As foreign affairs continue to make banner headlines across the globe, Yalies, like the University, are increasingly internationalizing their academic endeavors.
Interested sophomores are beginning what is expected to be a competitive application process for Yale’s International Studies major, which has begun to implement sweeping reforms to its requirements.
Long considered the University’s flagship undergraduate program in global issues, International Studies — offered only as a second major — will grow more centralized this year due to curriculum restructuring.
International Studies began last fall to offer its own two-term introductory course series, “International Ideas and Institutions,” taught by diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill. The major also designed its own courses centered on five major themes: analytical tools, statecraft and power, ethnicity and culture, political economy, and science and technology. Professors said they think these new requirements, which replace a set of required classes built loosely around three groups of wide-ranging courses, will enhance the quality of the major.
“[The new requirements are] enhancing the student body’s interest and capability of international affairs,” Yale Center for International and Area Studies Director Gustav Ranis said. “It is viewed as a foundation major for [work in] international studies and as such has given the internationalization of Yale enhanced quality.”
The new course requirements are being phased into the major and will limit the course options for International Studies majors, Jose Cheibub, the program’s director of undergraduate studies, said.
“Restricting slightly the choices the students will have to make the experience more meaningful … [it] doesn’t mean that we’re forcing a particular curriculum on the students,” Cheibub said.
Nana Massie ’05, who double-majors in history and International Studies, said she thinks the new requirements could weaken the International Studies program if it becomes more centralized and less interdisciplinary.
“What I see International Studies as doing is pulling together the most stellar international classes at Yale,” Massie said. “[But] I hope that by refining the requirements and by creating more International Studies-specific classes, they don’t lose that.”
To enroll in the International Studies major, sophomores must apply to the major this March. Cheibub said last year, about half of the 100 applicants were admitted to the major.
The major is limited by the number of senior seminars it can offer. The senior seminar has long been considered the trademark of the program, Ranis said.
“In the [2003 undergraduate curricular review], they are encouraging the expansion of the International Studies major, which I think would be appropriate,” Ranis said. “There’s an excess demand of the best students because as a double major, we get the best students. I’m hoping that the quality will be better enhanced and also the quantity we accept into this program can be increased.”
Cheibub said he will not discriminate against sophomore applicants who have already completed some of the old requirements for the major.
“We do not want to penalize anybody who has invested resources in the old requirements,” Cheibub said. “We look into that as an indicator of what kind of investment the student has in International Studies. We’re being very careful to make sure that current sophomores are not going to be expected to meet the new requirements.”
Detelina Kalkandjieva ’06, who said she plans to apply to the program this spring, said she has already completed many of the major’s old requirements, but none of the new ones.
“[Cheibub] has to decide course by course what is going to count because I am in a transitional class,” Kalkandjieva said. “I think that the changes are making the major much more centralized and they’re improving it a lot, but it would be a little inconvenient for the people who have already taken some of the [old] requirements.”
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