At first sight, you might be concerned that Beth Kraig is so eager for students to study genocide. Even she said, “it’s weird to be so excited about people studying something so horrific.”
But after finally getting official approval for a Holocaust and genocide studies minor program, she’s earned the right to be excited.
“What excites me about it isn’t the joyfulness, but the intensity of learning that’s involved in studying human beings at their worst,” Kraig said. “Sometimes you learn the most when you’re being challenged to learn about the very worst things human beings can do.”
The idea for the minor came when Kraig taught her class on the history of modern Israel and Palestine, and she said she realized that two colleagues were teaching courses in related areas: one in literature and the other a Holocaust studies class. The trio collaborated on a combined class period during the semester and were pleased with the results.
“That was a real pivotal point. It made us realize how much students could learn if they took classes in different disciplines,” Kraig said.
Finally, over this past summer, Kraig and seven other faculty members decided to do something about it. Once a proposal was put together and presented to the Faculty Assembly, it passed, and within a week the Board of Regents had also approved it.
“We want to challenge students to be more rigorous in their own thinking about how they exist in the world,” Kraig said.
The minor requires 20 credits, but some of that can be made up of classes that fall under what Kraig calls “the 60 percent rule.” If a student can work with a professor in any discipline and class to gear 60 percent or more of the student’s individual classwork to the Holocaust or other instances of genocide, he or she can apply that credit to the minor program.
The introductory class required for the minor will be offered beginning in Fall 2014, but Kraig is optimistic that students will be able to graduate with the minor by Spring 2015, since students can apply credits to the minor retroactively.
Kraig also encourages students to meet with her to pre-enroll for the minor and evaluate how many classes they’ve already taken can be applied to the program.