International Studies is an interdisciplinary major that seeks to help students attain a well-rounded understanding of global developments and trends and to prepare them to succeed in the globally-connected world of the twenty-first century. In addition to core courses in international politics, history and economics, students study a foreign language and choose an area of concentration in which they take a cluster of electives related to one of three areas: a country or region of their choice; globalization and sustainability; or international security. A distinguishing aspect of the major is the comprehensive written and oral examinations which students take in the last semester of the senior year. 

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

Students who are interested in the International Studies should begin by taking INST/POSC 170, International Relations, which is one of the required core courses for the major and one of the core areas around which the major has been designed. The course (along with conversations with IS faculty) may help students decide whether to consider additional courses in the major.

IS majors must complete two semesters of foreign language coursework beyond the intermediate level of proficiency. Foreign language coursework should therefore be started or continued in the first year.

Since the three courses that together comprise the economics requirement of the major must be taken sequentially, it is also a good idea to take ECON 111, Introduction to Microeconomics, early.

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: International Studies. Early advising (prior to the decision to declare the major) is recommended.


Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Many of the courses in the major can serve as distribution requirements.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

Coursework for the International Studies major includes six core courses; a foreign language requirement; four courses in the chosen concentration; and two capstone courses during the senior year. While carefully planning with an IS academic advisor is important ensuring satisfactory completion of the major, the International Studies curriculum was designed to be flexible enough to permit students to spend a year abroad and offers considerable freedom in choosing the electives that satisfy students’ area of concentration.

There is no one preferred pathway through the major, although course prerequisites mean that certain courses must be taken before others. The guidelines below are written for entering students who know they want to major in International Studies. Students beginning the major requirements in their first year have considerable freedom to re-order the course sequence outlined below (being mindful of prerequisites) to suit their interests. Students who come to the major later can and do complete the major requirements in a shorter time period. Majors and prospective majors should discuss their options with an IS faculty advisor.

First Year

ECON 111
ECON 112 (prerequisite ECON 111)
Start or continue foreign language (both semesters)

Sophomore Year

INST/POSC 280 (prerequisite INST/POSC 170)
One of three required diplomatic history courses
INBM 200 (prerequisites ECON 111 and 112)
INST electives (choose in consultation with academic advisor)
Continue with foreign language

Junior Year (abroad)

INST electives (choose in consultation with academic advisor)
Finish foreign language requirement for the major

Senior Year

INST 401 (offered in fall semester only)
INST 404 (offered in spring semester only)
Finish all other IS requirements (core courses, electives, language) as needed


A student will be awarded Honors if the student has a 3.50 average overall and in the major, an A or A- in International Studies 401 and International Studies 404.

Opportunities for off-campus study

We hope and expect (but do not require) that all of INST majors will study abroad for at least one semester. In practice, this is generally best undertaken during the students’ junior year, although students should discuss their individual study abroad plans with their academic advisor. Going abroad during the junior year allows INST majors two years to complete many of the core courses required for the major and to return in their senior year for the required capstone courses. The core coursework and the senior seminars are expected to be completed while in residence on campus. Courses taken abroad may – with approval from the academic advisor – be appropriate as electives for students’ area of concentration (a region, globalization and sustainability, or international security).

Additional Remarks

Careers: Many International Studies majors pursue careers in government service, international business, banking and law. Some go on to the Peace Corps. Others have found work with Non-governmental organizations. Recent graduates have landed posts in the State Department, the Commerce Department, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Defense. Others have continued and pursued advanced degrees in the leading graduate programs and professional schools in the United States, Europe, and Asia.