ESIA urged to extend curriculum

Students in GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs are calling for additions to the school’s curriculum, appealing for courses that focus on areas of the world they say currently are ignored by the school.

But student proposals for the addition of a new concentration may encounter obstacles as existing programs face possible cuts.

“I can say the Elliott School is international, but (the curriculum) is heavily concentrated in Europe and the selection in other regions just isn’t there,” said Kavita Patel, a peer adviser in the Elliott School.

Patel said the core curriculum focuses on Western Europe and lacks courses that focus on regions like Latin America and the Middle East.

ESIA’s billing as an international program means it should offer at least one class related to each part of the world, Patel said.

Students interested in studying South Asia – one region they say is excluded from the schedule of classes – have taken action to advocate the development of a new ESIA concentration.

The Asian Political Issues Liaison, the student group that proposed the new concentration, has pushed the issue since the beginning of the academic year.

“Having a South Asian program will open people’s eyes,” said Ami Shah, APIL organizer. “Students in the United States don’t really learn about these areas or the role they play in the world without such programs.”

Sophomore Sajit Gandhi, who has created his own South Asian concentration, said GW is remiss in failing to tailor a South Asia program, an area he said is increasingly gaining prominence in world politics and economics.

But ESIA administrators must grapple to find sources to fund new programs.

ESIA Dean of Curricular Affairs Edward McCord said the school must raise $3 million for one full-time professor or several hundred thousand dollars to fill an endowment to hire part-time professors.

The school previously has raised funds from outside the institution to add Japanese and East Asian history concentrations, McCord said.

But it took years to raise the money the Elliott School needed to establish the classes for its new concentration. To fulfill a concentration, a student must complete at least 15 credit hours.

Shah said members of APIL have been surprised by the obstacles they have confronted in their push for the new concentration – especially because they perceive student interest to be high.

A growing number of South Asian students attend GW, and a significant number of them show interest in a studying the region, Shah said.

Courses at nearby universities like Georgetown University are the only option these students have, she said.

“It takes a highly motivated student to trek to Georgetown to take (classes for) their concentration,” Shah said.

Gandhi said he has used all his options to fulfill his concentration in South Asian studies, completing his requirements through consortium classes and a study abroad program in India next semester.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Gandhi said. “I pay a lot of money, and I should be able to take the classes I want at GW.”

But rather than adding more courses to its curriculum, ESIA is looking to scale down its programs by cutting its international communication concentration.

Sophomores and juniors who entered ESIA before the program’s cancellation still can request the concentration.

But students are advised that since the core courses for the concentration are offered only in the summer, they may not have all the requirements by graduation, said Pam Allen, director of Elliott School academic advising and student services.

“Basically, the program wasn’t beneficial to our students,” said Allen. “Our main focus is to make sure the concentrations are international and this one just wasn’t.”

ESIA plans to review the possibility of reinstating the program, but currently the program is closed, Allen said.

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