February 2, 2014

University to Offer New Demography Minor

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Starting this semester, all undergraduate students will have the option to take a cross-college minor in demography.

The undergraduate minor, offered by the Cornell Population Center, will be “a rigorous undergraduate course of study on population-related topics,” according to the website of the Center, which performs demographic research and spans 24 departments and programs.

Demography is a broad field that concentrates on “the study of populations, how they grow, move [and] change,” according to Prof. Sharon Sassler, policy analysis and management, and director of undergraduate studies for the minor.

According to Erin Oates, the CPC program administrator, the Center — which has offered a graduate minor since its opening in 2007 — has expanded its target audience to include undergraduate students after much planning.

“[Our goal has always been] to reach the undergraduate population and try to spark an interest in demography studies,” Oates said. “Now,“we’re seeing this growing interest — growing need — in globalization,” she said.

The difference between this minor and other humanistic minors, such as the inequality studies minor, is that students will acquire applied skills to better work with data, according to Sassler.

Sassler said she believes these applied skills are especially important for students to have in the modern world.

“Being able to describe data is a crucial skill to have in the current job market,” she said. “I think being able to write up demographic data and understand population trends is useful in a lot of fields.”

The requirements for the minor include an introductory demographic course, a statistics course, one demographic overview course from a select list and two general population-related courses, according to the CPC’s website.

Sassler said students from all colleges are welcome to join the minor, though she recommends it for students who are specifically interested in working in government, public policy or business fields.

She said the demography minor is attracting a cross-section of undergraduates from across the university, noting high student interest and a diverse affiliate list, which consists of about 100 faculty members.

According to Oates, many students are already taking the minor’s required courses, which she said she believes reflects a growing interest in demography and the need to be aware of trends in globalization.

As the Center and the undergraduate minor move forward, they hope to open it up for seminars, symposiums, and outreach, she added.

“Part of our seminar series, people have an opportunity to meet with the speaker, so our graduate students have found that invaluable, just with research collaboration or just networking opportunities,” Oates said.

She added that the Center hopes to organize international exchange programs and internships through their already well-established connections to international organizations. “We’re learning as we’re going,” she said.