December 1, 2020

Webster Deans want international perspective in all degrees

Keith Welsh, religious studies professor at Webster University, does not believe he can reach Webster’s goal to establish a global degrees program for every current degree program by the 2014-15 academic year. Webster administration presented the goal of adding a “significant global feature” to every Webster University program to faculty and staff at the Academic Assembly on Oct. 15.
Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Schuster, along with the five Webster deans: David Carl Wilson, College of Arts and Sciences; Benjamin Akande, School of Business and Technology; Peter Sargent, College of Fine Arts; Eric Rothenbuhler, School of Communications; and Brenda Fyfe, School of Education, agreed that adding global degree programs is an extreme challenge.
Rothenbuhler said there are hundreds of ways to achieve that goal.
“We need to think through all of our curriculum and make sure that wherever there is a U.S perspective, it’s because we thought it through and chose to do that.” Rothenbuhler said.
Associate Professor Jeff Haldeman said he would like to see a formal structure for what global additions the Deans requested. Akande said the structure would come soon.
Interim Chief Enrollment Officer Robert Parrent said strategic enrollment management fully supports the incorporation of international studies in all academic programs.
“This will indeed become the hallmark of a Webster experience,” Parrent said. “It will be the calling card that makes us the institution of first choice by students who seek a unique global experience.”
History professor Daniel Hellinger and Welsh both said they were confused as to how the Deans plan to turn Webster into an ideal institution for global studies.
“(The Deans) are in a vulnerable position,” Hellinger said. “If you tell us what to do, we’re not going to like it, but you need to give us a little more direction, set priorities and show us commitment.”
Schuster closed the assembly and said the worst move for staff and faculty would be to do nothing.
“We will do this by example,” Schuster said. “It is ok to be doubtful, it is ok to ask tough questions and make tough statements as long as we work together for the betterment of this great university.”
Some faculty members pointed out opportunities that had made their department global in the past, but were cut. Art Department Director Jeffrey Hughes said 40 percent of students in the art department have studied abroad at Webster’s Vienna campus over the past 20 years. But he said the program was cut in recent years due to administrative reasons he did not expand upon.
“Our department lost the impact on what was taught on the international setting,” Hughes said. “It has impeded our ability to go out and tell potential students that this is the primary place that you can have a global art education.”
Director of Study Abroad Guillermo Rodriguez said statistics indicated 65 to 70 percent of Webster students on the St. Louis campus expressed desire to study abroad. Only 23.6 percent of May 2013 graduates actually studied abroad. He said financial restrictions were the main reason people cited for not studying abroad.
One staff member asked why administration has not reconsidered requiring students in all degree programs to take a foreign language. Rothenbuhler said that if this idea were put up for a vote, it would fail.
Graciela Corvalan, professor of international languages and cultures, said she wanted to better understand what being global means. She said she believes it could mean having the ability to converse in one particular country or culture.
Rothenbuhler said being global can mean several different things, but it is a debate that should occur between faculty and staff.

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