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UCSB Global Studies Thrives with Support of Orfalea Foundation

Education UCSB 300x216 UCSB Global Studies Thrives with Support of Orfalea Foundation

Professor Mark Juergensmeyer is director of the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies. (Photo Credit: Tony Mastres)

Paul Orfalea’s course at UC Santa Barbara is one that turns tradition on its head. There are no textbooks, and no tests. No answers, only questions. In fact, Orfalea told his students during a recent session, “This is a class in asking questions. Don’t be so concerned with finding answers.”

This senior seminar in global business may not have paper exams, but it’s as tough as any students will ever take –– a quarter-long endurance test in critical thinking, smart speaking, and international engagement. Orfalea keeps expectations high, threshold for passivity low, for what is intended as intensive training for potential future leaders in public and private sectors alike.

Upending convention is nothing new for Orfalea –– the Kinko’s founder built an office services empire going against the grain. It’s an ethos he shares with the discipline in which he teaches –– global studies –– a pursuit predicated on the importance of accepting ambiguity. The still-emerging academic area examines what binds us all together, as well as how, and asks why.

MAGIS is UCSB’s still-young Master of Arts in Global & International Studies, an endeavor that is flourishing with the support of Orfalea, Natalie Orfalea, and their Orfalea Foundation. The philanthropic nonprofit gifted the campus $12 million to launch and grow MAGIS and the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies. The pledge got each entity off the ground –– and has seen both evolve into world-class hubs for training and research alike.

Of students who have passed through MAGIS since its inception, some one-fourth now work with non-governmental organizations (NGO’s); another quarter went into business. UCSB global studies grads are working in district attorney’s offices and departments of state, and serving in the social responsibility departments of corporations including Google and BMW. Many pursued advanced degrees.

It won’t be long before they can get a doctorate right here in Santa Barbara –– a Ph.D. in global studies is in the works and expected to be available within about two years.

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