Originally created 04/27/04

University professors create course on G-8



SAVANNAH, Ga. - A few months back, Armstrong Atlantic State University assistant professor Jose da Cruz asked students if they had heard of an international meeting called G-8.

Their response surprised him.

"Is that a new band?" some asked.

Concerned that students didn't understand G-8 - and had no clue that this June's summit would be held nearby on Sea Island - Mr. da Cruz, an assistant professor of political science, and his colleague, Pat Mizak, an assistant professor of economics, this winter created a course on the Group of Eight nations.

Starting in January and concluding in May, the two professors asked honors students to study the history and politics of the annual G-8 meetings. Savannah tourism and police officials were also invited to speak to the class on the summit's economic impact and expected protests.

The result?

All 25 students, a mix of high school and college students, finally know about G-8 but have sharply divergent views on its significance.

Rena Dixon, 21, a junior from Augusta, had never heard of G-8 until a college adviser suggested she take the class. Now Ms. Dixon, who speaks Spanish, is considering working as a G-8 volunteer when diplomats come to Savannah on June 8-10.

And she's glad that President Bush will meet other world leaders on Sea Island to discuss terrorism and trade.

"It's important to talk about issues," she said.

The talks include eight nations - the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, Japan - and the European Union.

Political science student Rob Oldham, 36, of Savannah, at first dismissed G-8 as "a cocktail party" but tempered his remark, adding quickly, "It's always good when world leaders meet."

But don't look for Mr. Oldham to work as a G-8 volunteer.

"I'll probably be in the streets with a sign in my hand," he said.

An active Democrat, Mr. Oldham plans to join the protesters with a "Kerry for President" sign.

Even if students differ, both professors are pleased that their students are finally thinking about it.

"We're just building awareness," said Mr. Mizak, who is also the university's director of institutional research.