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Global Connections

02/13/2014 03:12 PM

At first blush, South Hall seems like just another attractive campus building near the LSU Indian Mounds. But inside this particular new residence hall, students are practicing their language skills, debating world issues and engaging in thoughtful discussions with faculty members and classmates. South Hall is the home of the Global Connections Residential College, a program that gives incoming freshmen from the College of Humanities & Social Sciences the opportunity to sharpen their global awareness in an dynamic living-learning environment. 


Opened in Fall 2012, Global Connections is the newest of several residential colleges at LSU. Others were created to serve specific disciplines such as agriculture, basic sciences, business, engineering, mass communication and information technology. The purpose of Global Connections, in contrast, is to better prepare stuents from any H&SS major for life and work in an increasingly global society. The program encourages participants to connect local issues with international ones, broaden their perspectives and think beyond their comfort zones. 


Now in its second year of operation, Global Connections has continued to expand and hone its focus. 


"We're very pleased with the growth of the program from last year to this year," says Global Connections Rector and Associate Professor of history Meredith Veldman. "We successfully filled all of our 90 spots, and we had a waiting list."


During its first year, Global Connections was open to all majors and minors, but this year, the residential college began limiting enrollment to students from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. This change has made it easier for students to enroll in the core coursework established by the College, and has created a cohesive intellectual community, says Veldman.


Rooted in the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge, residential colleges place students in smaller halls and houses where they live, study, relax and eat together. Many American universities, including large schools like LSU, have incorporated the model as a way to bring a smaller more intimate scale to what can seem an overwhelming college experience. Residential college students tend to establish meaningful connections with fellow students, faculty members and the community at large, which in turn helps them become more engaged in their coursework. 


In the Global Connections Residential College, students enjoy the same opportunities as other LSU freshman, with the added benefit of enrichment activities, special courses, networking and special projects centered on international affairs. 


For example, students in the program are able to take core classes like English, anthropology, political sciences, geography and other disciplines in smaller settings, often in the South Hall itself, where faculty members present material through an international prism. Faculty have jumped at the chance to teach these classes, says Veldman, because they, too, appreciate smaller class sizes and the chance to work with students who are passionate about world affars. Moreover, because the students live and learn together, they are often more comfortable participating in classroom discussions than students who don't have this experience. 

The Global Connections residential college features regular "Cookies and Conversation" nights in which faculty members lead students in discussion on events with a global theme, including topics such as, "What's it really like to live with socialized healthcare?" Future topics, says Veldman, include the continuing conflict in Syria, as well as a discussion on headscarves in modern Islamic culture. 


In February, Global Connections will present a weeklong series of events on the issue of immigration, culminating in a lecture from Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks, USA. Jacoby is considered a thought leader on liberalizing US immigration laws to prevent brain drain. And in late March, Global Connections will host Deborah Perkin, a British independent filmmaker whose film, "Bastards" covers the issue of illegitimate children in Morocco, where sex outside of marriage is illegal and children born out of wedlock are outcasts. The story covers one illiterate, but spirited, woman's fight to restore full citizenship for her daughter, born after leaving her violent common-law husband.


Veldman says many of the Global Connections students have networked with the International Cultural Center and have conducted interviews with foreign nationals on campus. Both experiences have revealed the rich international community that exists on the LSU campus. 


"We are continuing to find new ways to bring international awareness to the campus community and to our students," says Veldman. "We are very encouraged about the direction of the program."