If you’re already confused by Bates’ educational requirements, consider this: you now have two more majors to choose from.
The first of these two majors is European Studies. While the major is new as of this year, it has been in the works for quite some time. According to Professor Francisca Lopez in the Spanish Department, the Faculty has been discussing the idea for seven or eight years.
The impetus to finally create a distinct new major came during a restructuring of Bates’ language departments. Previously, languages at Bates were divided into two broad categories: one consisting of Romance and Classical languages, and the other consisting of German, Russian, and East Asian languages. However, when the Asian Studies program emerged, Asian languages became a subset of that department, leaving the remaining languages to reconfigure themselves. “At that point, creating a European major to incorporate other languages and all other departments that deal with Europe seemed to make sense,” said Lopez.
Lopez added that Dennis Browne and Craig Decker, professors of Russian and German, respectively, were instrumental in this process. Professor Browne is currently teaching an FSA in St. Petersburg. Because the idea of European Studies was not new to Faculty and the administration, the major was easily approved. “The administration was very open to the creation of this major,” Lopez said. “And it really didn’t take much. It was just a matter of lining up courses. There was no money for extra faculty or personnel, so we had to work with the resources we had.”
The requirements for European Studies are similar to those of other majors. Students must take two “foundation courses,” one of which is a retooled FYS called “Introduction to European Studies.” The other core course is “Europe, 1789 to the Present,” which is taught in the History Department. Aside from those, students can choose from a vast array of elective courses cross-listed in economics, politics, literature, and history.
Students must also study one or more European languages. The language requirement can be fulfilled either by taking two courses above the 200 level in two European languages or by taking four courses above the 200 level in one language. Finally, like in most other majors, students must take seminars and write a thesis. Currently, the seminars that count toward the major are all taught in departments affiliated with the European Studies program.
The head of the new program, Spanish Professor David George, said that other departments cross-listed in European studies have all been supportive of the new major. “A lot of people are teaching about issues related to contemporary Europe, but maybe have not had a network to make connections. European Studies gives us this network to make those important connections.”
In addition to bridging gaps between academic departments, the new major also caters directly to student interest. “There are a significant number of students interested in interdisciplinary issues. In the past we’ve had people who majored in two or three areas, so this particular major would satisfy those students who wish to not simply study in one single discipline, but in several at an advanced level,” said French Professor Mary Rice-DeFosse, the Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Moving forward, George wants to make the major more visible to new students. Among his and his colleagues’ plans to promote the major are a lecture series, films, and information sessions during the major declaration period.
The second new major to hit the course catalogue is Latin American Studies (LAS). According to the head of the department, Professor of Environmental Studies Sonja Pieck, the new major was officially approved last fall, but the discussion about such a program began as early as 2007.
Since then, Pieck says, a “multi-year effort” has been underway to build the program. Pieck and the committee tasked with developing the new major gathered information from students and faculty, studied LAS programs at other institutions, and even received two grants from the Mellon Innovation Fund to host symposia, film series, and to pay for a retreat, during which the committee generated its initial proposal. With proposal in hand, Pieck and her colleagues made their case before the Education Policy Committee. The major was later approved by a faculty vote.
Pieck says the new major reflects student and faculty interests alike. “We have many students who are academically interested in the region, either through courses here at Bates, a study abroad experience in Latin America, or through a more personal connection — family ties, for example — to the region.” Pieck went on to say that many faculty at Bates have similar connections, which further prompted the college to develop its LAS program. Pieck noted that Bates’ peer schools—Colby, Bowdoin, and other NESCACs — have also put together similar courses of study.
Furthermore, Pieck thinks the interdisciplinary approach — an approach she says is increasingly common in academia these days—will also help to “challenge ethnocentric attitudes” and encourage students to ask thorny questions about “conquest,” “resistance,” and especially “globalization,” a concept Pieck sees as particularly pertinent today.
“With the demographic shifts we are seeing, Latin American countries, their economies, their cultures, and their natural resources are becoming even more important to understanding the U.S. and the world.”
Like the European Studies major, the LAS major requires a combination of core courses, electives, and a thesis. Students must take five core courses in a range of departments in order to provide a “panoramic view of Latin America,” in Professor Pieck’s words.
In addition to these core courses, students must also narrow their focus into one of three concentrations—Race, Gender, and Ethnicity; Cultural Representations; or Power: Imposition and Contestation. The idea, according to Professor Pieck, is for these concentrations to provide the foundation for a student’s thesis work come senior year.
Currently only one student has declared the LAS major. Junior Rebecca O’Neil said she entered Bates intending either to double major in Spanish and History or to design her own interdisciplinary major. But by the end of her sophomore year, the LAS major was approved, and O’Neil found that she was actually far along in completing its requirements, particularly in the “Power: Imposition and Contestation” concentration.
O’Neil says she wishes to explore the region’s political, cultural, and economic history in ways that would be impossible in any single department. Becoming better versed in these intersecting areas, she hopes, will prepare her for a possible thesis about Nicaraguan female immigrants working in Costa Rica, where O’Neil is currently studying.