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New migration studies undergraduate certificate to be available spring 2023

Certificate will incorporate methods requirement, gather faculty from multiple departments

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Starting in spring 2023, undergraduate students will be able to apply for a certificate in migration studies, Professor of Sociology David Lindstrom wrote in an email to The Herald.

The Migration Studies certificate will be co-sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Population Studies and Training Center’s Migration Studies Initiative, which supports faculty and student interdisciplinary research on migration-related issues, according to Besenia Rodriguez ’00, deputy dean of the College for curriculum and co-curriculum.

The undergraduate certificate will engage a wide range of disciplines at the University, Lindstrom said. Faculty from the departments of education, American studies and sociology, as well as the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, will contribute courses, according to a certificate proposal Lindstrom shared with The Herald.

The certificate and initiative “were developing unbeknownst to each other,” said Andrea Flores, assistant professor of education and a member of the MSI.

“It just kind of happened that we found each other,” Flores added. “It was a natural fit.”

The certificate has “productive ways of thinking about curricular interventions,” according to Flores. She said it will complement MSI’s current undergraduate offerings, such as advising offered for students pursuing independent studies centered around migration. 

Lindstrom said he was surprised by the range of existing courses at the University that addressed conversations around migration. He added that the certificate will provide students with a framework to explore migration studies through different methodological approaches, including ethnographic qualitative methods and statistical analysis.

“Our objective at the undergraduate level is … to provide students with a theoretical and methodological framework to understand how scholars approach migration,” Lindstrom said. Students will come “to understand migration from the perspective of the individual and households and the importance of policy and international relations.”

Students currently studying topics related to migration have been seeking “structured learning and advising … and formal recognition of the learning they are doing,” Rodriguez wrote in an email to The Herald. The College Curriculum Council, a body of students, faculty and administrators which oversees the undergraduate curriculum, is “excited” that “groups of faculty across various departments have been able to construct such opportunities.”

“I think the mission (of the certificate) is to build students’ understandings of an issue that is of great global and social importance, but also often of very intimate personal importance for students” themselves, Flores added.

In order to fulfill the certificate’s requirements, students will have to take three migration-based courses — SOC 0315: “International Migration,” a new foundational course being developed by the sociology department; an elective migration course chosen from select classes in the departments of American studies, ethnic studies, education and sociology; and a third elective from a greater list of preapproved courses, according to the proposal. Students also must complete an elective methods course that is not a requirement for their already-declared concentration.

Students participating in the program will also be required to complete a capstone, which will either involve incorporating a migration focus into a concentration thesis, conducting migration-related research with faculty or completing an internship with a community organization that serves migrant communities, according to the proposal.

Focusing on methodology and experiential learning is central to “Brown’s approach to undergraduate certificates,” Rodriguez wrote.

“When you’re doing research on social issues that affect people’s lives, the idea is to create, in some ways, usable knowledge. … It involves working with communities to figure out how to make that knowledge visible and actionable,” Flores said. The goal of the certificate is to “help students build those skills that allow them to become more sensitive practitioners when they leave school.”

Lindstrom believes that the “real, practical skills” that students will be learning in different research strategies through the certificate will allow them to be better equipped to meet the demands of the current job market. 

Lindstrom and other faculty members involved in the certificate’s development are currently putting together a website introducing the program. Further information will soon be found on the University’s Advising Sidekick, Focal Point and the University Bulletin, according to Rodriguez. Students will be able to discuss their plans for the certificate with their advisors starting next semester.

Migration “is core to the human experience. … Developing analytical skills to sort through and make sense out of information (about immigration) is a critical skill,” Lindstrom said. “That’s the mission of (the certificate) — to develop conscientious citizens and competent and talented professionals.”

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