International Studies overhaul in the works

As the new Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, which officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, continues to define its role in the University’s internationalization efforts, administrators are planning to overhaul the International Studies major, rename it “Global Affairs,” expand its course offerings and narrow its focus.

The changes are a direct response to student demand, Jackson Institute director James Levinsohn said, but they won’t be immediate — Levinsohn and International Studies DUS Jason Lyall said they do not want to rush the decision-making process.

“It’s not every day that someone drops $50 million in your lap,” Lyall said, referring to the $50 million donation in April 2009 from John Jackson ’67 and his wife, Susan, that started the Institute. “We want this to be an institution that has a very prominent role on campus and that students will want to be a part of.”

The new major will be called “Global Affairs,” University President Richard Levin confirmed Monday at a public panel, but Levinsohn must still present a proposal to the Course of Study Committee for approval. Still, neither Lyall or Levinsohn are certain what this new major will entail. The only sure thing is a separate career services center for IS students, and Lyall said director Elizabeth Gill is already operating at “100 miles per hour,” reviewing senior resumes, putting together a weekly newsletter and suggesting potential employment or internship opportunities.

For the rest of the major, Lyall and Levinsohn said they are considering several ideas. First, Global Affairs may become a standalone major, unlike IS, which can only be taken as a double major. This idea, Lyall said, has been well-received by students consulted this fall (including the 80 junior and senior IS majors he’s spoken to) and is driven by rising student demand for courses in International Studies. Enrollment in Levinsohn’s new introductory IS course, “Gateway to Global Affairs,” reached 171, making it this semester’s 14th most popular class.

The institute may also restrict the number of students allowed into the major. IS students have so far responded positively to the idea of limiting enrollment, Lyall said, in part because it would increase the program’s prestige and improve student access to professors and career services. Finally, Lyall hopes to add more actual practitioners rather than just professors. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s seminar was “massively oversubscribed,” Levinsohn said, and “The New China,” taught by Morgan Stanley executive Stephen Roach, drew more than 100 students.

Levinsohn said he hopes to submit his proposed changes to the Course of Study Committee by the end of September, but the review will likely take another few months. Still, senior deputy registrar Eileen Quinn, the committee’s secretary, said the committee will work with “all deliberate speed” to keep progress from lagging.

Julio Perez-Torres ’12, a Modern Middle East Studies and International Studies double major, said while an expanded Global Affairs program may attract students highly interested in international affairs, it could also deter those whose interests are not as certain, or who appreciate the flexibility of the current setup.

“I am happy to be grandfathered into the old IS system because it offers me more opportunities for what I want to do,” Perez-Torres said.

Keira Lu ’11, though, said she supports the idea of IS as a standalone major, and supports hiring more practitioners.

“International studies requires such a large number of courses it is almost like a major by itself already,” Lu said.

The changes that are ultimately made will not impact the classes of 2011 or 2012. Lyall and Levinsohn are hoping the class of 2013 will be the first class to enroll in the new major, Lyall said, adding that interested sophomores will be asked to apply next semester.

Comments

  • idre

    I was grandfathered in to the IS system five years ago but was never thrilled with the way it was run. Neither were many other members of the Yale class of 2007 – we went from a group of 73 individuals admitted to the major to approximately 30 at graduation.

    The old IS major had many problems – the program certainly had little to no prestige on campus, didn’t help much in terms of applications to jobs and fellowships and offered a repetitive academic experience, especially for political science/history/economics majors.

    This news is a welcome change, though why the “global affairs” name? I don’t understand why Yale feels it has to be different from other colleges by not having an undergraduate “international *relations*” major in spite of having a graduate major in this area.