Cornell faculty recently approved four new minors available now to students in the College of Arts & Sciences. Students can start taking classes in and applying for those minors — in public service studies, media studies, migration studies and science communication and public engagement — this semester.
Public service studies
The public service studies minor is a collaborative effort between the Department of Anthropology and Cornell’s Public Service Center. The minor provides a curriculum for students who are already committed to community engagement, helping them “think critically about global citizenship and the complexities of intercultural collaboration,” according to the proposal for the minor.
“Whether students’ service commitments take them into Ithaca, their neighborhoods at home, or destinations across the globe, the minor in public service studies will give them the tools to reflect upon community action, advocacy and activism, as well as their own role in promoting social change,” said Sofia A. Villenas, associate professor of anthropology, who was instrumental in developing the minor.
While Cornell’s Public Service Center and Engaged Cornell both offer myriad opportunities and resources for service and engagement, a structured curriculum around service hasn’t been available until now.
Students who choose to take the minor will develop skills in anthropological fieldwork and reflect on their own social location, as well examine the historical and social forces that generate cultural change in everyday life and social movements around the world. The minor will require 15 credits plus at least 160 hours of engaged/service experience.
The new media studies minor consists of five courses, with a minimum of 15 credits. Two core classes, Thinking Media and Making Media, are required. The minor allows students to engage with diverse modes of communication, from the hieroglyph to the algorithm, encompassing the myriad technologies, forms and practices by which information circulates among a now digitally-networked global population.
“It gives students practical, theoretical, and historical experiences with a wide range of media, and allows them to work closely with faculty from across the university,” said Jeremy Braddock, associate professor of English and chairman of Cornell’s Media Studies Initiative. “In addition, both Thinking Media and the Making Media colloquium bring together students from across the university in a way that is distinctive.”
The migration studies minor is being launched by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies as a university-wide minor and prepares students to understand the historical and contemporary contexts and factors that drive international migration and shape migrant experiences around the globe.
The minor includes five courses and 15 credits, including a required introductory course, Migration: Histories, Controversies, and Perspectives, and four elective courses.
“The minor reflects the kind of interdisciplinary research and teaching we value in the Einaudi Center,” Jason Hecht, the center’s associate director for academic programming. “It’s a central part of the recently launched Global Grand Challenges Migrations initiative and a direct way for undergraduates to engage with the critical global issue of migration through a variety of different lenses. Work around migration, including the new minor, will be at the forefront of how the Einaudi Center helps to lead global thinking and action on campus.”
Science communication and public engagement
The science communication and public engagement minor offers students an opportunity to apply communication theories, goals and processes to scientific phenomena. The minor is designed for undergraduates who are interested in the sciences and/or engineering and would like to learn how to use a wide variety of communication tools for engaging publics, including non-technical audiences and policymakers.
Students in the minor will take a combination of courses in communications, public engagement and scientific research, ethics and literacy. They are required to take at least eight science and/or engineering credits as their major or second minor and 18 credit hours in addition to the science and engineering credits. Those courses include a three-credit core course, Communication, Environment, Science and Health and 15 credits in other areas, including engaged learning, communication, scientific methods, ethics and science literacy.
"Undergraduates are the new graduate students: they conduct experiments, present at conferences and many of them publish in peer-reviewed journals,” said Mark Sarvary, senior lecturer in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior and director of the Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories. “Learning how to communicate their scientific discoveries to non-technical audiences should be a foundation of their STEM education, not an afterthought.”
Sarvary said the new minor allows students to follow in the footsteps of another great science communicator, Cornell astrophysicist, Carl Sagan.
“Students in the minor will gain transferable skills that will help them understand science better, make evidence-based decisions, influence policymakers and have informed conversations around the Thanksgiving table or at job interviews,” he said.