North Central Self Study
Chapter 5: Criterion Three
The institution is accomplishing its education and other purposes.
Interdisciplinary programs play a significant role in creating an educated citizenry. Not only do these programs provide undergraduate students with a broad exposure to liberal arts courses, but they also are especially suited to prepare students for the demands of a post-modern century increasingly defined by its constant change, globalization, and empowerment of minorities and women. UNK offers three interdisciplinary programs: Honors, International Studies, and Women's Studies.
The Honors Program, founded in 1978, is the oldest of the three interdisciplinary programs at UNK. The program is designed for students of high academic abilities. First-time freshmen must normally have a minimum ACT score of 26 or better and rank in the top 25 percent of their high school class. Continuing freshmen and sophomore students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better. Scholarships and merit awards are integral to the recruitment and success of honors students. The program has experienced steady growth. In the 1990s the program averaged almost 90 students in its in-coming fall classes. Freshmen enrollment has since increased over 50 percent with the current Fall 2003 class at 156 students. The total enrollment for this year of Honors program students in all classes from Freshman to Senior is approximately 450 students which represents a significant increase over the previous decade.
The Honors Program enhances a student's general studies and major discipline by offering courses that are especially designed to encourage independent thinking and intellectual discussion. Small class sizes, alternative teaching methods, and individualized work with faculty create excellent learning opportunities for eager students. As an interdisciplinary program, Honors courses are offered by a variety of academic disciplines. Students have to complete 24 hours of Honors credit, including 9 units completed in their major fields of study. The Honors program also offers interdisciplinary seminars designed to reveal the relationships between various fields of study. For example, a course titled "The Human Genome," designed for either Political Science or Biology General Studies credit, explored the scientific, legal, ethical, economic, and social implications of mapping the human DNA.
Advising for Honors students is provided by both the director and assistant director of the Honors Program and by the student's major department. Honors students are encouraged to live in the Honors Residence Hall where they can experience an academically oriented atmosphere. The Honors Program, furthermore, promotes diversity within the student body by recruiting minority and international students. These culturally diverse and intellectually prepared students play an important role in enhancing the academic experience at UNK for all students.
International Studies is an interdisciplinary program organized around courses that contain an international component. Offered by various departments, these courses prepare students to be knowledgeable about and successful in the global community. Course offerings include classes in foreign languages, world history, international economics and international politics. International Studies majors and minors also participate in study abroad opportunities.
The International Studies program began in Fall 1992 with 10 majors. Enrollment remained steady with 9 students enrolled on average as International Studies majors per semester from 1992 to 2001. Enrollments have increased over 50 percent with the gain in foreign student enrollments at UNK since Fall 2001. The program now averages almost 16 students with declared majors in International Studies. About 20 students per year have participated in study abroad programs since 1991. Summer study abroad programs now attract a similar number of students.
Advising support for International Studies students comes from the Office of International Education and its Director, as well as from academic faculty in the various departments. Students develop a rigorous program that meets both General Studies requirements and allows for an individualized focus in upper-division curricula.
Given the demographic portrait of UNK's student body, the contribution of the International Studies program is especially significant. Since most (over 90 percent) of the University's students come from Nebraska communities that lie outside the state's urban areas of Omaha and Lincoln, their exposure to and experiences with international communities is often limited. With support from the Office of International Education, International Studies students raise campus awareness of global affairs while learning about the global community themselves. They engage their peers in social activities such as the World Affairs Conference-International Food Festival that drew over 3,000 participants in Spring 2003. In the classroom they raise the intellectual caliber of academic discussions with their perspectives on global affairs. Not only does the program aptly serve a local need, it creates opportunities to prepare all students to meet the challenges of globalization.
The Women's Studies program at UNK, initiated in 1989, offers courses that use gender as a point of analysis. Students learn about women and their roles in society, they investigate societal assumptions about these roles, and they explore new theoretical frameworks that are reshaping ideas about gender. Race, ethnicity, social class and sexual orientation are included in such analyses. As an interdisciplinary minor, the Women's Studies Program offers courses from a variety of academic disciplines. Courses such as Women's Literature, American Women's History, Women in Art and the Psychology of Gender have been offered by the English, History, Art and Psychology departments. The program offers an introductory course to Women's Studies and a senior research seminar.
Women's Studies students are required to complete 24 hours of designated Women's Studies courses (6 required; 18 elective hours that must be taken from at least two different departments). The number of students who choose this minor has ranged from 4 in 1996 to 10 in 2003.
The Program did not have an office or meeting area for students during its first 14 years. In 2003 it received an office with an adjacent student meeting area. With continued support from the university as well as active recruitment by the director, the number of students enrolled as Women's Studies minors is expected to increase.
Advising support for Women's Studies minors comes from the program's director. Additional faculty support comes from the various departments and from the Women's Studies Advisory Council. Faculty advising plays an important role in not only mentoring students' curricular development, but also in guiding senior research projects. Faculty members have been instrumental in promoting opportunities for research presentation at scholarly conferences. The "No Limits" Conference, for example, is an annual, intra-University of Nebraska conference that is held in Omaha, Lincoln, and Kearney on a rotating basis. Students have presented research papers as diverse as "What Medical Advertisements Tell Us About Gender Roles," "The Anti-Lynching Theme in Angelina Weld Grimke's Writing," and "French and Spanish Women in North Africa." While gaining valuable experience presenting their research, students also benefit from opportunities to engage in intellectual exchanges with Women's Studies students and faculty from other campuses. Faculty mentoring has also helped Women's Studies minors advance to graduate schools.