A few weeks before the start of classes, global affairs major Andi Peng ’18 received a link to pre-register for seminars she was interested in taking, heralding what Yale’s global affairs majors hope will be an era of increased focus on the undergraduate program.
Last spring, the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs accepted several reforms to its undergraduate curriculum proposed by the Global Affairs Student Affairs Committee. In addition to instating a seminar preregistration system for global affairs majors, these measures include allocating funds for undergraduate student activities and conducting informational events to attract a more diverse pool of applicants to the major.
Global Affairs also recently witnessed a leadership change. This semester, Sigridur Benediktsdottir took over as director of undergraduate studies for Global Affairs, succeeding Nuno Monteiro, who oversaw the acceptance of the proposed changes.
“This is the first semester since I’ve been here that I’ve ever seen a preregistration system implemented across the global affairs major,” said Peng, a member of the Student Affairs Committee. “Many seminars are cross listed [between] departments, so it becomes very important for global affairs students to have an equal stake in the class.”
Peng stressed that the change is important because seminars at Yale, especially in the social sciences, can be extremely competitive to get into, and preregistration is commonly implemented across other departments.
Benediktsdottir noted that the preregistration system is still in a trial phase and has yet to be evaluated.
“We will discuss it with our students and improve the process accordingly,” she said.
Several global affairs majors interviewed expressed enthusiasm about the new measure.
Committee member Jinchen Zou ’18 noted that of the committees she has been part of at Yale, the Student Affairs committee was among the most “transparent” and “dedicated.”
Zou said she appreciated that student feedback was taken constructively.
“Although there’s a lot more that can be done [with respect to preregistration], they have done a really good job of actually implementing it,” she said.
Some students interviewed said that while they appreciated the initiative, they had reservations about the efficiency of its implementation.
Stella Shannon ’18, another member of the Student Affairs Committee, said that the preregistration system was only implemented to a limited extent this semester and was not as successful as she would have hoped. As drawbacks of the new system, she pointed to the cancellation of several seminars for which preregistration was introduced and the fact that not every student who filled out the form got into their top-choice class.
“This change did not benefit me this semester,” Shannon said. “I was placed in a seminar that conflicted with the required Global Affairs Senior Capstone course.”
She added that she had spoken to Benediktsdottir, who said that the department would take steps to address the problem.
In an email to the News, Benediktsdottir emphasized her commitment to improving the program.
“We are always looking for ways to improve the major and changes based on the recommendations of our student advisory committee,” she wrote.
Students interviewed also noted that because it is still early in the semester, some of the other changes that were proposed in the spring have not yet been implemented.
Zou emphasized that the school year has just begun and noted that the global affairs major remains in a period of transition due to the recent change in leadership.
“Applications open way later in the semester, so the [informational sessions] proposed have not happened yet,” she said, adding that the Student Affairs Committee is recruiting new members and has yet to convene for the first time this semester.
In a similar vein, Shannon remarked that she had not yet heard of any changes to funding for student activities.
But in her email to the News, Benediktsdottir said the department is ready to allocate increased funds for undergraduate activities.
“The idea to increase funds toward undergraduate activities was put forth by the Student Advisory Committee, and we will collaborate with [them] about how to best allocate the funds,” she said. “We are planning to call together the SAC in October.”
Benediktsdottir also noted that although the proposed informational events have not yet started, the Jackson Institute is committed to taking the advice of the Student Advisory Committee and organizing “more focused information events to maintain good diversity.”
Students interviewed said they appreciated Benediktsdottir’s commitment and expressed hope that the changes proposed by the committee would be realized in the coming months.
“I hope that, in the fall, we’ll get to talk more about it,” Peng said. “I’m excited because Monteiro, the director of undergraduate studies last year, pushed really hard toward taking student input on these changes and he did a very good job in the year that he was here. I hope that [Benediktsdottir] will continue to do just as well.”
The undergraduate major in global affairs was introduced in 2010.
Saumya Malhotra | firstname.lastname@example.org