Tracking a digital movement

Digital graduate program ties together different fields
Monday, March 13, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:45 a.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

Through the CDiG Graduate Certificate Program, MU’s Center for the Digital Globe offers its students an opportunity to keep up with the global society here at MU.

Established by the College of Business, the schools of journalism and law and the Department of Textile and Apparel Management, this interdisciplinary center focuses its research, teaching and conferences on globalization, e-commerce and digitization.

“The idea was that there were several disciplines in the university that had a common thread — in the Internet and new technologies,” said Wayne Wanta, the executive director of CDiG and a professor at the School of Journalism. “This interest varied across disciplines, but there’s a common thread. Hence, the certificate program is open to any graduate student.”

In order to receive the certificate, students have to take the two mandatory courses offered through CDiG, the introductory “Exploring the Digital Global” and the capstone class “Case Studies in the Digital Globe,” and two electives. Twelve departments have faculty members affiliated with CDiG, called “faculty fellows,” and the elective courses are offered throughout the campus.

“Right now, we have 51 faculty fellows from all over the campus,” Wanta said. “We have three from geography, several from engineering, computer science, communication and so on.”

Antonie Stam, a professor at the College of Business who teaches the introductory CDiG course, said the course is heavy on guest speakers and runs like a weekly seminar that ties together different fields.

“The goal of this course is to bring students from different areas together and to expose them to digital issues, problems or phenomena in many fields,” Stam said. “The guest speakers bring their perspectives to the class and interact with students from different backgrounds.”

Xiao Tong, a doctoral student from the textile and apparel management department who was in the program last year, said the rapid development of digital technology over the past decade made her eager to be part of the program.

“In the textile and apparel industry, more and more companies are benefiting from Internet technologies by employing a business-to-business or a business-to-consumer e-commerce strategy,” she said. “Many challenges and issues — including technical, ethical, security, legal and policy challenges at the global level — are arising involved with e-commerce adoption.”

With a faculty of diverse interests and backgrounds, CDiG has managed to put out an interdisciplinary yearly symposium. Last fall, the center held a “Terrorism and Communication in a Digital World” video conference joined by researchers, faculty and students from four locations: Murcia and Pamplona in Spain; Austin, Texas; and Columbia. Faculty and students in Austin and Columbia were able to interact with these researchers and ask questions.

“We called it an I-conference because it was an Internet-based interactive conference,” Wanta said. “People in Spain can talk about a very timely and important issue, and our students and faculty here can benefit from it. It was amazing.”

Diversity has been CDiG’s strength, but it is also a challenge. Wanta said that although the center is now ready for expansion, one of the main challenges is to get more people from more disciplines to work together.

“CDiG is ambitious,” Stam said. “There are so many different departments with different foci, philosophies and ways of thinking that the main challenge is to get students and faculty to talk in the same language. You have to first find a common ground before you can start doing any research together.”

By far, CDiG has received positive responses from students in its graduate certificate program, and the number of students participating in the program has grown over the past two years.

“Students walking out of the program are expected to have a better appreciation of the different ways in which people from various fields look at the digital world and to develop an understanding of the other side of the issue,” Stam said. “You become not only better people, but since you have to work with people from other fields after graduating, the course helps prepare you to understand that not all people think exactly the same way you do.”

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