Beginning this fall, the German and Russian Departments at Bates are combining forces under the newly-minted Program in European Studies. This change aims to “reinforce the College’s mission to engage students in a journey of intellectual discovery and informed global awareness.”

In the same vein as American Cultural Studies, Women and Gender Studies, or French and Francophone studies, the European Studies is an “interdisciplinary and multi-faceted program that broadens students’ understanding of the region and encourages them to question assumptions about Europe’s role in the world.”

Current global affairs affirm the Department’s assertion that “Europe plays a major role on the global stage and has significant cultural and political influence.” Furthermore, history proves, “the establishment of the European Union and the negotiating of national identities are recent, contentious steps towards greater political, economic, and cultural collaboration.”

The Department flaunts its interdisciplinary approach with its inclusion of attention to “national politics, cultures, histories, sports and entertainment, arts, economics, and languages which have all played a part in defining what Europe is today and will become tomorrow.”

The major in European Studies (EUS) consists of 11 courses including a senior thesis. These are grouped as: 1) foundation courses, 2) language courses, 3) electives, and 4) seminar and thesis.

The “gateway” course for EUS “introduces students to major themes in European studies, considering the dynamic processes by which Europe and European identities have been defined since the Cold War.” The course examines “how Europe has changed in the wake of new economic and political realities, with the formation of international organizations, and in the face of shifting ethnic, religious, and cultural landscapes.”

As to be expected, all EUS majors must complete either four courses above the 100 level in one of the following languages: French, German, Russian, or Spanish; or 2 credits above the 100 level in 2 of these languages. Study abroad is encouraged but not a requirement.

Associate Professor of Russian, Dennis Browne, explains that the process of installing the EUS major took several years. He explains, “We actually started over a decade ago with meetings among interested faculty from the languages, history, politics, sociology, theatre, and economics departments.”  The most recent activity culminating in the proposal to create an interdisciplinary program began about three years ago.

Browne “would not call the process difficult” but explains that it “just takes time.” “You need to meet with as many potential stake-holders as possible, listen to students, gather data from other schools as well as enrollment figures here at Bates, determine the parameters of the program, meet with the Dean of the Faculty and Division Chairs, and present a proposal to the Educational Policy Committee, which decides whether or not to move a proposal on to the Faculty for a vote.

When asked about foreign language enrollments at Bates, Browne spoke to the fact that they are not as high as they were 20-30 years ago but that this applies to higher education in the USA in general.  German has remained fairly steady over the years but Russian dropped in the late 1990s, but has risen again to levels similar to what they were in the 1980s.  “The boom in Russian Studies throughout the US was during the transition years – Gorbachev, glasnost, perestroika.”  Browne concludes, “My sense is that the study of some languages in the US appears to be closely tied to international events – I would count Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and even German in that category.”