The University of Rhode Island will be launching a new international studies and diplomacy major in the Fall of 2018. The major was approved last month and is an interdisciplinary program that includes courses from the political science, economics and foreign language departments.
Participating students will have the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Arts in one of the international studies, as well as one of the five foreign languages offered at the University. Both degree programs will be completed within four years, and participating students will be required to study abroad for at least one semester.
Completion of the international studies and diplomacy (ISD) major requires 63 credits worth of major-based classes. 30 of those credits come from the language major, and the other 33 come from the international studies part. Curriculum maps have already been designed for incoming students, including the requirements in the areas of political science, economics and history and cultural studies. Students will gain critical skills that can be used across the global workforce, as well as learn a multitude of systematic global processes.
Marc Hutchison, an associate professor of political science at the University, is working closely alongside Karen de Bruin, the French department chair and Richard McIntyre, economics department chair to implement the new program.
“There are three required classes in international relations, which is housed here in political science, then there are four required classes that you’ll need in international economics, then you’ll have one required class in history and cultural studies,” said Hutchison. “The design here is that we have these cores- all the things that we think are really important to a complete understanding of the global systemic processes, and we think the language and cultural understanding will complement each other.”
The study abroad portion of the program will be completed during the students’ junior year. However, Hutchison is working with de Bruin and the University to organize “partner” institutions. This is being done in an effort to decrease the “Americanization” that may come with a traditional study abroad program, and allow students to become more culturally immersed in the country where they will study.
“The partners that we are establishing have very strong language programs which are very good resources for our students to rely on,” said Hutchison. “We have two already established for our French majors and we’re working right now in our Spanish program, German program and Italian program. We hope to have those at least set by this summer and ready to roll out the year after.”
McIntyre is working on a new online class for the economics department of the ISD program. The class will be online and used as a way for students in different countries to explain the economy they are working with, but also as a way to understand the global economy. In total, economics courses will make-up about 40 percent of the program.
“People will be in Germany, France, Mexico, China and will be having online discussion, making presentations on their country, and will talk about how these different countries are responding to the same changes in the global economy,” said McIntyre. “That gives me an opportunity to encourage them and to be sure they’re interacting with the local culture and using a local language rather than staying in their English-language bubble. Cultural competency is part of the deal here.”
The ISD program will also be offering a five-year MA to BA option. During their junior year, interested students can apply to the Masters in International Relations program. Hutchison and his colleagues have also created curriculum maps for this option as well. By achieving a Master’s degree, students will be able to apply to the foreign service and other departments that they could not if they only have a Bachelor’s degree.
Recruitment for the program is currently be done with current first-year students in addition to the incoming class of 2022. Students who are currently enrolled in Political Science and Economics classes have been reached out to. Since the study abroad part of the program must occur during a students’ junior year, many upperclassmen are not eligible for the program.
“I hope that this program will allow me to gain more knowledge on the international world, politics and the international view on certain topics,” said freshman participant Meghan Greene. “I also hope to improve my fluency in French and make it so I can do international work either in the U.S., France, or French speaking countries in Africa.”
Hutchison hopes that the ISD program will gain regional and national recognition for its rigor and opportunities. After the program is up and running, he hopes to expand and include an Institute of International Studies and Diplomacy in which a high-level diplomat or ambassador will teach classes at URI for a semester.
“We just can’t wait to see this program develop and see how students react to it,” said Hutchison. “We think it’s going to be a great experience for those students. It offers something pretty unique and new.”