MU's intercultural studies program was recently renamed the global studies program. But the switch is more than a name change. I sat down with Global Studies Chair Dr. Greg Burch for the full scoop.
How is global studies different from intercultural studies?
Global studies provides students with everything intercultural studies did, but changing the name opened up the opportunity to add five concentrations:
- Global Ministry
- Children at Risk
- Culture and Diversity
- Applied Linguistics
- International Regional Studies
These concentrations are interdisciplinary. So a student might take an English class on minority voices. Or say you have a student who wants to work in the Middle East after they graduate. Now they can spend a semester over there. Want to translate the Bible? Applied Linguistics will teach you how to preserve culture while giving the written word of God to those who haven't had access to it. Our concentrations provide students with better skills to work in their area of interest.
Why was this change made?
Over the past couple of years our department has been researching a way forward for our program given the complexities of our globalized world. We noted that the intercultural studies program had remained virtually unchanged for a number of years, so we assessed the program through student focus groups and one-on-one interviews. We got the sense that the current program was not connecting as well as it could with this generation of students who were living in a highly complex mission environment.
What kind of feedback were you getting from these focus groups and one-on-one meetings?
Students talked about needing practical skills and a targeted education. Now these concentrations get to the skills they wanted. We’ve also indicated potential career options around each concentration.
Another thing they mentioned was having redundant classes. So I removed an entire class and combined other classes.
What are you most excited about as you move forward?
The Children at Risk concentration. I’ve worked with street children and children at risk for over 10 years. That’s what God has made me for. This concentration prepares them for national and international work with kids.
We’re also enlarging the opportunities students will have for vocational ministry and marketplace jobs. I’m excited about the fact that we’re getting beyond that secular/sacred divide in missions that was so ingrained in many of our Bible colleges and seminaries. We have come to realize that we must engage with our culture and world in vocations that are relevant to where people are at.
Some students are not in the position to raise support for missions the traditional way. But there are things they can do beyond missions work. Their calling can be found in governmental or secular organizations. They can have salaries and still serve Christ in their mission. Others will still feel called to serve with faith-based missions agencies, and we still prepare people for support raising and missionary service.
There is a crisis in missiological education today. The culture of missions is changing, but a lot of missions programs haven’t changed. We’re trying to get ahead of the curve, and we’re trying to engage where we are today without watering anything down.
Who is this program for?
If you’re interested in serving people, working with ethnic groups, church-planting, international vocations — this is critical for you. You’ll be given the tools to thrive. If you want to be a transforming force in the world, these classes will help. Each concentration has its values and provides practical skills in those areas.
What are the benefits of getting the Bible and theology major with the global studies major?
You’ll be well-rounded. You’ll become someone who loves God’s Word. And if you work with non-faith-based organizations, where you might be a minority as a Christian, developing habits of spiritual discipline will be all the more important.
Also, understanding global theology helps us understand what other people are thinking, so we’re not surprised with different ways of processing. We need to think openly when learning from the global church. Our faculty does a wonderful job preparing students for that.
Join the party
The Global Studies Department is having a celebration/informational meeting, and you're invited!
Friday March 13
10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.*
Bradley Hall, B3
Intercultural studies students will learn about transitioning to global studies, and others can hear details about the new program. There will also be food, music and a time of international worship.
*This time counts toward chapel credits