Committee brings together International Studies majors

A new majors’ committee creates a support group and space for students dedicated to one of Vassar’s interdisciplinary majors programs. The International Studies (IS) Majors’ Committee was created last semester.

“The committee didn’t really get started until October when the applications to be an IS major were already due. The IS Majors committee is new this year, so I think we are still trying to find our place and our voice,” said Committee Chair Natalie Allen ’13 in an emailed statement.

Committee members and IS faculty are concerned with the lack of unity within the International Studies Department due to its interdisciplinary nature. Of this, junior International Studies major Janet Kanzawa ’14 said, “The one downfall about the interdisciplinary aspect of the major is that there is not much of a sense of community among majors, as there is no guaranteed coursework overlap until the fall semester of senior year.”

Though the committee just got its start recently, it immediately took action.

Kanzawa expressed satisfaction with last semester’s mixer. “I enjoyed meeting some of the sophomores who had just been accepted into the IS Major… it was well-attended by current IS Majors,” she said.

Already the committee has successfully gotten a number of IS majors in contact with one another. These type of events, which usually include food, provide not only a free meal, but also a chance for students to discuss their majors, correlates and general related interests. This semester, Allen said, the Committee is hoping to come up with academic courses that would be required for all the IS majors.

“This semester we hope to look at the intro and seminar and try to make some recommendations to improve both classes; and perhaps recommend a third course that could bring IS majors together,” Allen stated.

Majors have the  freedom to study whatever they like as long as they complete certain requirements: They must take an introduction to international studies course, travel abroad and complete the language requirement. This flexibility leads to many students taking a myriad of academic paths with little to no interaction with other members of the department.

“Because International Studies is as interdisciplinary as a program can be, it is really interesting to speak to other IS majors to find out what their interests are and how they have chosen to shape their study of the world,” said Kanzawa.

The Committee is leaning on the internet to unite the department, so the majors are able to share some of their experiences with one another, though the committee hopes to collaborate with the International Steering Committee to create events for the spring semester.

To inspire unity among its members, thecommittee organized a Junior Year Abroad panel for sophomores interested in going abroad last semester. Communication between upperclassmen and underclassmen can be extremely helpful within academic departments, especially those lacking connection between students. Allen stated, “Officially the committee started to handle some important, but fairly routine things, such as recruiting Peer Advisers for the peer advising system…” Along with this communal level work the major has participated in outreach to the campus on a whole. She continued, “I would like to see them continue to work on building an IS community and to start working more closely with the Steering Committee to improve the major as a whole.”

Kanzawa is eager to connect with her IS classmates. She said, “I am looking forward to taking the required IS Senior Seminar to hopefully get to know my fellow IS majors in the ‘14 class and create a strong community that we can continue to be a part of as we embark on our diverse career paths.”

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