CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The world is beating a path to freshmen at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Approximately half of the Liberal Arts freshman class has enrolled this semester in an experimental new global studies program that literally puts the world at its doorstep.
In addition to immersion in a cluster of seven new and redesigned globally oriented courses and the opportunity to travel abroad during the winter break, the 1,500 inaugural students in the new Global Studies Initiative come together every few weeks for guest lectures by world-class speakers, brought to campus expressly for them, who talk about major global issues and problems.
Their next speaker is Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of the late Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian national leader and social reformer.
A visiting professor in the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Illinois, Gandhi will speak on "Intolerance" at 4 p.m. Sept. 29 (Wednesday) in the Foellinger Auditorium, 709 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana. He also directs the Global Crossroads International Living/Learning Community at Illinois.
In his lecture, Gandhi plans to discuss his grandfather's "strategies for addressing hate, intolerance and revenge"; what his grandfather, if living today, "might say to extremists who are infatuated with killing and who worship hate"; and what his grandfather might say to George Bush.
Rajmohan Gandhi said his grandfather's message to President Bush would have been, in part:
"I hope you don't want America to believe that some peoples and nations are inherently evil and others inherently good.
"I myself fought the battle of good vs. evil, of tolerance vs. intolerance, of largeness vs. pettiness, in my own heart. Isn't the human heart, every human heart, the place where this battle has to be daily fought? Be careful, President Bush, before making a distant land, or one distant land after another, a source of evil and therefore a battleground for the moment, and later a distant memory."
Among future Global Studies speakers: Oct. 20, Tariq Ali, a London-based public intellectual, on "Fundamentalisms"; Oct. 27, Dani Rodrik, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, on "Globalization Limits"; Nov. 14, a panel discussion on "Human Rights" with Ira Carmen, political science, Illinois; and James Ross, senior lawyer at Human Rights Watch; Stephen Hartnett, speech communication, Illinois, will moderate.
Charles Stewart, the architect of the new global studies program and executive associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, calls the new global endeavor "path breaking - certainly in the mega research-university setting."
"Our goal," said Stewart, a scholar of West African and Islamic history, "is to totally change the undergraduate student culture on the Urbana campus by exposing generations of freshmen to the global environment in which they are living."
According to Stewart, global awareness and cultural sensitivity are "as critical to the training of a well-rounded college graduate today as were the classics a century ago. These courses are on target for providing a cultural change for the student body and a common intellectual experience that will be formative in their undergrad careers."
This fall's enrollments and the projected two courses next spring will involve about 60 percent of the university's freshmen in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - "not a bad start," Stewart said.
The new Global Studies courses, "taught by some of our best teachers," Stewart said, are Anthropology in a Changing World; Macroeconomic Principles & Global Economics; Literatures of Global Culture; Geographies of Globalization; Global History; World Religions; and Global Inequality & Social Change. Some 52 upper-class honors students serve as mentors in four of the classes; they also attend the guest-speaker presentations.
The winter-break trips, to be led by U. of I. faculty, include Accra (Ghana), Barcelona, Bombay, London, Morelia (Mexico), Singapore and Vienna. Stewart said the courses are already half-filled, "and all indications are that they will top out within a couple of weeks. This means that nearly 200 of our students will be able to follow up their courses with on-site experiences of 'the global city' between Christmas and Jan. 14."
Stewart said that what began as a seminar for seven faculty members to explore how to better deliver general education to incoming freshmen "mushroomed" to large meetings of integrating techies and teachers, planners and production specialists.
"You can call me the architect, but the ones who have built the program are the six other faculty members teaching these courses, an army of loyal and patient CITES (Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services) staff who have instructed us in the capacity of Compass (an online learning system) as a link across the courses. Also deserving credit are a crew of very dedicated ATLAS (Applied Technologies for Learning in the Arts and Sciences) personnel who have accepted this project as their own, to provide first-class Web support and a wealth of other services, and the leadership of the College Teaching Academy."
One of the best outcomes so far was unexpected: "The enthusiasm and dedication of fresh freshmen," Stewart said, "has proven infectious to faculty who admit to being
re-energized about their courses by the lively student interest."
The next stage, he said, will be to integrate this concept "with the wealth of campus resources in diversity studies so that studying 'the global' at UIUC means new ways to know and appreciate people from other traditions at home as well as away."