Global Studies Degrees: The Online Option

For those up to the challenge, a global studies degree could be the start of an international journey and career.

The world is a big place and yet, despite the huge distances and differences between nations, peoples, cultures, and religions, it’s more interconnected than we sometimes believe. The ripples caused by often unseen actions in one corner of the globe can have huge consequences elsewhere on the planet and can impact any number of issues. They could include food and energy security, employment, health, financial prosperity, and even national security both in the United States and on a global scale. If you are ever going to truly get a grasp on how things work globally, you’re going to have to develop a nuanced understanding of some really big issues. That’s the arena where global studies degrees make a difference.

Global Studies Degrees – Big Topics, Big Careers

Dr. Raphi Rechitsky, Director of the Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies Program at National University, believes the most successful students who pursue global studies are “the ones who want to change the world.”

This global ambition, combined with the self-starting and highly motivated attitude of many students working their way towards the various online degrees offered by National University, make graduates of the BA in Global Studies a very attractive prospect to potential employers.

Graduates of National University’s Global Studies degree program learn to understand the roles that ecology, gender, race, class, religion, and ethnicity play in cultural environments, and to apply this understanding to real-world problems and interactions among diverse cultures. This prepares students for a wide range of career paths, including roles in international business, finance, and banking, NGOs, charities, aid organizations, the media, education and government. It also creates opportunities to enter graduate study programs in international relations, development, education, social science, immigration, law, and government and non-governmental sectors.

Critical Thinking Skills

Dr. Rechitsky believes that the critical thinking skills developed when studying for a global studies degree equip students with the flexibility and competencies required to meet the demands of an international career much more than a narrower, more vocational degree.

“The broad scope of positions that our students have entered range from banking and finance, to environment and international development, to labor relations and public policy, as well as fields relating to product management, sales and marketing,” says Dr. Rechitsky.

Global Perspectives in an Age of National Interest

In an age where many political forces are steering an inward-looking agenda, developing a greater understanding of how international communities interconnect with each other and helping to build prosperity and understanding across borders has never been more important.

“There is certainly an impetus around the world, as there tends to be every several decades over the 20th century, to look inwards and to assume that a nation is the model of a container society for the world to replicate,” says Dr. Rechitsky. “In many ways that overlooks the reality of globalization and how it has transformed the world, not just over the last 30 years but over the last several hundred years.”

According to Dr. Rechitsky, globalization has increased the standard of living of some people by expanding the opportunities that enhance prosperity, but it has been a double-edged sword. “It is also equally true that it has led others into poverty and hopelessness. Our goal here is to focus on the causes of these global changing realities and how they affect the quality of human living conditions and experience all over the world. The idea is to understand how people are interconnected. Global studies looks at how goods, information, people, money and popular culture travel across national borders. It points to the fact we're all part of an interdependent world, even if our politicians tend to turn away from those realities.”

The Student Journey

Global studies programs tend to attract a diverse group of students with a vast range of perspectives and ambitions for the future. That’s certainly the case at National University. While most students are currently based in the United States, many in National’s program are well-traveled individuals with a lot of international experience. Military veterans and those still in active military service play a particularly important role in the program, bringing a unique perspective to the dialogue between faculty members and students.

“National University was founded by veterans and it is also composed of a large proportion of military veteran students, as well as students in active military service (and their families), some of whom take their classes between their breaks in duty,” says Dr. Rechitsky.

“It’s surprising how central and critical a role veteran students play in global studies courses,” adds Dr. Rechitsky. “They bring with them a very important perspective of the world. They see how societies are different from our own and they also bring a desire to reflect on their own experiences in the US military and the ways our country looks to change parts of the world.”

Online Degrees – A World of Difference

Although it may sound counterintuitive, the “remote” format of National University’s online degree program creates a very personal teaching and learning process. The ratio of students to qualified instructors is a key reason why. "We have a very high ratio of dedicated full-time faculty who teach our courses. Our student to instructor ratio is very small,” says Dr. Rechitsky.

Dr. Rechitsky believes that most bachelor degrees today have overly bloated class sizes. “This could mean lecture halls that hold up to 1,000 people,” says Dr. Rechitsky, “with various breakout sessions and underqualified graduate teaching assistants who speak with students after lectures and engage them in one-directional conversation. At National, we actually have a very lively program that happens in an online forum.”

National University has a unique teaching process which guarantees high-quality engagement between students and faculty members.  “We have a block schedule where students take one course that lasts about one month and instructors also only teach one course at a time,” says Dr. Rechitsky. “We meet every week, solidly. We're committed to this. Not all programs do that.”

In addition, students always have the option of joining online group lecture discussions or one-to-one meetings with qualified instructors during office hours, to discuss the week's material.

“We also have very engaged students who support each other very well and bring a wide range of perspectives, both from their personal experiences and their expertise and interest in a subject,” says Dr. Rechitsky. “That tends to expand students’ worldviews as much as the content itself, so it tends to be very engaging but also very flexible in terms of content delivery online.”

Online Degrees – Delivering Flexible Learning

While studying for an online global studies degree may present challenges that are different from taking classes in a “traditional” classroom environment, these challenges are met with ongoing and persistent support from National University’s faculty members and technical support teams.

Students who are motivated self-starters (a skill necessary for success in an international career or graduate education) will find all the support they need to successfully complete their degree.

One of the many benefits of studying for an online degree is the fact students can work around the issues of work, family, and global time differences — particularly important when students can be anywhere in the world.

“We can communicate asynchronously, and that is really one of the benefits of online education,” says Dr. Rechitsky. “If students can be engaged with their instructor and connect with their instructor and their peers as much as with the content, they are then able to work on their assignments whenever and wherever they want.

