School of Arts and Sciences

Global Cultural Studies program expands horizon for students

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A hunger for knowledge is at the root of the academic experience at Point Park University. The quest begins within the walls of the University, but extends far into the community, the country and the world as students study and appreciate the differences that make each person unique, but more importantly perhaps, the students also focus on the aspects that unite humanity across the globe.

This awareness, appreciation and connection with others is the foundation for the Global and Cultural Studies program that has been developed under the direction of Channa Newman, Ph.D. A Point Park professor for 43 years, Dr. Newman has a contagious passion for universal principles of justice and equality. The program offers "a multifaceted view of the United States and other regions of the world through a scientific and human centered prism."

This global prism involves lessons in history, world systems, cultures and languages to help students understand different ways of life with insight into global contemporary situations, which despite distinct differences tend to be, in many aspects, similar. The seed for the new degree program was planted more than six years ago when Newman developed a pilot introduction course that focused on the critical analysis of contemporary society with an emphasis on better understanding the dynamics of power and privilege. The class was a great success, says Newman, as students pushed past their limited experience to understand their own culture and those of other peoples around the world.

The new undergraduate degree program has grown with the hiring of several professors and the development of a full range of "outside the box," interdisciplinary courses. One of the most controversial courses is Newman's longstanding class, "Wealthy White Males," which examines the power elite structure in the United States.

"The program is very cutting edge in many ways," explains Newman about presenting courses that make students venture outside of their comfort zone. "Our goal is to not water things down, but to provide a rigorous curriculum rooted in disciplines that take a broad view of the big picture." We aim to empower the students by providing them with the means to become globally competent.

The new curriculum includes courses in global issues, politics, anthropology, languages and various theoretical approaches to understanding our world. Students welcome the opportunity to learn--in depth--such challenging global perspectives.

"Taking these kinds of classes really opens your mind, not only to new experiences but also to new ways of thinking about and viewing the world," says Eric Probola, a junior. "Once you learn about the world in these classes, you are more likely to take note of your own place in the universe and make a difference in the world."

The only university to offer Global Cultural Studies as a cross-disciplinary program, Point Park has attracted a number of new educators. For example, Shubh Mathur, Ph.D. recently joined the Global Studies faculty, which is comprised solely of full-time professors with doctoral degrees. Drawn by the innovative nature of the program, Dr. Mathur will teach courses on such topics as human rights, gender, South Asia and refugees.

"I think it is vital for our students to be able to understand and engage with the larger world, to be able to place their lives and work in a global context, and to be committed and engaged global citizens," notes Mathur. "It's critical in the evolution of American higher education to bring the world to our students and vice-versa in a meaningful way."

Newman would agree with this philosophy as she continues to develop this unique program, which also includes site-specific and course based study abroad experiences.

This article appears in the Spring, 2010 issue of The Point, the magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University.

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