Culture Shock: A look at the new Cultural Studies Major

Who are we as a community? What identifies a culture, other than labels or stereotypes? The world is a wide and diverse place, and the more you look around, the more often you will run into people of different cultural backgrounds. For those who travel professionally in their lives, it becomes especially important to understand cultural differences. Villanova’s newly introduced Cultural Studies major aims to teach students cultural literacy–not only to understand cultural identities, but the relationships between different cultures.
The Cultural Studies major has been available at Villanova University since the Spring 2010 semester Villanova University is the only college in the region to host an interdisciplinary undergraduate program in cultural studies. The Cultural Studies faculty consists of members of various departments of the College of Arts and Sciences, many of them coming from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The major requires a total of only 10 courses, many of which are requirements for other majors or diversity requirements. Current arts majors who are looking for something to add to their resume may be inclined to consider this program. Classes deal with subjects such as cultural anthropology, race relations, and gender sociology. Students may choose from among 60 + courses every semester for this major.
In order to promote the new major, the faculty of the cultural studies hosted a Cultural Studies Week: The Taste of Justice, a series of tasting events to get students interested in studying the cultures of other regions, all hosted on the 2nd floor of Falvey Memorial Library at 6:30. These events included free samples of indigenous Ecuadorian cocoa, Japanese tea, fresh honey, and Mediterranean olives, all accompanied by presentations of the significance of the items. Topics included fair trade production and distribution and environmental concerns. To finish cultural studies week, a dance extravaganza is being held at 7:30 in the St. Mary’s Gym, with a performance by a group of Brazilian Drummers followed by a West Philly’s band, Hardwork Movement.
Though one might wonder about the career paths opened by a Cultural Studies major, a degree in cultural studies can help one find employment with Global Organizations such as the UN, UNESCO, WHO, as well as jobs in diplomacy, journalism, charitable organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, and advocacy groups. The Cultural Studies department is working on making a minor available in order to make the program more accessible to non-arts students, especially business majors who could benefit from being more culturally literate.

By Matt Belson ’16

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