“I have students who have taken courses from the frontlines of battling fires in northern California or while being deployed on active duty, in-between stints or on a layover in Poland or Germany while on the move. More recently, I had a global studies student in Kuwait, writing assignments in the middle of the night, my time. There are challenges to interacting in that situation but there is also a lot of flexibility.”

How Global Studies and National University Set the Trend

In many ways, the Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies program at National University is a trend-setter in online learning.

Dr. Rechitsky highlights the work of his predecessors in the field of global studies, including the innovative work of Professor Lorna Zukus, who in 1997 launched the Bachelor’s in Global Studies as National University’s inaugural online degree course.

In doing so, National University created a successful blueprint that other educational institutions now follow.

“Today, online education and globalization are common household words,” says Dr. Rechitsky. “But back in ’97, more than two decades ago, these were new, emerging concepts and we took a leap of faith.”

How Global Studies Can Change the World

That leap of faith paid off. Dr. Rechitsky is particularly proud of National University alumni, who have taken their global studies degrees and gone on to achieve real success in their chosen career paths. These include important work in the field of law enforcement, local organic food movements, and corporate supply chains and the wider impact on global communities.

Highlighting the work of a current student, Dr. Rechitsky explained how they were researching manufacturing commodity chains and product lifecycles, and demonstrating the impact a product (such as a smartphone) has on the global community.

According to Dr. Rechitsky, these are the types of issues global studies students love to get their teeth into, in the hope of influencing a change for the better across the world.

“Global studies allows students to focus on the cause of these changes in global realities and how they affect the quality of life,” says Dr. Rechitsky.

“More importantly it shows how people can, and indeed do, change those global realities that affect their lives and I think, at times, it’s important to consider the ways that people are constantly changing the world and not just the ways that are immediately apparent to us in those ‘container societies’ that are often inspired by nationalist movements. These are the features that hook me on Global Studies. Successful students that come to Global Studies expand their worldview and learn about how the different parts of the world work.”

A Study of Contradictions

Dr. Rechitsky is keen to point out that while global studies can highlight both extremely positive and negative impacts of globalization, the reality is rarely defined by such simple terms as good or bad. The program itself doesn't approach the world with "rose-tinted glasses" but it approaches it from understanding the contradictions inherent in globalization.

“What I usually start telling students at the beginning of our introductory classes is that there are two propositions about globalization,” says Dr. Rechitsky. “One is that it is the process by which the world raises its economic growth and standard of living across the world's populations. In this case, globalization is not a crisis issue. That's the vision of the world that says we have actually raised the standard of living because global development is powerful.

On the other hand, according to Dr. Rechitsky, globalization is unstable and that poses problems worldwide. “That's partly because globalization is the process that raises the prospect of economic growth for a small subset of the world’s population and so it also creates a proportion of the human misery on the planet. This often leads to these various kinds of movements, including the nationalist movements, but also other movements that end up changing the world for the better. So what we see today in the nationalist movements arising in the wealthy countries of the global north is just one instance of the concept that globalization is fragile and it is fraught with inequality.”

During their studies, students may begin to question the ideas they initially had about the world around them and start to take on multiple perspectives. Students are encouraged to carefully analyze both sides of the coin. They learn to understand the cause and effect of global issues and demonstrate an understanding of both the positive and negative outcomes of particular actions relating to their research.

“Our job here as students is to really study and understand how the world actually works as opposed to hiding in the shell of those ‘container societies’ that our politicians imagine for us,” says Dr. Rechitsky.

“Taking that paradox head-on is how we approach study and that is why I gravitated towards global studies. It allows us to understand globalization, not as something out there and abstract but instead as something intimately connected to people's lives and everyday activities, institutions, families. So it’s not just a matter of economics, but also social, cultural and political.”

Global Studies - No Easy Answers

In National’s global studies program, there are no easy — or right or wrong — answers. Students are encouraged to examine issues from multiple angles and come to an evidence-based conclusion. This demonstrates how participation in the online degree can exercise the student’s “critical thinking muscles”, preparing them for a variety of future applications in the wider world.

On completion of the program, students will be able to demonstrate an ability to:

  • Analyze issues as they impact the global environment.
  • Explain the varied experiences of different social groups interacting with the global economy over the past several hundred years.
  • Analyze a global problem such as poverty, hunger, the spread of disease, or environmental degradation from several disciplinary perspectives.
  • Evaluate scholarship on globalization for its veracity and reliability.
  • Describe the relationships between economic and cultural change in regions of the globe.
  • Describe the relationships between economic change and processes of nation-state formation over the last several hundred years.
  • Synthesize theoretical perspectives and empirical data into a coherent argument.

Essentially, students not only learn how globalization has changed the world around them throughout history, but they also acquire the critical thinking and analysis skills to understand how strategies and actions will impact the global community, wherever they choose to work.

Just as importantly, students learn skills to deliver their analyses via a range of interactive and online media — skills that are essential in today’s global economy where technology often bridges the divide between nations and people.

What Should Students Ask Themselves Before Enrolling in a BA in Global Studies?

There are a couple of questions you should ask yourself before enrolling in the BA in Global Studies online degree:

  • Are you looking to be challenged and learn about the world in a unique learning experience?
  • Are you a highly motivated individual with aspirations to look beyond your own borders and explore the richness of the global community?

Dr. Rechitsky adds one compelling question to ask: “Do you want to change the world?”

Answering yes to these questions is an indication that a global studies degree may be right for you and National University’s BA in Global Studies could give you the opportunity and experience to develop a career with a global focus.

Are You Ready to Change the World?

For more information or to speak with a member of the faculty about enrolling in the BA in Global Studies please visit the National University Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies program page.