UW-Stout students must appreciate 'social differences' to graduate

The University of Wisconsin-Stout has added a requirement designed to ensure that its graduates “appreciate cultural, economic, political, environmental, and social differences.”

The new “global perspectives” course is intended to supplement the Racial and Ethnic Studies requirement that all students must complete before graduating from the institution.

As approved by the Faculty Senate last March, applicable courses will teach that inequities are “the impact of globalized capitalism and neoliberalism on economic systems,” and that it is advisable to adjust one’s “worldview" by “knowing and valuing the histories, identities, and values of diverse others.”

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“Understanding global perspectives and how they are formed is not just a prerequisite for becoming a global citizen; it is necessary for becoming an engaged citizen of any local community,” asserts the preamble of the document approving the new mandate, noting that course requirements play “a critical role in helping students develop an understanding of the deeply interconnected nature of the world.”

In order to fulfill the requirement, students must complete at least six credits from a list of approved courses that address at least two out of four categories: Global Self-Awareness, Global Knowledge, Global Viewpoint, and Global Engagement.

“Global self-awareness” courses, for instance, focus on embracing the “values of diverse others,” helping students to “develop appreciation for diverse voices and stories and the contributions of cultures and countries different from one’s own.”

The “global knowledge” goal, meanwhile, addresses “the deeply interconnected nature of the world,” with courses exploring concepts like how “the impact of globalized capitalism and neoliberalism on economic systems, inter and intra-societal stratification, civil and human rights, and sustainability” form the “historical roots” of inequities around the world.

The “global viewpoint” category aims to introduce students to different cultural and historical perspectives, while the “global engagement” element teaches students to “take effective critical action” on the basis of their new knowledge by “contributing to positive change in globally diverse, interconnected, and interdependent natural, social, and business environments.”

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While the new requirement only took effect in Fall 2017, it applies to all students who started a bachelor’s degree program in Fall 2010 or later.

The university’s website already features a list of more than 100 classes that fulfill the mandate, though students also have the option to earn global perspectives credits by taking university-approved study-abroad courses, provided that “the course or course section is approved for global perspectives.”

UW-Stout notes that “with careful planning,” students can take a course that fulfills other graduation requirements in addition to global perspectives, but states that exemptions or waivers require approval from the Associate Vice Chancellor.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @KelseyMcSorley