As a prospective student I sought a better understanding of the United States within a globalized world. I wanted to further establish my factual knowledge of American and world history, and I wanted to engage several disciplines, perspectives, and theories to understand, dissect, and utilize that knowledge. Additionally I sought to develop my writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills. The MAAS program effectively facilitated this.
This is not a program centered exclusively on ‘textbook’ knowledge. In MAAS the professors take very seriously the importance of critical discussion over the topics in question. As such, the comprehensive presentation of factual knowledge is continually matched with interrogation into the causes, effects, and implications of the topic. Moreover, the professors encourage the students to question various presumptions that have been taken for granted in the historical or contemporary discourse of the topic. This amounts to lively intellectual consideration in each course and is, indeed, the program’s most important element.
Ultimately, knowledge is reinforced in each course while the particular disciplinary approach of a course affords nuanced understandings. For example, in Literary Journalism the student addresses topics in American and world history through the medium of the genre. Studying John Hersey’s Hiroshima or David Foster Wallace’s piece on 9/11 allowed for intimate and privileged vantage points from which the student could address those events. Likewise, the course on law and justice facilitated inquiry into the fundamental developments and philosophical underpinnings of American society—concepts that would be relevant in each MAAS course. The depth of the MAAS interdisciplinary approach is a quintessential aspect of the program.
Both of these aspects are met with the range of personal, national, and educational backgrounds of the professors and students—adding diverse perspectives to the discussion of material. Indeed, as the material is so often of direct international concern, such perspectives are essential. This internationality (of the program and university itself) was the aspect that I cherished most. Moreover, the special joie de vivre of Ghent, its friendly and open community, and its world-class host of beers make it a phenomenal city for students.
Reflecting on my experience in the program and in Ghent, I certainly feel satisfied and confidently prepared for the law and public service careers that I seek to pursue.