Supplement to the Major Requirements
This information is a supplement to the statement of requirements in the Vassar College Catalogue for a concentration in International Studies. It contains guidelines for those students planning to major in International Studies.
Concentration and Distribution
Students choosing to major in International Studies (IS) have a great deal of control over their course programs. Still, each student’s IS major program should be designed to achieve concentrated familiarity with a particular geographic area (or areas), a relevant foreign language, and at least two academic disciplines. In addition, an IS major must achieve a broad acquaintance with several areas and disciplines relevant to global questions. More detail on all of this below.
To achieve the goal of “concentrated familiarity,” IS majors are required to complete advanced (300 level) courses in at least two academic disciplines. Typically, at least one of these disciplines is one of the core social science disciplines of international studies -- economics, history, geography or political science. While this is typical, it is not a requirement. Some students may choose to concentrate in anthropology, sociology, literature, science, or some other field.
Every IS major must complete course work relevant to international issues at the intermediate (200) level in three of the following disciplines: economics, history, geography, and political science. One of the three must be economics. We further expect that every student concentrating in International Studies will do some course work involving treatment of the “less developed” world -- typically by taking at least one course focusing on Asia, Africa, and/or Latin America. An IS major is also expected to complete course work in research methods, ethics, and American studies. S/he should also plan for a structured foreign area educational experience (typically, a semester or two of JYA).
IS majors are also required to take the IS senior seminar (INTL 305), and to write a senior thesis.
Procedures for Proposing and Declaring an IS Major
A prospective IS major must submit a proposal which outlines her planned course of study as an IS major. Near the beginning of the fall semester, the IS Director will invite interested students to a meeting at which he will outline the IS major and the procedure for submitting a proposal. The essential elements of an IS major proposal are described and outlined in “International Studies Major Proposal, 2010-2011”
An acceptable proposal includes a list of courses that will allow the student to meet all of the IS major requirements. But this is not sufficient. A proposal should also demonstrate that the parts of the proposed program complement each other and, together, represent a coherent whole that reflects and meets the academic preferences and needs of the student.
If you are considering a major in IS, you should begin by (a) reading the IS section of the Vassar Catalogue with care (http://catalogue.vassar.edu/courses/intl/); (b) reflecting on your academic interests, ambitions and desires (c) reading over the “International Studies Major Proposal, 2010-2011” and (d) attending the open meeting called by the IS Director in the early weeks of the fall semester.
You should also feel free to consult with the IS Director (email@example.com), the IS student intern (firstname.lastname@example.org), and/or any member of the IS faculty (a list of IS faculty members appears at the top of the IS section of the Vassar Catalogue, and on the IS website). Your discussions with the director, the student intern and/or IS faculty are likely to be more fruitful if you take the steps listed in the preceding paragraph ahead of time. The discussion will be more fruitful still if you submit a draft of your IS major proposal to be read by the director (or student intern or steering committee member) as background for the discussion.
Your proposed IS major will be reviewed by the IS Panel of Advisors – a small group of IS faculty. Proposals will be returned a few weeks later -- in some cases with suggestions for revisions and/or clarification.Once your proposal is approved, it constitutes a contract with the program. Small changes may be approved by the Director in consultation with your adviser, but larger changes must be approved once more by the panel of advisors.
1. CORE COURSES IN THE PROGRAM: The International Studies Program offers introductory and capstone core courses: International Studies 106 (Perspectives in International Studies) and International Studies 305 (the Senior Seminar). Both courses are program requirements. (INTL 107 may be substituted for INTL 106.) It is strongly recommended that students consider taking Political Science 160: International Politics and Geography102: Global Geography as these courses are credited to the major.
2. LANGUAGE COMPETENCY: IS majors are expected to be proficient at an advanced level in at least one language other than English. The language or languages studied should be pertinent to the other course work in the major. “Proficiency” means third-year college language ability. This proficiency must be established by an examination given by one of Vassar’s language departments or by successful completion of appropriate college-level courses.
Introductory language work will normally not be counted toward the minimum number of units required for the major. Exceptions may be made by the steering committee on a case by case basis for certain languages not normally taught at the high school level.
Study of more than one foreign language is recommended for students planning a career in international affairs.
3. 300-LEVEL WORK: Every IS major must complete 300 level work in two disciplines as well as the IS Senior Seminar and a thesis. It is worth re-emphasizing that your 300 level courses (and your chosen disciplinary concentrations) should conform to your interests, should lead towards your thesis work, and should show integration and coherence. (Note: 300-level work may be taken in the language departments but to satisfy this requirement, 300 level courses should be in the study of literature, life or culture rather than language alone.)
4. INTERMEDIATE LEVEL WORK IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES: You must complete 200 level work in at least three of the four “core” social science disciplines (economics, geography, history, political science). One must be economics.
5. DIVERSITY IN THE UNITED STATES: Students are required to take one course that has diversity and/or inequality in U.S. as a major theme.
Take these recommendations seriously. We look to see all of them in a program and if you wish to be excepted from one you must address it head on in your proposal and make a compelling case.
1. Study of the Third World. Even if Europe is the regional focus of your IS major, you should take a course that focuses on societies in Latin America, Asia or Africa. This can be met in a wide number of departments. Please state in your proposal how the course that you plan to take will meet the goal of this recommendation.
2. Research Methods. Research methods courses are designed to help you define a and execute a research methodology. Take your research methods course in your sophomore year if possible. Research methods courses from a variety of departments are acceptable. You should choose a course that is consistent with your IS major.
3. Ethics.We feel that it is important that you develop an understanding of the ethical issues that underlie the global economic and political system. This requirement can be met by taking a course in ethics (PHIL 234: Ethics), or by taking a course that has ethical concerns as a central theme.
4. You should live or study outside of the United States in a structured experience. Normally this will be a JYA program, but this recommendation may be satisfied by attending High School abroad, or by an approved summer experience.
Write clearly, grammatically and address all of the requirements and recommendations for the IS major. Make sure that your course selections, language skills, foreign area experience and thesis fit together fit together and form a coherent whole.
After your proposal has been accepted, you will be assigned an adviser who is especially well suited to supervise your academic progress in the program. In most cases, this person will come from one of your two academic areas of concentration. If you consider making changes to your program at any point, you must discuss these prospective changes with your adviser and, subsequently, they must be approved by the IS Director.