the major – Global Studies 1 – appeared Monday on URSA. Professors say the program will combine academic disciplines to put UCLA at the forefront of this emerging field.

The political, economic and human trends that make up globalization are complicated and interwoven.

The Internet and television give people the world over access to the same information, and one is rarely far from one of the world's 11,227 Burger Kings or more than 9,000 Starbucks, but there is more to it than technology and international business.

Globalization concerns human and cultural issues such as the large-scale immigration from northern Africa to Spain and France, and worries about cultural domination by the United States, which is sometimes called "the imperialism of Mickey Mouse."

From the perspective of many UCLA professors, this phenomenon is too complicated to be studied in a single discipline.

"We need new tools, new paradigms, new methods to study this phenomenon that lets us live in a totally different way," said Ali Behdad, a UCLA English professor who will chair the global studies program.

And the new global studies major is expected to give students exactly that.

The interdisciplinary major will be team-taught and will include a summer abroad, a senior thesis and guest lectures by such notable figures as former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale.

Some professors involved say their teaching methods will be as new as their subject.

Geoffrey Garrett, vice provost of the UCLA International Institute and the architect of the global studies major, said their teaching methods will follow the form of a freshman cluster class raised to the level of a major.

Dominic Thomas, the UCLA professor of French and Francophone studies who will be the lead teacher of Global Studies 1, said he hopes to make the class a more active experience by mixing "open mic" question-and-answer sessions with his lectures.

Even though the major has not yet been announced, some students are already interested.

"The best part of the major in my opinion is the study abroad segment," said Nick Steele, a fourth-year political science and economics student and a member of the Undergraduate International Relations Society.

Last summer, Steele and Ryan Finstad, a third-year political science student and a fellow member of international relations society, went on the pilot program for the summer institute that will become part of the global studies major.

They spent five weeks in Shanghai studying emerging economies and globalization with Yunxiang Yan, a UCLA anthropology professor. They also took trips to many of the factories that drive Shanghai's economy. Afterward, Steele got a four-week internship in Shanghai with a business consulting firm.

"It really added to the realism to be able to work for a company in the economy that I was studying," Steele said.

Garrett said the summer abroad is an essential part of the major. He said it gives students the chance to see how the global trends they have studied play out in individual communities, which gives their wide ranging studies a human element.

In addition to Shanghai, this year the university will offer summer programs in Hong Kong and Guanajuato, Mexico. Garrett said he is also working toward programs in Beirut, Sydney and Vienna.

He said rather than have the institutes in cities where study abroad programs already exist, the locations are supposed to be "more at the cutting edge, where the effects of globalization are more evident."

Each five-week summer program will be led by a senior UCLA faculty member and will let students earn 10 units. Students will take two classes: one to bring them up to speed on the history and culture of the place they are staying, and another for research. And like the program in Shanghai, there will be field trips to less-than-traditional places.

The summer institutes cost $3,500, which includes housing, registration, tuition and field trips. In the Shanghai program there is also a $150 charge for internship placement.

In addition to the summer abroad and the senior thesis, the global studies major requires that students achieve foreign language proficiency up to level six, statistics, the three core classes – Global Studies 1, 100A and 100B – and a variety of courses from subjects including anthropology, history, languages, economics, geography and political science.

Garrett said he expects the major's rigorous nature to keep it small in terms of the number of students who choose to enroll, but the minor will give other students a chance to experience many of the same elements without the same level of commitment.

Both Steele and Finstad are too close to graduation to major in global studies, but they are not too late to see its appeal.

Finstad may try to do the minor, and Steele said he would have been interested if it had been available earlier.

"I kind of feel like I did it on my own, with (political science and economics), and we did their summer program, but it would have been nice if it had been already made for me," he said.

UCLA will not be the first university to have a global studies program, but the professors involved say its interdisciplinary focus will put it on the cutting edge.

"In setting up this program we are going to be at the forefront of this new discipline," Behdad said.

While many schools have international studies programs that focus on relationships between nations, Garrett said the UCLA global studies program will join a popular program at UC Santa Barbara as one of the few programs to go deeper than just politics.

"The world is a complicated place, and students want to understand and contribute to that world, and that is what global studies allows you to do," Behdad said.

He said the term "international studies" implies crossing national boundaries, but "global studies" deals with boundaries that are dissolving.

Thomas said as people are inundated with information as a result of globalization, interdisciplinary programs like global studies can help students unpack it.

"We are essentially trying to get students to bridge the gap between learning and thinking," Thomas said.

And as globalization brings people, cultures and economies ever closer to one another, the gaps between academic disciplines narrow as well.

Garrett said professors in the humanities and the social sciences are increasingly studying the same cultural phenomenon. And many of the professors who will teach global studies have both interdisciplinary interests and international backgrounds.

Behdad was born in Iran, received his doctorate comparative literature, teaches English and studies post-colonialism. Garrett was born in Australia, obtained his doctorate in the United States, taught at Oxford, and spent several years in Berlin. And Thomas – who was born in Germany, grew up in France, and was educated in England – works on questions of racism and immigration in France.

Originally published in the UCLA Daily Bruin Feb 8, 2005

UCLA International Institute