By Alyssa Pawluk
On Feb. 19, Paul Sracic, chair of the department of politics and international relations, and Jane Kestner, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, proposed a plan to the Board of Trustees to rename and refocus CLASS.
The proposal calls for changing the name of the college — from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to the College of International and Public Affairs.
Sources indicate that this proposal would serve two functions: to provide an opportunity for the creation of new majors and to generate recruiting strategies, which could effectively expand the international studies program.
“It’s in the idea stage. So it’s not at the point of going up for a vote or anything like that. Part of [the plan] would be to give an academic home to the international studies program and then part of the focus is on public behavior, public policy,” Kestner said.
Collaboration Among the College’s Departments
Departments in the college include economics, English, foreign language and literatures, geography, history, philosophy and religious studies, political science, psychology, sociology, anthropology and gerontology.
Sracic said that the new name would not affect the mission of these departments, but would, instead, acknowledge that synergies exist among them.
“Well, I think they do cater to international to a degree. If you look at the course catalogs, you see a lot of courses on the book from those departments that have international conventions. In terms of psychology, honestly a lot of international relations rely quite a bit on psychological theories and studies,” Sracic said. “There is a commonality. The same thing with anthropology; there is a real international dimension to that also. With public affairs, I think psychology certainly has a role with that. It has an interest in public policy. There’s a tie-in.”
Julia Gergits, chair of the English department, is in agreement for the refocus of the college for this proposed plan.
“More important [than changing the college’s name] is the brainstorming for a mission that reflects the strengths of the college, its departments and programs. This mission offers an opportunity for more interdisciplinary programs that would engage departments not just from our college but all around campus,” Gergits said.
Gergits added that the English department plays a role in this process.
“When the college chairs talked about this refocusing of the mission, we were not thinking about how it would ‘cater to the needs of’ any single department. We were discussing what is in the best interest of all of our students and the region. English has a part to play in this too,” Gergits said.
Increasing International Enrollment
Sracic explained that another part of this proposal would focus on bringing the Center for International Studies into this new college — which may positively impact international student enrollment.
Sracic said he wants YSU to increase its international reach by collaborating with other universities located around the world.
“When you form these kinds of relationships, it makes it much easier to recruit students because the administration at your sister or partnering university learns more about you then what you are offering and becomes comfortable recommending to their students that they study at YSU,” he said. “It’s part of establishing international relationships. If you look around the state of Ohio and see the universities that are doing really well in international enrollment, and what you’ll see from the Columbus Dispatch is that we are basically at the bottom. That’s what is triggering the idea that we have to do something. We have to make some kind of a change to do better in international enrollment than what we are doing right now.”
Martin Abraham, interim provost of the university, added that YSU has to improve its efforts to attract students from outside the region to increase enrollment.
“We have to do better as a university in bringing enrollment from outside of the region that we have always attracted students from. The demographics within our two county region, five county region — they work against us. If we just look at our traditional market, our enrollment is going to continue to go down because we have fewer students to select from. It means we have to broaden our footprint. Working on the international market is part of broadening our footprint,” Abraham said.
Creating New Areas of Study
In addition to refocusing the college’s mission, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration among its departments and attracting more international students, Sracic said that the proposal would also look to develop a major and a minor in international studies.
“One of the things that we are also interested in is developing an international studies major and minor. It would be multidisciplinary. You’d be taking classes in all the different departments in CLASS that would contribute to an international studies major or minor, and that would be one of the things that would be proposed in this new college,” Sracic said.
But the power to establish a new major is not entirely in the hands of CLASS.
“There are several committees that you have to go through. It’s not in the power of the single college to decide it’s going to have a new major. It has to be approved by Academic Senate committees,” Sracic said.
Cost of the Proposal
Abraham added that the cost of this proposal would not be in renaming and refocusing the mission.
“Changing the name of a college probably really doesn’t cost us anything. Minor types of things … you might have to change some logos and some papers. There’s really no cost associated with it. If we are simply talking about changing a name, there’s no cost implications,” Abraham said.
But bringing in additional employees to work in an expanded international exchange program might require the spending of university dollars. Sources suggest, however, that successfully bolstering international enrollment numbers will result in a net gain for the university.
“Overall, what we are saying is that over four years, we are proposing that the net profit of the university will be over $4 million,” Sracic said.
Support for the Proposal
Gary Swegan, associate vice president for enrollment planning and management at YSU, said that there are a number of ways that the proposal could increase international enrollment.
“I think international runs the same way on the previous method that I came from. International is seen in three ways. Number one, it helps to mitigate some of the demographic declines that we see in Ohio as we have fewer and fewer high school graduates. It gives you another market in essence to tap into, and it’s a market that allows for great diversity on campus and exposes our domestic students to a different perspective and all of the good reasons why you want to diversify in a lot of ways,” Swegan said. “Certainly it can’t be refuted that that is a different stream of revenue because those students are not only out of state but paying out-of-state fees. An awfully high percentage of international students that come in … they are pretty much full pay students so we have a bottom line attraction to them.”
Abraham expressed his sentiment on the proposal.
“I can take this international recruiting component and separate it into several parts. The first is an interest in doing recruiting internationally. Bringing international students — that is essential. I think a lot of what Dr. Sracic has proposed in terms of bringing international, the ways we go about bringing international students, can work. I think that part is very much an interest to us,” Abraham said. “So restructuring the college, giving it a different mission, changing the name, I’m perfectly happy to explore that. We are not going to make that change without involving the faculty and having a much broader conversation across the university of what the implications would be.”
Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, director of the philosophy and religious studies department, said he had spoken to the chairs of CLASS about Sracic’s idea during a committee meeting.
“All of the chairs got on board. … There are national trends going in this direction. I think it is a wonderful idea,” Palmer-Fernandez said. “We should be going after international students.”