The Program in International Relations (IR) revised its major requirements to allow for area specialization this academic year. The changes, instituted partly to match students’ skills to job placement, have received positive student feedback.
Notable changes in the major include a decrease in the required upper division economics classes and a new course on comparative governance.
Michael Tomz, director of the Program in IR, said student demand for ways to specialize in one or more regions of the world prompted the change in curriculum.
“We had been monitoring student job placement and a lot of them were getting jobs in part because of their regional specializations,” Tomz said. “They wanted to be able to signal to employers that they had done significant coursework on a particular region of the world and had that expertise.”
Under the new requirements, majors now declare one major concentration and one minor concentration. They must take 35 units of core classes and 35 units in their specialization.
Social development/human well being is currently the most popular specialization, followed by comparative international governance, according to Sara Bascetta-Bohn, student services officer in the IR program.
The previous requirements allowed students to pick one of the three major tracks. These tracks were comparative political and historical analysis, comparative culture and society, and comparative international political economy. Additionally, students had to complete five courses distributed across these tracks for an area specialization.
“I actually like the new requirements because they give me more of a variety, unlike before,” IR major Jackie Li ’15 said.
The IR program also plants to take advantage of the University’s recent investment in new study abroad locations.
“I think that allowing people to specialize in particular geographic regions of the world is very compatible for another requirement of the program, which is study abroad,” Tomz said. “This was our way to be able to accommodate those new opportunities for students.”
Majors are also only required to take one upper division economics class instead of the two previously required, which allows students to bypass concerns with economics prerequisites.
“We did that because there are very strict prerequisites for most classes in the economics department,” Tomz said. “Our majors were finding it difficult to do that, especially if their interests were not in the economics side of IR.”
IR major Magali Duque ’15 said that she appreciates the new “well-rounded amount of requirements” and the more flexible approach to economics within IR.
“You have to take a little bit of econ, you have to take some social sciences, you have to take classes in a broad spectrum of areas, and that is what IR is all about,” Duque said.
Students can also now fulfill their comparative governance core course requirement by taking PoliSci 4: Introduction to Comparative Politics, or History 102: The History of the International System Since 1914.
“This gives students a chance to look at the way American politics intersects with international affairs,” Bascetta-Bohn said.
Over the last five years, the number of declared majors for IR has remained steady with an average of 102 graduates per year. Nevertheless, Bascetta-Bohn is optimistic that the new requirements will produce an increase in IR majors.
“When students hear about picking a primary and secondary specialization, they get very excited about it,” Bascetta-Bohn said.
A previous version of this article stated that a quarter-long program in Istanbul will begin in fall 2013. The Bing Overseas Study Program has no such plans. The Daily regrets the error.