Fall 2003 Magazine Archive & SearchMuhlenberg Home




“So much of international studies and international relations in particular must be approached from an interdisciplinary perspective,” explains Dr. McRae. “For example, in my Introduction to Conflict and Peace Studies class, one segment focuses on an individual level of analysis to understand conflict. Most of that work is found in the work of behavioral psychologists and sociologists, as well as religious studies.

“Survey research draws on statistics and understanding the scientific method,” she continues. “We have history/government and philosophy/political thought majors that explicitly benefit from an interdisciplinary perspective. To teach any comparative area studies, whether it is in Latin America, East Asia, Africa or the Middle East, requires an interdisciplinary approach that includes an appreciation of history, geography, cultural anthropology and more traditional political science.”

In an effort to keep instructional topics intertwined with current events, the political science faculty models new course material after events in popular culture. For instance, the spring of 2004 will boast four new classes: “Introducation to the Study of Law,” taught by the Honorable Thomas Wallitsch, Judge, Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas; “Gender and Politics,” taught by Lanethea Mathews-Gardner, Ph.D.; “Policy Analysis and Technology,” taught by Chris Borick, Ph.D.; and “Globalization and Social Justice,” taught by Mohsin Hashim, Ph.D.

Public Engagement Project

* Over 1,000 students have either taken a PEP course or participated in one of the PEP sponsored workshops
* 58 percent of students who have taken PEP courses in 2002-2003 stated that they were more likely to engage in community service
* 58 percent of students said that they were more likely to discuss politics
* 54 percent of students were more likely to discuss issues of race
* 92 percent of students said that they had learned a great deal about diversity and pluralism in PEP courses
* While the grant for PEP reached the end of its term in 2003, Muhlenberg professors remain committed to actively engaging students and faculty, and plan to continue teaching several PEP courses

“In 2001, the College initiated the Institute of Public Opinion, a state-of-the-art public opinion research institute designed to conduct scientific based survey research projects of public policy and political issues throughout the Lehigh Valley and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” explains Borick, assistant professor and director of the Institute of Public Opinion. “We conduct these projects in conjunction with community partners that examine contemporary issues relevant to the interests of the public and policy-makers.”

Students who become involved in the Institute undergo training in the practices of quality social research, as well as operation of the telephone interviewing system. “The Institute will also be equipped with an Internet based interviewing system that will allow for on-line interviewing capabilities,” comments Borick.

“Through our partnership with the Morning Call, we have conducted eight major surveys within the Lehigh Valley and across the Commonwealth, ranging from citizen reactions to terrorism to the Pennsylvania Governor’s race and the quality of life for Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania residents,” Borick notes. “In the upcoming year, we will be very active in tracking both the 2004 presidential race as well as the election races at the state and local level. We have just received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct an examination of employment training and services in the Lehigh Valley.”

Combining up-to-date instruction with interdisciplinary approaches has enabled Muhlenberg to prepare political science students for the real world opportunities that await them after graduation. “Teaching at a college such as Muhlenberg, with its emphasis on a liberal arts education and the interconnectedness of discrete events, is especially conducive to fields that benefit from an interdisciplinary approach,” concludes Dr. McRae.


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