Xander de Vries

The Jackson Institute for Global Affairs this week announced a two-phase remodeling of the undergraduate Global Affairs major that will eliminate the separation between the major’s two formal tracks, require more quantitative courses and reshuffle other required courses.

“We invented the new major about six years ago and we wanted to respond to student input, since we’ve all learned since the outset of the Global Affairs major,” said Jim Levinsohn, director of the Jackson Institute. “Our mission remains focused on equipping Yale students to engage with the global challenges of the day, and the faculty agreed with students that these changes made sense.”

The first phase of changes, which will apply to the class of 2020, will eliminate the two formal tracks — Security and Development. The change will give students greater flexibility to shape their curriculum to match their own academic interests, according to an email to global affairs majors from Sigríður Benediktsdóttir, director of undergraduate studies at the Jackson Institute. Before the change, students had to choose a track when they applied to the major, and many courses counted toward the major requirements for only one of the tracks rather than both.

According to Levinsohn, students thought the tracks were an “artificial grouping,” as many key areas in such fields as global health and climate policy are related to both security and development.

The first phase will also remove the Game Theory course requirement and add Intermediate Microeconomics as a requirement for all Global Affairs majors. Previously, only Global Affairs majors on the Development track were required to take that course.

The second phase of changes, which applies to students graduating in 2021, aims to make the Global Affairs curriculum more “cohesive.” This initiative will introduce a new quantitative analysis course specific to the major in spring 2019, which is intended to build on GLBL 121, “Applied Quantitative Analysis,” and will be taught by Justin Thomas, a professor at the Jackson Institute. Students will also be able to choose a data science course to fulfill their research methods requirement, in addition to the existing choices of game theory and advanced econometrics, according to Levinsohn.

In her email to students, Benediktsdóttir said that the emphasis on quantitative skills is meant to better prepare students for upper-level seminars and the capstone project they undertake senior year.

Arvin Anoop ’18, a global affairs and chemistry double major, praised the Jackson Institute for responding to student feedback.

“The major had too many classes that were restrictively labeled with one of the tracks in a way that didn’t always make sense,” Anoop said. “It’s a stretch to label classes like ‘Populism from Chavez to Trump’ and ‘Arab Revolts, Revolutions and Reform’ as only Development and ‘Eastern Europe since 1914’ as only Security. The labels were too often debatable and prevented students from looking at a class from their own security or development perspective.”

Anoop expressed concern about the quantitative focus pushing some students away from the major. However, he emphasized that people do not fear quantitative courses. Rather, they fear “poorly taught” quantitative courses. As long as the new Quantitative Analysis course is well taught like GLBL 121, it should not present problems, said Anoop.

Benediktsdóttir said that although the Jackson Institute will continue to offer many of the courses it currently does, it is also interested in introducing new courses that “blur the boundaries between the tracks.”

“We are also always interested to add courses and seminars which use social science research tools to solve contemporary global affairs [and] real-world problems,” Benediktsdóttir said.

The Jackson Institute was founded in 2010.

Daniel Dager | daniel.dager@yale.edu

Adelaide Feibel | adelaide.feibel@yale.edu