New IR curriculum emphasizes research

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March 27, 2007

12:55 PM

Beginning this fall, students who declare an international relations major will tackle a new curriculum. Created by faculty in May 2006, it will also serve as a framework to eventually establish the College as the nation’s premier institution for undergraduate IR studies.

p. “Part of it is building on what we already have [of] undergraduate research,” Director of International Relations Michael J. Tierney said.

p. The original curriculum placed a strong emphasis on government: three of the four core courses were from that department. Changes include two more core classes from the economics department and one each from history and international relations. There is also an addition of social and cultural contexts, methods and capstone components.

p. Current and prospective IR majors have only until the end of this semester to decide between the two curriculums before the new requirements are enforced.

p. Junior Lauren Triner likes the revised standards and welcomes taking both international trade theory and policy and international finance.

p. “I know this sounds ridiculous, but I really am looking forward to the advanced econ classes. That is the part that most people are dreading, but I think that it really is a crucial part of the major,” Triner said.

p. Her opinion mirrors the department’s aim to have a more global perspective.

p. “It’s difficult to understand IR without a strong grasp on international economy,” Tierney said.

p. History courses make up the bulk of the social and cultural contexts portion of the curriculum. As resources become available in the future, the IR department hopes to give history the same emphasis that economics will have.

p. The methods requirement is designed to familiarize students with the methodological tools of disciplines contributing to the IR major. Coupled with a Capstone independent research project, students will be equipped to succeed in whatever path they choose after graduation.

p. “Research is important. Skills you learn by going through that process are applicable whether you want to go be a professor or work for the World Bank, the CIA, State Department, Green Peace or go to law school,” Tierney said.

p. “Research has never really been my thing, but at the same time, it is a great skill to have. And I know that I will be glad that I took the class once I finish it,” Triner said.

p. Another student, sophomore Maham Akbar, found a more attractive option.

p. “I think I can do the same with the government and middle eastern studies majors as I would have with the IR and Middle Eastern studies majors,” Akbar said.

p. However, Akbar also had to make a concession. “Economics and trade are a huge part of international relations and it is nice to see the IR curriculum reflecting that. However, it is just something that would not suit me,” Akbar said.

p. Like students, professors also expect to benefit from the improvements. An economist, historian and political scientist will simultaneously teach INRL 300, which all IR majors will take. This offers students and professors alike three different perspectives for various contemporary IR issues.

p. The new IR curriculum parallels the College’s stated commitment to remaining competitive through research. Faculty including Tierney and Reves Director Laurie Koloski join Director and Dean of Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies Joel Schwartz to bring about a stronger IR department. Support from the IR Club and lectures by practitioners such as Vice Provost for International Affairs Mitchell Reiss, former Chief of Staff Larry Wilkerson and General Anthony Zinni play crucial roles in the concerted effort to benefit both the students and IR program at the College.

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