Middle East studies in the News
Drury Offers Unique Multidisciplinary Learning Opportunities [incl. Jeff VanDenBerg]
by Max Accardi
Drury University prides itself on providing a comprehensive liberal arts education, and an integral part of liberal arts is the incorporation of subject matter from many different disciplines into each student's academic experience. These values are reflected in Drury's robust set of majors and minors, which offer quality experiences tailored to students' interests. Many of the programs Drury offers are interesting and unique among similar institutions, and Mirror staff had the opportunity to talk with the professors in charge of some of Drury's most interesting areas of study.
One of the programs most critical to Drury's values is Global and Transnational Studies. Global and Transnational Studies is a minor program that focuses on the way curriculum relates to world issues. Dr. Raymond Patton, an assistant professor of history and director of the program, explained the development of the program: "Global and Transnational Studies came about when we were revising our general education curriculum and developing the CORE program. We developed Global and Transnational Studies to pull students together from different parts of the university, so we have a really diverse set of students with different interests."
After completing the first two years of CORE curriculum, Global and Transnational Studies students select a focus area, such as "Power and Poverty," and complete more specialized coursework relating to that field of study. "Drury is really a leader of globalized education in the academic world, and this program does a great job of showcasing that," Dr. Patton said.
Another of Drury's unique programs is the Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor. "The program came about because of a shared passion for the medieval and renaissance time period among faculty from a lot of different departments," described Dr. Shelley Wolbrink, a professor of history and director of the program. "Students from all different departments find ways to use their areas of study to explore the middle ages. For instance, pre-med students might find a class on medieval medicine and the Black Death interesting."
The program involves professors from several areas of the university, ranging from French professor Kathy Blunk to Dr. William Gavin, Drury's archivist. In addition to multidisciplinary classes, faculty for the Medieval and Renaissance study program host events, like a yearly screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and present research at conferences.
A third multidisciplinary program Drury offers is Middle East Studies. The Middle East has been a critical region for US foreign policy and political discussion for decades, and is a natural focus for study. "Drawing on many academic disciplines is essential to any area studies program because the purpose is to gain a deep and rich understanding of the region," said Dr. Jeff VanDenBerg, Chair of the Political Science Department and Director of Middle East Studies. "It is the multidisciplinary nature of the program that allows students to use their training in Middle East Studies towards such wide ranging careers."
In addition to courses in diverse subjects like literature and women and gender studies, Dr. VanDenBerg emphasized the minor's focus on Arabic. "We are proud to have been granted a Fulbright Visiting Arabic professor for the past eleven years. This prestigious and highly competitive program (sponsored by the US State Department) brings language teachers from the Middle East to teach Arabic at American universities and serve as cultural ambassadors between the US and the Arab world."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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