Global Social Change course spurs momentum to take action

November 30, 2009

Of the many lessons she has taken away from her Global Social Change class this semester, Callia Crossman ’10 says she is most struck by a sense of urgency to become a part of the solution to help countries interact on better terms for the greater good of people everywhere.

“This class is showing me that there is a need for more people to help set change and figure out different policies for dealing with one another,” said Crossman, who hopes to pursue a career with the World Bank. “It’s important to understand each other’s cultures.”

Linda Semu, assistant professor of Sociology who teaches the class, said the class is designed to make students think about global inequality, international human rights issues and the cultural aspects of development in various countries.

“We look at why it is that different countries are at different stages and levels of development,” Semu said after a recent class session. “We also look at how the United States’ foreign policies vary from country to country.”

To help drive home such lessons, Semu plans opportunities for her students to get beyond the textbook. Recently, they ventured to New Windsor to visit SERRV, a nonprofit fair trade and development organization that aims to eradicate poverty. At SERRV, artisans and farmers from regions across the globe – including Africa, Asia and Latin America –are able to have their goods marketed and sold.

“There, they were able to see that every person can do something,” Semu said of her students. “It’s so cool to see them so willing to learn about other countries.”

Semu also recently took several students, including Crossman, to attend the 11th Annual American Foreign Policy Conference for Maryland College Faculty and Students.

During the conference, faculty and students from nearly two dozen Maryland colleges and universities learned from experts on China, the Middle East and general U.S. international economic policy, Semu said. They listened in on discussions such as how the U.S. might better work with countries that have historically had different ideological agendas, such as China, yet cannot be ignored in the present economic realities, and how the U.S. might achieve a balance in its role in the Middle east regarding its relationship with Israel and Arab countries.

“I think it made real the issues we discuss in my Global Social Change class, by having people who are out in the field doing the work,” Semu said. “The students were able to see the opportunities as well as the challenges in foreign policy initiatives, especially the need to strike a balance between domestic interests and international consensus, and to what extent countries with different values and visions can work together.”