International studies major moves closer to reality


Shippensburg University students are one step closer to being able to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international studies.

The SU Council of Trustees approved the creation of the major, tentatively scheduled to begin this fall, at its March 15 meeting. The proposal now needs final approval by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors; that could come in April.

The addition of a major to SU’s international studies program, which started in 1996, is a natural and needed progression, according to Jonathan Skaff, professor of history and director of international studies.

Currently, the program offers a 21-credit minor and four 12-credit letters of completion — in African and Middle Eastern studies, Asian studies, European studies, and Latin American and Caribbean studies.

Ninety-two students were enrolled in the minor in spring 2012, up from just 14 students a decade earlier. A survey of those in the minor last year found that more than half said they would become majors if the opportunity existed, according to the proposal for establishing the major.

“I believe that the major is an exciting development for students at our university. Offering an international studies major will create new opportunities for students interested in deepening their study of international affairs,” Skaff said.

“The major will better prepare students for an international career than the current minor because it will have study-abroad and intermediate foreign language requirements. Another advantage is the interdisciplinary nature of the major. As a result, it will be feasible for students to double-major in related fields such as geography, history, French, political science and Spanish,” Skaff said.

Shippensburg has 122 courses in international studies spread across 21 disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences, the John L. Grove College of Business and the College of Education and Human Services — more than enough for a major, Skaff said.

SU students also could take classes in Chinese and Arabic through collaboration with California and East Stroudsburg universities.

The new major would enhance efforts by SU and PASSHE to keep the university’s curriculum current and expand prospects for international understanding, according to the proposal. It also would provide graduates with the education and skills sought by businesses and organizations throughout Pennsylvania, including the south central region, that have multinational operations.

Tracy Schoolcraft, associate provost and dean of graduate studies, said the PASSHE board must approve a new major after a vote by an individual university’s trustees. The board will consider the proposal at its April 10 meeting.

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