Four North Central faculty from diverse academic areas discuss effects of globalization

Oct 10, 2014

Globalization is “complex, ambiguous, dynamic, gray, complicated, divisive, exciting,” explained North Central College faculty at a recent panel discussion.  

It’s a new world, they said, as they shared how globalization has impacted their different academic disciplines and how they teach.

Throughout the academic year, North Central College is focusing on the issue of globalization as a contested concept—its positive and negative effects. Students can choose courses of study across different disciplines and attend special events dealing with the issue. The panel of four faculty, representing the College’s academic divisions, was the first of such events.

Sohinee Roy, assistant professor of English, noted that until the 1980s, literature was seen as representing national literature, e.g., British or Italian. But things shifted after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Soviet Union in 1991. As borders between nations become blurred, literature moved from a national to a global perspective. “Today’s world is dynamic, not black and white but gray, requiring us to understand its complexities,” said Roy, an expert on 20th century British literature.

When these global events took place, the “lid came off,” said Bill Muck, associate professor of political science/sociology and anthropology. “States had been the most important global actors and the way political scientists understood the world.” All of a sudden, he said, there were new actors we had to account for. International organizations like the United Nations and World Bank, NGOs like Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders, and non-state actors like ISIS and Al-Qaeda were on the scene and things became “very complicated.” In order to understand globalization, Muck said, “our approach has to be interdisciplinary and cross other areas.”

The explosion of technology and the Internet happened about the same time, forever changing global access to science, said Jonathan Visick, professor of biology. “You can’t do science unless you have access to the science. Access has leveled the playing field for the public and for scientists worldwide even if they have limited resources.” In an era of global transportation, deadly diseases such as Ebola are no longer confined to one country. Global health and infectious diseases have become a big topic for science, he pointed out.

North Central’s Robert Moussetis, professor of international business, noted our “very complex” world requires people to know about history, culture, politics, geography, literature and current affairs. “Knowing strict business isn’t enough in today’s global marketplace. To be successful, more businesses are asking for sociologists, language experts, psychologists and philosophers—those with a liberal arts education—because they can adapt to this new world.”

Interdisciplinary studies are an important part of a North Central College liberal arts education. Sometimes team-taught, these courses cross departmental boundaries and develop a holistic approach to studying an issue or solving a problem.

“The entire world is our playground,” said Moussetis, “and we need to develop new ways to approach and adapt to it.” Roy cautioned, “We need to be sensitive in our approach and understanding. We have to step back and slow down to understand the complexities.”

The College’s yearlong focus on globalization is coordinated by Jack Shindler, professor of English and director of international programs.