by Laura Mortkowitz
A celebration of cultures took place when the area studies program kicked off its first official semester with an information session in the Bart Luedeke Center’s (BLC) Fireside Lounge on Monday.
The area studies program has been in the works since 2006, when Dr. Joseph Nadeau, then dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences, convened a group for the sole purpose of trying to bring an area studies program to Rider.
The new program is a multidisciplinary minor that allows students to immerse themselves in one of three areas: China, Europe or Latin America. The separate area programs focus on more than academic learning; they give students the skills to understand and interact with citizens from those areas.
“The idea is not just to study a number of disciplines; rather, it’s to plunge yourself into an area to get a feel for what the Chinese culture is like, what a European culture is like and what a Latin American culture is like,” said Dr. Barry Seldes, a political science professor and the representative for the European area studies program.
The three areas were chosen based upon the languages that were already being taught at Rider. Upon including Latin America, the faculty members involved with the program hired adjunct instructor Robert L. Ross to teach Latin American politics.
While most students at Rider have to take one or two semesters of a foreign language, an area studies minor would require students to take four semesters of a foreign language.
“We wanted to make it so one could converse in one of the languages,” Seldes said.
Having a minor in the area studies program will give students a step up after they graduate, according to Dr. Barbara Franz, director of the program.
“[Area studies] will allow students to broaden their views and their horizon,” she said. “It will give them an advantage to get a better job when they graduate. Companies look for people with an international outlook.”
In the 21st century, everything is becoming more globalized, and being able to bring everything into an international focus is something that is becoming necessary, Franz said.
“The area studies are more than the courses,” Seldes said. “There will be colloquia, lectures and get-togethers so that you will have the opportunity to converse with others, not only in your own area of study, but the others as well.”
According to the program’s pamphlet, its objective is “to cater to students interested in gaining international experience and succeeding in the global world of the 21st century.” By becoming “citizens of the world,” students can help contribute in the global world.
The program’s three areas are especially important today, according to Seldes. This point was also expressed at the area studies program’s kickoff lecture with Parag Khanna, who spoke about geopolitics and the new global order on Feb. 3 in the Bart Luedeke Center.
The information session also had guest speaker Megan Fettig from Where There Be Dragons, a study-abroad program that specializes in going to developing countries.
This program, which can be either a summer or a semester long, goes to China, India, South America and Africa. The 16-year-old program places students in both urban and rural houses. For instance, in the Andes and Amazon program, students spend more time in the wilderness than in other programs, and they hike from village to village. Fettig encouraged students to “get out there.”
“Learn about a culture that is radically different from your own,” she said.