Sophomores who join the new global affairs major will help shape the program as they move through it.
Wednesday night, about 25 sophomores attended the third information session for the major, which was also the last formal meeting for students before the March 22 deadline to apply to the new program. Jason Lyall, director of undergraduate studies for global affairs and for international studies, which the new major will replace, said administrators have not yet determined all of the details of the major and will respond to feedback from the roughly 50 sophomores they accept. Lyall said that he is also looking for students who have taken adventurous and diverse courses during their first two years.
“We’re looking for risk takers,” Lyall said. “This is a new major, and we want some people who are excited about that.” Students interviewed said they have some concerns about joining a program that has yet to be tested, but they said the success of the Jackson Institute thus far suggests that joining the new major would prove fruitful.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Varoon Bashyakarla ’13, who attended the information session, said he is confident that administrators will produce a strong program even though he said he is uneasy about the novelty of the program.
“I do have qualms that the program hasn’t been established,” he said. “At the same time, I do trust that Yale will provide a solid curriculum.”
Director of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs James Levisohn said the new major’s emphasis on policy, its international focus and its interdisciplinary approach are the program’s key features. Lyall said the students will study along one of two tracks — international security and international development and health, which is his specialty, and international development, which is Levinsohn’s.
While Vinicius Lindoso ’13, who plans to apply to the new major, said the practical nature of the coursework appeals to him, he expressed concerns that the courses in the major will not suit his needs because his interests do not fall neatly into the major’s two tracks.
Administrators designed the major’s two tracks in response to criticism from students that the International Studies major lacks an “identity,” Lyall said. The stipulation that students could only major in international studies in combination with another major contributed to this problem, he added.
Now that global affairs is a stand-alone major, Lyall said he does not expect many students to double major in global affairs because of the demanding requirements: 12 course credits including a senior capstone project and demonstrated foreign language proficiency.
Still, he said, administrators have designed the major’s framework with flexibility in mind. Lyall said students who major in global affairs will complete surveys next fall to help administrators select topics for senior capstone projects, in which teams of students will develop policy recommendations for actual clients. Though Lyall says he has ideas for potential capstones — such as a counterinsurgency task force that would advise the United States military regarding its efforts in Afghanistan — he wants to respond to student interest.
Adriana Teran ’13 said she appreciates that the department will cater to the interests of students.
“I wouldn’t want to work on something I’m not interested in,” she said, “so that’s a good way to do it.”
While the major may restrict study to two specific tracks, students can take courses from several different departments. The majority of global affairs courses will be offered in the departments of Political Science, History and Economics, as well as in the Jackson Institute.
Political Science DUS Peter Swenson GRD ’86 said it would not bother him if the Political Science Department, which is home to the largest major at Yale, lost some majors to the new program, especially since students who major in global affairs will be taking courses in the Political Science Department. His department has an international relations track, he added, but his political science students will approach the subject differently from those in the new global affairs program.
“We don’t have much of a policy focus,” he said. “Students that have that sort of interest might gravitate toward global affairs.”
Ruth Nakaar ’13 said she considered the international studies major as a freshman, but chose the political science major in part because of the breadth of subjects in which students can specialize. Political science majors can choose between five fields: international relations, American government, political philosophy, analytical political theory and comparative government.
Because global affairs combines economics and political science, Nelson Mendoza ’13 said he will now major in global affairs if he is accepted instead of economics or politics science alone.
Yale’s acclaimed grand strategies program also trains students to make decisions in leadership positions and offers funding for summer research, but administrators said the content of the two programs do not overlap.
“Global affairs has a social science-based approach, and grand strategies has a humanities-based approach,” said Charles Hill, diplomat-in-residence and Grand Strategies instructor. “They are not competing for the same space.”
The application for the new program asks students to explain why they want to major in global affairs, list any relevant work or travel experience and submit an unofficial transcript.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the two tracks of the Global Affairs major. The two tracks are “International Security” and “International Development and Health.”