Global Ed Requirement Connects SBS to the World
In a rapidly changing world, it has become imperative for well-educated students to be globally competent learners. Back in 1999 when the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences made the 15-credit Global Education requirement part of the standard curriculum for all majors, the intent was to bring them into a framework to help them gain knowledge about individuals, societies and cultures while exposing them to diverse cultural perspectives essential to building an understanding of contemporary society and, ultimately, themselves. Study of another part of the world gives students a heightened appreciation and comprehension of the world at-large and offers the first steps to bridging cultural boundaries. Living and working effectively in a global society requires learning with an international perspective.
The Global Ed requirement at UMass Amherst is unique to SBS and goes far beyond the old foreign language requirement, which involved only a few semesters of exposure to a language. Such study often wasn’t relevant to students whose main interest involved the human condition. That is not to say that learning a language isn’t important—and in fact one way to fulfill the requirement is by taking 15 credits of a foreign language. But most students fulfill the requirement through language study combined with related cultural courses that have some focus on contemporary topics (known as the regional studies option). For example, those interested in the African Studies Region, can select six credits in Arabic, French or Portuguese and nine credits in any combination of additional language courses or courses taught in English that focus on the contemporary culture of the region where the language is spoken. There are numerous other regions and languages from which to choose, all listed in the Undergraduate Advising and Global Education Requirement Handbook. In many cases coursework taken during study abroad is eligible for approval too.
An individualized regional or international study program option is also available, but this requires a plan and approval from an advisor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Advising Center. A fourth option involves successfully completing a certificate in African Studies, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, or International Relations, or a minor in Modern European Studies.
While there are many different ways to fulfill the requirement, students should keep in mind that planning ahead is important. The staff in the Global Education Advising Office in 128 Thompson Hall is poised to help every student figure out ways that best meets their needs. Eager to help with instructions about what needs to be done to meet the requirement, they have a reputation across campus for being efficient and dedicated to the task at hand. They make the process easy, and often, by asking lots of questions about personal experiences and previous coursework, they find ways to meet the requirement through certain language proficiency tests or study in another country.
For example, Amir Landa ’08, who transferred to UMass Amherst from New School University this semester, was a little concerned about how he’d fulfill his Global Education requirement—given that he didn’t see a whole lot of room in his schedule. But when he spoke with the staff, it came to light that he is conversant in Hebrew, one of the languages that can be applied to the Middle Eastern Studies regional option. They suggested a proficiency test given through the Judaic Studies Program, looked at his previous courses, and before the semester even began, Landa’s requirement was behind him. “Passing the test gave me six credits,” Landa explains. “And transfer credits from classes I had taken at New School fulfilled the remaining nine credits, since they had not been applied to any UMass Amherst requirements.” And there was an added bonus, he says. “I was able to judge my ability to use Hebrew. I had considered myself a fluent speaker, but was not so confident about reading and writing. After the proficiency test, I discovered that my capabilities were much stronger than I realized.”
September 28, 2006; updated September 8, 2009