How to revamp the international studies major

By Meredith Pratt | Staff Writer

Choosing a major was the first of many decisions I made throughout my college journey. I remember carefully looking through each of the 100-plus majors Baylor offers and being overwhelmed. I had no idea what my career goals were, but I knew that I would find something that piqued my curiosity.

When it came time to declare my major, I went with my interests. International studies sounded like a perfect fit for me, as I was someone who enjoyed learning about global politics, history and culture.

Now, as I approach my senior year, I am able to reflect on my experience as an international studies major. While there are certainly aspects of the major that I have loved and appreciated, such as the required five semesters of a foreign language, there are some changes I would make to enhance the experiences of future students who choose this learning pathway.

One observation I have made in the past three years at Baylor is that students in other fields of study, such as business, biology, social work and journalism, have a required sequence of courses that are the building blocks of their majors.

International studies is not set up this way. The major has two required courses and students must also take nine hours of regional studies courses and nine hours of global issues courses. The interdisciplinary major resembles a buffet where students have the freedom to pick and choose from a list of approved courses from other departments.

When signing up for classes, I go through much more work because my major is not considered a department. I end up looking through the anthropology, sociology, history, political science, philosophy, international business, religion, Asian studies, Latin American studies, Middle East studies, Slavic and East European studies sections, and many more, compared to my friends in the business school who already know the exact classes they must take all four years. In my experience, I sometimes struggle to find courses that actually fit my academic interests and have seats available.

The only required courses for international studies are “Fundamentals of International Relations” and “Comparative Politics” and they can be taken at any point. The two courses consist of reading and discussing scholarly articles, which can help develop soft skills such as researching and debating and broaden students’ depth of knowledge. However, they do not prepare students with practical job skills.

To improve this major, I would suggest that the program develop a series of required classes. I would keep the two classes currently required and introduce other classes that teach students real-world skills. These classes would fall under the subject title of international studies.

Georgetown University has a renowned international affairs program that features practical classes I believe students at Baylor would greatly benefit from, such as “Practicing Diplomacy Abroad” and “How to Fight for Human Rights.” They even have classes that satisfy the Bachelor of Arts science requirements such as “Biology for Travelers” and “Physics for Future Leaders.”

I believe that by providing international studies students with classes specifically designed for their major, they will leave Baylor better equipped to enter the international workforce. While I have enjoyed my time in this field of study, I do feel that all of the classes I have taken have focused on developing knowledge rather than skills. By incorporating these changes, the international studies major can become more effective and give students the best chance going forward in their future careers.