Georgia Tech Leads Innovation of Humanities for 21st Century Education with New Degree Programs in Global Media, Language, and Cultural Studies: Interview with Jenny Strakovsky, School of Modern Languages
The Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Modern Languages, in collaboration with the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), recently announced the launch of a set of Master of Science programs in language, culture, and media skills, with funding from the GT-FIRE Grant for educational innovation, sponsored by the Offices of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Research (EVPR). The Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U), in conjunction with the Office of the Provost, helps to oversee the GT-FIRE proposal process.
Jenny Strakovsky, Assistant Director of Career Education and Graduate Programs for the School of Modern Languages, is a co-recipient, along with Aaron Santesso, a professor of literature in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, of the GT-FIRE grant directed towards the development of new programs that apply the humanities to training students in 21st century skills and whole person education. These include the Institute's new M.S. in Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (MS-ALIS) and M.S. in Global Media and Culture (MS-GMC), a suite of graduate certificates for professionals, and a new curriculum design lab, 21st century Humanities, which is researching humanities practices in traditionally non-humanistic spaces.
C21U recently spoke with Strakovsky about the purpose of this GT-FIRE proposal and the potential impact of these new degree programs.
Q: Can you tell me about your research background and how you arrived at your GT-FIRE work?
A. This project is a a joint effort by many faculty in the School of Modern Languages and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, who work in cross-cultural humanities, the field which explores how language, media, and culture inform our understanding of society. Their expertise ranges from literary history and film studies to linguistics, sustainability studies, intercultural communication, and social justice.
My co-PI, Aaron Santesso, is professor of literature (LMC) with a background in 17th and 18th century English literature. He has written extensively on the history and politics of surveillance, privacy law, science fiction, and literary tourism, as well as the legacy of the early modern period today. His most recent book, The Watchman in Pieces, was awarded the James Russell Lowell Prize by the Modern Language Association.
My own background is in German Studies and humanities education, with a focus on human flourishing in fiction, philosophy and psychology, and its applications in education. In my work, I try to understand how humanistic practices – storytelling, imagination, poetic thinking, and moral judgment – function in everyday life. In the research group “21st Century Humanities,” we are learning about what humanistic thinking looks like in fields such as biophysics, design, and business. The hope is to create learning tools that help students and adult learners get in touch with the creative and social aspects of their work, and to help them have fulfilling and meaningful careers.
Dr. Santesso and I are also working closely with Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Modern Languages, whose work focuses on Latin American media, documentary film, and sustainability. He is the founder and director of the Global Media Festival, which brings innovative film-makers to Atlanta to examine issues of sustainability and cultural exchange.
Q. What is the basic concept of your winning research proposal?
A. Employers are increasingly calling for expertise in humanities skills (a.k.a. “21st century skills”). Research shows that communication, global awareness, adaptability, ethical reasoning, and storytelling are crucial for innovation across the board. We want to make high-quality training in these skills widely accessible at all stages of a person’s career.
To accomplish this, we are launching two Master of Science degrees: the M.S. in Global Media and Cultures (MS-GMC; available in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish), and the M.S. in Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (MS-ALIS, available in Spanish). We are also building a set of standalone certificates in 21st century skills, like ethical reasoning, cross-cultural communication, and language and technology. We hope to create new levels of access to advanced training in essential 21st century skills, such as intercultural communication and media literacy
The project also includes a Lifelong Career Development Platform. It is being developed through the first Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) in the School of Modern Languages, “21st Century Humanities.” The platform will help users articulate their goals and purpose as professionals, to think through which 21st century skills they need, and to imagine their long-term futures. Students who are interested in creating content and building the platform can join the design team through the VIP program!
Q. How will Georgia Tech learners benefit from your research?
A. The Graduate Program in Global Media and Cultures is designed to empower students to launch impactful careers in a variety of professional arenas. The MS-GMC and MS-ALIS are intensive 12-month programs for both traditional students and mid-career professionals. The graduate certificates will allow learners to focus on specific skills, such as intercultural competence, media literacy, ethical reasoning, or regional expertise. The Lifelong Career Development Platform offers a unique space for learners to synthesize their education and career plans. We are excited to partner with Georgia Tech Professional Education, the Office of International Education, the Center for Career Discovery and Development, Library Next, and the Global Engineering Leadership Minor as we think about how to align our programs with students’ needs across campus.
Q. Who (or what sector) outside of Georgia Tech will be most impacted by this work?
A. 21st century skills are by nature highly transferable to almost every professional arena. The MS-GMC and MS-ALIS teaches students to use communication, collaboration, culture change, and cross-cultural empathy to make an impact through their work. While they will be uniquely positioned to work in media, non-profit, and international communications; they can also combine global media expertise with technical knowledge to create sustainable, culturally effective, and ethical solutions to address a wide spectrum of today’s global challenges.
Q. Will any entities outside of Georgia Tech partner with you in this endeavor?
A. The School of Modern Languages and School of Literature, Media, and Communication have a number of established industry partners both in Atlanta and across the world, who collaborate with our faculty on courses and offer internship experiences to students. The VIP Team “21st Century Humanities” will be collaborating with a network of Georgia Tech alumni and local professionals to create the multimedia for the Lifelong Career Development Platform. The Modern Language Association is an important partner for us as well, as we strive to be a national resource on 21st century skills training and future-oriented humanities education.
Q. GT-FIRE focuses on projects with the potential to transform higher education. How would you describe the transformative potential of your project?
A. Steve Jobs said, “Technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with the liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our hearts sing.” We are hearing more and more employers echo this view, but the humanities as a field remains a widely untapped resource to prepare students for the global marketplace. With the Graduate Program in Global Media and Cultures, we have the opportunity to imagine an entirely new model of humanities education, designed to be an active partner in tackling today's global challenges.
Our goal is to reinvent the role of the humanities in higher education. This includes embracing the lifelong learning involved in humanistic inquiry and engaging with learners of all ages, articulating how humanities-based expertise contributes to different professional arenas including STEM and business, and engaging with the grand challenges of the 21st century through our curriculum and collaborations.
MS-ALIS and MS-GMC are BOR approved and pending SACSCOC approval. If you are interested in learning more about the new MS in Applied Language and Intercultural Studies (MS-ALIS) or the MS in Global Media and Culture (MS-GMC), you can visit the School of Modern Languages website for more information or you can read more in the program announcement.