The Catholic University of America

May 8, 2012

European Studies Certificate Attracts Students with Global Focus

  european studies

Thomas Cunningham and Vincent Larach with Associate Professor Claudia Bornholdt

Catholic University’s new interdisciplinary Certificate in European Studies (CES) program made its debut at the beginning of the 2011–2012 academic year. And now as Commencement nears, two seniors will be the first to graduate with the CES.

Development of the program took nearly two years, said Associate Professor Claudia Bornholdt, director of the certificate program and chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. It involved planning with faculty members from throughout the School of Arts and Sciences.

The interdisciplinary aspect of CES makes it unique and fun, she says. “I enjoyed having coffee with colleagues from the history and politics departments to develop the new gateway courses. The study of language so easily blends with the other disciplines in the arts and sciences.”

The program is designed as a complement for majors in the humanities and social sciences and is open to all undergraduate students at Catholic University. CES students are required to take two gateway courses that are specifically designed for the program: European Culture and a choice of either European Politics or European History. Students also select an additional four elective courses from at least two departments.

“The CES is rigorous, yet flexible,” says Bornholdt. “The certificate allows students to put together their own individual courses of study.”

CES students must also acquire or have proficiency in at least one of the modern languages of Europe other than English and immerse themselves in one of the cultures of Europe through study abroad or an internship.


Vincent Larach of Fredericksburg, Va., a media studies major with minors in Spanish and theology, and senior Thomas Cunningham, a world politics major from Tempe, Ariz., will both graduate this month with the CES.

Larach heard about the new program in spring 2011 after he returned from studying abroad in Barcelona in the fall 2010 semester. He had already met the elective courses requirement and the language requirement. Once he took the two gateway courses his senior year and with the education abroad experience his junior year, he qualified for the certificate.

“Since studying in Spain, I have become increasingly interested in international affairs as well as European politics and culture,” said Larach. “Living in another country gave me a whole new perspective on the issues that I learned about in class. The certificate program was a perfect fit with my previous studies. And the two gateway courses in politics and culture served to synthesize and contextualize the issues that I learned about in my other classes, and while studying abroad.”

Larach spent his senior year working part time as a marketing assistant in CUA’s Center for Global Education. This spring semester he also worked as an intern in the education office of the Embassy of Spain. “I hope to work in the field of international education while living in Europe. I am sure the CES will get my resume noticed,” says Larach.

“I loved the European politics gateway course,” said Cunningham. “I learned a lot about the government of the respective countries as well as the government of the European Union. My other favorite aspect of the certificate program was studying abroad in Berlin, which was simply amazing.” Cunningham plans on a career in foreign policy, and he says he believes the certificate will give him an edge as he launches his job search.

‘The CES program could not be more relevant and timely,” says Dorle Hellmuth, assistant professor of politics, who taught the European politics gateway course. “Europe and the United States remain strong partners facing common challenges, including economic turmoil and security threats such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation,” she says.

With 18 students enrolled in this semester’s European cultures gateway course, Bornholdt says she is pleased with the CES’s inaugural year. “For the next academic year, we plan to add our third new gateway course which will be offered through the history department and we hope to further strengthen our cooperation with other disciplines such as art and business and economics. And then the plan is to branch out to other parts of the world such as Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America by adding additional certificate programs.”

The CES program “is a great vehicle for adding new dimension to the curriculum. It is unlike anything we have offered before in the School of Arts and Sciences, and with its global and interdisciplinary focus, it reflects the direction we are taking as we plan for the future,” says L.R. Poos, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

In April the Academic Senate approved the new Certificate in Islamic World Studies (IWS), which will be the University’s second global-area-studies program that uses the certificate model. The IWS certificate program, which will be available beginning in fall 2012, is designed to extend majors in the humanities and social sciences with coordinated courses on the Islamic world from other departments plus a significant level of instruction in Arabic.


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