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Willamette combines Anthropology and language programs to create Global Cultural Studies

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

Chrissy Ewald

News Editor

Art by Minna Zhou

Starting this past fall semester, Willamette’s smaller language and cultural studies programs are now part of Global Cultural Studies (GCS), a new department that combines cultural anthropology with classes about culture from across the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). Latin American Studies, French and Francophone Studies, Chinese Studies, German, and Russian will all be offered as minors within the GCS department, or as individualized majors that students can design with the help of their faculty advisor. Anthropology is no longer available as either a major or minor for students who enrolled in Fall 2021 or after. In an interview from November 2021, GCS co-Chair and professor of Anthropology, Peter Wogan explained that Anthropology is being discontinued so faculty can put all their energy into GCS. Students who enrolled in the CAS before Fall 2021 who have already declared or are using the course catalogue from the year they enrolled can finish an Anthropology major or minor as described, per university policy.

Spanish and Japanese both remain as university majors and departments: Spanish is a popular major, averaging 22.9 majors per year over the last ten years. Japanese, while less popular, with an average of 7 majors per year, is bolstered by Willamette’s relationship with Tokyo International University of America (TIUA). Over the same time period, German averaged 1.6 majors per year, French and French and Francophone Studies 3.8, Russian 1.2, Chinese Studies 1.6, and Anthropology 17. Greek and Latin remain within the Classical Studies department. Students can major or minor in them by majoring or minoring in Classical Studies or Major in Classical Civilizations.

Students may wonder what Global Cultural Studies is, and how it differs from Anthropology. According to Wogan, it’s pretty similar to Willamette’s old Anthropology program, which was focused on cultural anthropology, now broadened and more flexible. Wogan noted that for the past five or so years, many language courses were cross-listed as Anthropology classes. Those classes were successful, and popular with Anthropology students, so when talks about creating GCS began last year, Wogan and GCS co-Chair and Professor of Latin American Studies, Ana Montero, decided to formalize the then-current cross-departmental collaboration into one department. “We looked at a track record of success and thought, you know, let’s make this more official,” Wogan said. Montero said that students have been telling her for years that they want their education and major to be more interdisciplinary. “I remember when I was teaching the Senior Experience, for instance, in Spanish, students kept asking me for more interdisciplinarity, for more collaboration, and for doing a senior experience that was not just about one language, or one culture,” said Montero. “They really wanted to have a more global perspective.”

“Interdisciplinarity is the future of academia,” Montero said. “Global Cultural Studies is the future, because the world is going more and more into a global perspective of collaboration…Interdisciplinarity is the future of academia, and I think we’re on the cutting edge of this. And we’re very excited that we have been able to create this program because of this reason.”

Last winter, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic and declining enrollment numbers, Willamette’s Board of Trustees gave administration a task: “develop a forward-looking plan for how the CAS curriculum could be delivered at a 13:1 student:faculty ratio,” which the Board believes the school needs in order to be fiscally sustainable, said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ruth Feingold, in an interview in November. Because of declining enrollment, the CAS has about a 10:1 ratio, with small class sizes for several years in a row. Feingold said it will take some time for the shape of the faculty to adjust to the current size of the CAS. While other schools may respond to population changes by hiring adjunct faculty to temporarily fill positions, Feingold said Willamette remains dedicated to hiring faculty for permanent and full-time positions when possible.

Professors, including Montero and Wogan, led the push to create GCS in response to the desires of students and feedback from graduates. Wogan had heard from Anthropology graduates that many people outside academia either did not know what Anthropology was or that they confused it with Archaeology. Though there is overlap with Archaeology, Willamette’s Anthropology program is based in cultural anthropology, otherwise known as living culture. Wogan hopes the new title is “more comprehensible” to prospective students, students at Willamette choosing their major, and to employers post-graduation. “Hopefully it’s sort of self-explanatory,” Wogan said, “and it opens more doors.”

Wogan expressed excitement that so many students are interested in GCS. At the time of the November interviews, there were 11 GCS majors and 4 minors. Wogan said he expected 13 to 14 majors and 5 to 6 minors to surface in the coming weeks after the interview, based on the number of students who expressed interest. “We’ve had a bunch of new inquiries, and it’s just really exciting and encouraging to hear from students saying, ‘Oh yeah, you know, I was doing this course already, and I just didn’t know at the time it would be Global Cultural Studies, and this is perfect. What a perfect major for me.’”

Language classes tend to get more students when they’re cross-listed under other departments. It makes them more visible in the course catalogue and more appealing to students who have not yet taken that language. Montero added that the languages that are now a part of GCS have the same support they did before, plus the additional support provided by the GCS department, including a liaison. Both professors stated that they are excited about upcoming developments within the GCS department, which include collaborations with the Digital Learning Studio (DLS) and possible social media projects.

Though new to Willamette, Global Cultural Studies programs already exist at other colleges and universities across the country, including Duke University, Suffolk University, University of California, Berkeley, and Linfield University in McMinnville, Oregon. Most GCS programs at other universities are humanities-based, and focus on global literature and other cultural products.

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