The mission of the International Studies program is to enable students to better analyze and understand the challenges and consequences of an increasingly global society in one of four thematic areas - international development, transnationalism, the global environment, or cultural studies. Because these challenges and consequences do not respect the disciplinary boundaries of the academy, we seek to develop in students the ability to think rigorously across relevant disciplinary boundaries. We also seek to provide students with the ability to situate their knowledge in both local and global contexts, and to view the human implications of an increasingly global society from different social and cultural perspectives.
To develop these abilities, the International Studies program requires students to 1) take a focused set of complementary courses from different disciplines in their area of thematic specialization; 2) develop expertise in one or more regions of the world through language study and focused coursework on that region and by spending at least a semester abroad studying, living in and experiencing that region and its culture; and 3) place their knowledge and understanding in a larger global context.
1. Students will acquire the ability to integrate knowledge from at least two disciplines relevant to understanding the major problems and issues of their area of thematic specialization.
2. Students will acquire foreign language skills sufficient to read, speak, and understand that language, as well as to navigate daily life in a country where that language is spoken.
3. Students will demonstrate knowledge of the historical, social, and cultural contexts of the geographic or cultural regions in which they specialize.
4. Students will show the capacity to analyze a problem or issue in ways that are clear, rigorous, and logically coherent.
5. Students will demonstrate the ability to situate their knowledge and analysis in a larger comparative or global context.
6. Students will develop the capacity to present their knowledge, ideas, and analyses, in both speaking and writing, in ways that are readily understood by others, including non-specialists.
The International Studies program measures student learning relative to our learning goals in three ways. First, the required capstone seminar enables professors to observe and assess directly the ability of senior majors to apply their (inter)disciplinary and regional knowledge to the analysis of important problems and issues and to communicate their ideas in different formats: class discussions, short papers, critical reviews, and collaborative research projects that include both written and oral presentations.
Second, all students must complete a required senior exercise. This is a major, independent piece of student scholarship (usually a research paper of twenty to thirty pages) in which students must apply their interdisciplinary skills and regional knowledge to the sustained analysis of an important issue or topic as well as situate their analysis and findings in a broader comparative context. Students are encouraged to build on research that they have done for other courses or their study abroad programs, but must go substantially beyond work that they have already performed. Each exercise is evaluated by at least two faculty with disciplinary or regional expertise in the topic to assess whether students display adequate disciplinary and regional knowledge and have satisfactorily met our learning goals. The faculty report their evaluations of a student’s work directly to the program director, who then, based on these evaluations, determines whether the student has satisfactorily completed the senior exercise.
Third, the program’s strongest students often write an honors thesis which is then evaluated by an expert external to the College. The results of these examinations indicates how well our best students perform, not only relative to their peers and our expectations, but also relevant to students at other institutions.
The director reports to a steering committee for the International Studies program. It meets and discusses the performance of the program’s majors in the capstone seminars, on the senior exercises, and in their honors projects at various points throughout the year. In the spring, the steering committee holds a meeting devoted to assessment. In 2008, it completely revised the International Studies curriculum in response to weaknesses in the program that had been identified over the preceding years. The first class completely under the new curriculum will graduate in 2012. We will continue to monitor the performance of the new curriculum and revise or update it where appropriate.