November 11, 2005
The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University have designated international education and environmental studies as their first signature academic programs. The designations are part of a strategic planning initiative to strengthen interdisciplinary programs.
Demand for international education is very high both among students and faculty at CSB/SJU, who travel “global pathways” that tie together academic learning and field experiences. Study abroad at CSB/SJU combines faculty-led overseas programs with a very high student participation rate. Before graduating, some 50 percent of all CSB/SJU students will pass through one of CSB/SJU’s 17 semester-long programs located in 13 countries across six continents. Over the past eight years, both the number of countries and students enrolled in study abroad programs have doubled. For the past two years, CSB/SJU has been among the top three undergraduate liberal arts colleges nationally for number of students studying abroad, including nearly twice the national average at CSB.
“Signature status will increase both the breadth and quality of our study abroad options, as well as support global internships, research and intercultural experiential activities,” noted Kristi Kremers, CSB/SJU global education coordinator.
The benefits to environmental studies from signature program status come in two initial elements. Environmental studies is currently searching for a faculty leader in the area of environmental geography, which will add an entirely new discipline to the campuses, while also supporting core work in the discipline. The second piece is that environmental studies has been given approval to join the National Council on Science and the Environment, a Washington-based organization that is emerging as the national coordinating body for environmental studies programs.
Physical resources clearly distinguish CSB/SJU from most other environmental studies programs in the nation, including important attributes like the Saint John’s Arboretum, CSB campus woods and the nearby Mississippi River.
“We view signature status as a sign that the hard work of program faculty over the past five years has paid off,” said Derek Larson, CSB/SJU environmental studies program director. “We've done a great deal with faculty effort and student enthusiasm; this recognizes our past success and positions us well to move into the future as we respond both to the global environmental crisis and the growing student interest in learning how we may best address the problems that threaten the community of life on our planet.”