Featuring a nomadic international immersion experience at the heart of a yearlong course of study, the Center for 21st Century Studies has been launched as a signature program in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences for undergraduates throughout the university.

The first cohort of students will begin together in January of 2012 with the introductory course 21st Century Studies (C21S 2104). Next summer, the group will travel to Morocco, Istanbul, and Sri Lanka over a five-week period, and engage in seminars, performances, home stays, and service learning, as well as research and creative scholarship projects. Drawing upon resources from the college’s operating and endowment funds, the center partially subsidizes the travel costs of the program for its participants in order to insure broad participation. It also helps students find sources of financial aid for their share of the costs involved.

The new center's curriculum is designed to empower students to engage with emerging economic, political, and social structures with special attention to the issues of sustainability, justice, and cultural survival.

Robert Siegle of Blacksburg, Va., professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, is serving a three-year appointment as the center’s visionary and founding director.

"We wanted to design the kind of program we wish we'd had access to as undergraduates, updated to 21st century issues and approaches,” says Siegle. “It also meets the need to connect classroom abstractions to real world complexities, not to mention keeping in mind ethical values and sensitivity to the uniqueness of other cultures. We're trying to produce the kinds of world leaders we'd like to see running things.”

According to Siegle, the introductory course will examine tradition and modernity; development, ethics, and government; living in the era of “info(digi)techno/hyper/inter/media;” and cultural aspects of the countries to be visited.

Upon return from the summer study abroad experience, the students will spend the fall semester in a capstone course where they will reflect upon and synthesize their travels, complete their research projects, and create portfolios that illustrate the transformational nature of their experience. This could take many forms, including script, performance, or thesis.

“Bold and experimental, the Center for 21st Century Studies addresses pressing realities of our emerging world,” said Sue Ott Rowlands of Christiansburg, Va., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The center will help our students apply transdisciplinary tools to complex issues.”

About the minor

The minor program consists of 18 credit hours and is designed to complement students’ major areas of interest. Rounding out the minor program are two electives that are selected in consultation with the student’s advisor; these are related to either the student’s research project or major academic areas of interest -- or both. The sole prerequisite for the minor is intermediate foreign language proficiency, demonstrated, for example, by four years of the same high school foreign language or four semesters at the university level.

About the faculty

The center provides a forum for faculty members from many disciplines to explore and collaborate on new strategies of teaching and learning. The faculty who teach the center's courses and lead the nomadic travel segments are drawn from across the breadth of the college, as are the members of the center’s Stakeholder’s Committee and Advisory Committee.

The center’s offices are housed in Virginia Tech’s new Honors Residential College, giving it access to meeting facilities and a partnership with the college's innovative programming. The center also coordinates its efforts with related units on campus: academic units within the college; the college’s Undergraduate Research Institute; the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought, the college’s interdisciplinary graduate program; Education Abroad; the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence ; and University Honors.