March 30, 2006


TO:                  Professor Haixia Lan, Chair, Academic Program Review Committee, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse


FROM:            John B. Mason, Dean, College of Liberal Studies, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse


RE:                   International Studies Minor Review


Dear Professor Lan:


I have received from the International Studies Program a copy of its self-study document for its review.  The purpose of this letter is to acknowledge that the review process has been completed and to advise the Academic Program Committee of the response to the review by the College of Liberal Studies.


My overall assessment of the review is that the International Studies Program is strong, despite  continued inadequacies in resources.  It has a well conceived curriculum that offers individual options for students, and it does an outstanding job of engaging the campus in international education, currently involving 28 different departments.  The program has benefited from good oversight and support from its host department, the Department of Philosophy.  While the program has some clearly articulated learning objectives for students, the program could benefit from more finely tuned assessment of students’ progress toward those objectives.


I offer the following specific responses to issues raised by the self study:


1.  Resources:  The report is accurate in describing the limited resources that have been made available to the program.  The same situation exists for other interdisciplinary programs housed in the College of Liberal Studies: e.g., Environmental Studies and the Child Youth Care Program.  The College is able to provide only a stipend for the program’s director (not reassigned time) and minimal support for supplies and clerical assistance.  While the University and the College possesses a genuine admiration for interdisciplinary studies and international studies in particular, neither the University nor the College has institutionalized means for supporting those endeavors.  Our resources continue to be directed along the lines of traditional disciplines, and as long as we continue to endure budgetary shortfalls, I do not foresee a likely change.  Possibly as the University begins to implement recommendations from the Task Force on International Education, at least the priorities will become clearer and this program will emerge as a leading contender for funding when it becomes available.  The College will consider seriously the report’s recommendation that honoraria be provided for those faculty who teach the INS 495 Capstone Individual Study course.


2.  Curriculum and programmatic content:  The existing curriculum in the program provides ample flexibility and individual options for students.  As the report notes, our offerings in African and Asian studies could be bolstered.  Participants in the program have applied for a grant to expand our Asian offerings, and the grant would be a significant boost to the program.  The report also notes that the success of international studies is dependent, to a degree, on the availability of instruction in various languages.  The College continues to struggle with supporting a balanced language program when there is overwhelming student preference for the study of one language, Spanish.  Enrollments in the orientation and follow-up courses for students studying abroad, INS 250, 251, and 252, continue to grow, providing an additional opportunity to consider how the curriculum and study abroad can be integrated.  In addition to the maintenance of a strong curriculum, the program will want to explore further opportunities for extra-curricular education in international studies, such as speakers, forums, mini conferences, and the like.


3. Assessment:  Graduating students complete an exit questionnaire, and students are required to complete a capstone project.  However, there is no systematic effort to cull information from the capstone projects that can lead to programmatic improvement.  The program has fairly clear objectives for its students, but it lacks means for assessing student mastery of those objectives and means for assuring that assessment data are used in decisions on curriculum, staffing, and resource management.


Conclusion:  The International Studies Program is a well articulated program that manages well to make the most of scant resources to support our students in gaining an international perspective.  It has good oversight, and it has the respect of other units in our college.  Additional resources could enable the program to advance further toward its goals.  At the same time, better assessment could enable the program to argue better for resources.


cc:        Provost Elizabeth Hitch

            Professor Eric Kraemer

            Associate Dean Charles Martin-Stanley