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School of American and Global Studies hitting the ground running since 2019 launch

American Indian Student Center lobby

The School of American and Global Studies celebrated its first year in July 2020. Launched in 2019, the school had only been together six months before COVID-19 hit. While the pandemic has created challenges, along with many other areas of the campus, community and the world, the School of American and Global Studies has “hit the ground running” with exciting initiatives, programs and an innovative interdisciplinary focus.

Two research and outreach centers were developed in the school: the SDSU Public Humanities Initiative (PHI) and the SDSU Poll. The PHI and the Poll join the SDSU Ethics Lab to round out the school’s trio of research and outreach centers. Both of the new initiatives had significant outcomes in their first year. Outreach in the SDSU PHI included the “Welcoming New Americans” project, which offers English as a Second Language (ESL) to non-English speaking community members and provides intercultural competence and translation support to city and industry partners.

The mission of the SDSU PHI is to bring “humanity to the University’s tripartite land-grant mission of teaching, research and service, connecting scholars and local communities around projects and topics that reflect our diverse heritage, traditions and histories and are essential to the current conditions of shared civic and cultural life.” Through the outreach programs and research opportunities such as “Conversations Across Communities”, the SDSU PHI has been able to establish community connections and provide public programming that enhance the lives of community members.

Another outreach initiative, the SDSU Poll, has reached significant milestones as well. In 2020, they launched their first poll of South Dakota voters. Topics covered in these polls ranged from public perceptions on pandemic-related policies under current Governor Kristi Noem to the mental health of South Dakotans following the 2020 Presidential Election. To gather responses, the SDSU Poll used a “new and innovative technique of sampling." Learn more about the SDSU Poll.

Not only do the outreach programs offered by the School of American and Global Studies support the University’s land-grant mission but the interdisciplinary nature of the studies and opportunities within the school do as well. The mission of the school is to prepare “critical thinkers and proficient researchers who are culturally literate and globally engaged.” Work is certainly being put into achieving that mission, as three students within the school in recent years have received national or international awards. Connor Haaland (Spanish and global studies with a minor in French), recent graduate and former Rhodes scholar finalist, received a CATO Institute Internship and is currently studying law at Harvard University. Hattie Seten (political science, global studies and Spanish), current student class of 2021, participated in a highly competitive Embassy Internship in Mexico City this past summer and was recently named a Rhodes scholar, the second in SDSU history. Kendra Zirpel Alvizures (political science, global studies, Spanish with a minor in philosophy), recent alumna, was one of 45 recipients of the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program for 2021.

Each of these students have multiple majors from within the School of American and Global Studies, highlighting the advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of the school. Christi Garst-Santos, director of the School of American and Global Studies, emphasized the importance of the cultural competency, especially in our world today. “The economy and businesses are changing quickly, so preparing students to speak multiple languages, think across disciplines and understand how to work with people across cultures, these are skills students need,” said Garst-Santos. “We teach our students to ask questions and to explore ... students are coming out with a knowledge of history and culture, of political systems and global systems and they are equipped with very tangible language skills as well.”

Looking forward to this next academic year, the school has more exciting opportunities lined up for students with the hosting of the annual “Many Faces of War” conference marking the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, the opening of the American Indian Student Center and a new Lakota Language hire. Tasha Hauff will be joining the School of American and Global Studies this fall as an assistant professor of Lakota and American Indian and Indigenous studies. “The hire of Dr. Tasha Hauff will add a critical language foundation to the American Indian and Indigenous studies program,” said Garst-Santos. Along with adding a strong language piece, this addition will also support the efforts of SDSU’s Wokini Initiative.

The American Indian Student Center will be holding a Grand Opening Symposium on Apr. 15-16. More information on that event can be found on the AISC Gran Opening Symposium page.

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