Yale has a new global affairs major, which will focus on policy-making and practical experience and replace the current international studies major.
The Yale College faculty approved the major in a vote Thursday afternoon, and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs will accept its first cohort of 50 students from the class of 2013 through a selective application process next spring, said Jason Lyall, director of undergraduate studies for international studies. Through the redesigned major, students would learn about international affairs and policy by working on-the-ground with practitioners in a variety of fields, Lyall said, and would go abroad for a funded summer experience. Unlike the international studies major — which can only be completed as a second major — the global affairs major will be a standalone major.
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“The Yale College faculty expressed widespread interest and enthusiasm for the new major,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said in an e-mail to the News Thursday night.
Administrators will continue to study whether or not it is feasible to complete global affairs in addition to a second major, Lyall said, because they do not yet know how many students would be interested in double majoring. The 2011 application for the major may include a question on double majoring to gauge student interest.
Students accepted into global affairs will choose one of two tracks: international development or international security. All students will complete a senior year “task force,” Lyall said, which replaces the senior essay required of current international studies majors. These projects are similar to the ones completed by juniors at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton.
To fill this requirement, Director of the Jackson Institute James Levinsohn said students will participate in groups of approximately 10 people to provide policy recommendations to an actual client, who Lyall said will be a real-life practitioner of international relations. For example, Levinsohn said, students might consult for an Indian nonprofit firm on social entrepreneurship and present policy recommendations to the nonprofit’s leaders at the end of the course.
Keira Lu ’11, a current economics and international studies double major, said she supports the changes behind the global affairs major. But, she added, she thinks the new requirements — particularly the senior year task force — would be too “taxing” to undertake as a second major.
“It’s targeted at students who are very serious about pursuing international affairs,” Lu said, adding that international studies is designed to “complement” the student’s primary major.
Juniors and seniors currently majoring in international studies will not experience significant changes to their requirements or course options over the next two years, Lyall said. Members of the class of 2012 will have similar choices for senior seminars to those offered in the past.
Lyall described the new major as keeping the favorable aspects of the international studies major, which he said include the program’s language requirement. Global affairs majors, like international studies majors, will be required to show proficiency in a foreign language by completing coursework with the L5 designation.
“The level of support [for changes] is what surprised me,” Lyall said. “The majority of students in the program wanted a lot more structure.”
He added that he has met individually with every junior and senior international studies major since the beginning of the year to determine how the structure of the global affairs major would differ from the international studies major. He also said he attended the academic fair during Freshman Orientation to survey interest and field suggestions for the new program.
Administrators are anticipating “hundreds” of applications, Lyall said. Levinsohn said approximately 70 students each year major in international studies.
“It will be quite selective,” Lyall said. “It’s designed to give the students a lot more one-on-one time.”
The small size will help ensure that students enrolled in the major have access to its resources — both financial and otherwise — that are “not unlimited,” Lyall said. Students in the major will receive full funding from the Jackson Institute to support them in projects during the summer before their senior year, Levinsohn said. These projects, which will be developed by students with support from the Jackson Institute, will be “broad” in their scope and include internships, research and work related to the senior year task force courses, Levinsohn added.
John Song ’11, who is currently enrolled in the international studies program, said he believes limiting the number of students enrolled in global affairs to 50 is appropriate given that they will complete global affairs as a standalone major.
“I think having the 50-person cap would eliminate the people, like me, who wouldn’t pick I.S. as their only major,” Song said.
The application to global affairs, which will require a transcript, personal essay, and a list of personal experiences that have led to the students’ interest in the major, will be available in March 2011, Lyall said, and students will be notified of admission results by April.
The Jackson Institute will continue to offer lecture courses open to all students, Levinsohn said. This semester, the Jackson Institute offered two such courses, both with over 200 students. Levinsohn said he also expects seminars in the global affairs program with additional space to continue to be open to students from outside of the global affairs major.
The Jackson Institute of Global Affairs officially opened in September 2010.