Welcome to the 2016-2017 academic year! It is hard to believe the summer has flown by and it is time for classes to begin again. The faculty and staff of the International Studies Department are delighted to welcome back our returning undergraduate and graduate students! We are also so thrilled to welcome to the International Studies family over 60 new undergraduate majors and 38 new graduate students. Together you are part of a vibrant community of approximately 300 students, faculty, and staff that call International Studies at the University of San Francisco (ISatUSFCA) home.
International Studies Global Potluck Dinner, Spring 2016
I am often asked by students, parents, and employers what benefits there are to an undergraduate or graduate degree in International Studies. There are many answers I can give to this question, but the one I want to mention today concerns the big picture reality of the world we live in and why a degree in IS is essential to address these problems.
Anyone paying attention to the news over the summer can probably identify a number of global issues that need new solutions, concrete action, and dedicated advocates. So many events occurred across the globe this summer that provide a clear demonstration of why an interdisciplinary, multi-method, knowledge and skills-based education in International Studies from the USF is an excellent choice. Just some of these include: the ongoing war in Syria and the corresponding refugee crisis; the attempted coup in Turkey and the crackdown on the freedom of expression and due process rights; the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom to pull the country out of the European Union; the continued dispute over the islands in the South China Sea; the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the spread of the Zika virus; the United Nations admitting responsibility in the cholera outbreak in Haiti; and the United States Presidential elections.
Each of these events contains multiple facets touching on issues of development, human rights, environmental justice, culture and identity, power dynamics, international law and organizations, the global-local connection, the global economic system, and relationships between a variety of state and non-state actors. Tackling any of these issues from the perspective of a single disciplinary lens, while able to provide some valuable insight, is not enough. The issues facing us today are complex and solutions are going to come from taking a broad perspective that encompasses many different fields and many different opportunities.
The degree programs in International Studies at USF do just that. As an interdisciplinary department, both our undergraduate and graduate programs draw on faculty expertise across disciplines so students are exposed to the very variety of approaches to issues that is needed in our complex world. In the department, we have faculty with expertise in political science, international and comparative law, cultural anthropology, indigenous rights issues, refugee issues, art history, globalization, colonialism, political and diplomatic history, food security and sustainability, environmental studies, mega events and infrastructures, and conflict resolution. This cross-disciplinary variety means that students in our program are exposed to different perspectives that provide a greater breadth and depth of expertise to address those issues that matter most to them. As you begin your studies this fall, you will start to see the benefits of these different approaches to addressing global crises.
In addition to the interdisciplinary approach to tackling global issues, we are continually working to provide our students with the skills they needs to hit the ground running in their chosen profession after graduating from USF. The fall semester is full events designed to provide students with the resources and skills they need to succeed including two internship and career workshops, a brown-bag lunch on applying to graduate school and law school, and talk by a non-profit leader on careers in NGOs. For Spring 2017 we are offering a new 2 unit course open to both graduate and undergraduate students on Human Rights Advocacy Skills designed specifically to provide students with skills such as grant writing, advocacy plans, and writing OpEds.
Tracy Harding, Regional Director, Office of Foreign Missions, U.S. Department of State speaks to students about careers in diplomacy and the Peace Corps, February 2016
It won’t be all work though! We have lots of fun events planned for the fall as well to give you a chance to engage with your fellow IS folks in a more relaxed setting. Our first department social will take place on September 8 in the Getty Lounge. Come meet all the new students and reconnect with old friends! On September 23 and October 7 join us to cheer on fellow International Studies students playing for USF men’s soccer and women’s volleyball. We are also planning events to engage with International Studies alumni, a writing day to help you prepare for finals, and talks by a diverse array of USF faculty and visiting lecturers.
Alumni Mixer at Barrelhead Brewhouse, September 2015
We have an exciting year planned and we hope you are looking forward to it as much as we are! We know there are many, many serious problems around the world and sometimes it can be hard to maintain the perspective and optimism needed to address them. Our goal as International Studies faculty and staff is to provide you with the knowledge and the tools you need to make positive change in the world, work for social justice, and live your best life as a global citizen. We look forward to going on this journey with you this year!
Professor Dana Zartner, Chair, International Studies Department