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INTG course focuses on Midwest region, examines economic development

February 21, 2014

Colleges and universities often highlight their state history within the curriculum. Monmouth College takes a step further and has a class on the whole region.

The Midwest Matters blog was created to provide students with a larger discussion of the future of the Midwest and how it will shape the American future. Extending from the blog came a course that Robin Johnson, lecturer in the political science department, created for the fourth-year integrated studies curriculum titled Politics and Government in the Midwest. “There had been no effort to study the region as a whole,” Johnson said of his decision to create this course.

The class has students conduct research on the Midwest. In the past year, students were asked to look at economic development programs for towns much like Monmouth and Galesburg. It covered 50 towns in the Midwest. It involved interviewing town officials and analyzing their websites. Conclusions were made, finding some towns with poor development programs related to poor economies.

This year, Johnson wants to change the project to look at immigration in towns with meat packing plants.

“These towns are outliers compared to other rural towns,” Johnson said. “They are growing in population compared to the trend of lessening populations.”

Monmouth is one of the outliers. According to Johnson, the project has the ability to be even larger than his previous ones. With the project he hopes to find a broader perspective of the growth of these counties and challenge some perspectives.

The class also takes a political and cultural look at the Midwest. Johnson designed the course to give information to students about the region and have them decide if the Midwest still exists or has been a casualty to globalization. He provides viewpoints from either side using books, articles and guest speakers by the internet or personal visits, suggesting the Midwest exists or, conversely, does not exist anymore.

“I want to give the information to the students and make them decide,” Johnson said. As part of the course, the class decides if state lines separate the Midwest or if they have become a poor guide in the age of globalism.

Alexander Peacock
Contributing Writer

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