Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

New Generations in International Affairs

May 27, 2011

Today’s global problems are complex, requiring knowledge of various perspectives and approaches. This simple fact underpins Brown University’s International Relations and Development Studies Programs – for the students graduating in 2011 and for generations to come. 

Brown undergrads are drawn to complexity and driven to solve world problems. These traits are evident in the sheer numbers of IR concentrators, as one of the University’s most popular majors, and in the determination of every DS concentrator to produce a senior thesis requiring months of research and analysis. And there is this: Some 75 members of this year’s senior IR class studied or did field work overseas; many have worked closely with Brown professors as research assistants.

As 130 Brown seniors are handed their diplomas in IR this year and another 30 receive DS degrees, they enter a world that has shifted in their four short years at college. Just two examples: In 2007, when they began their studies, George W. Bush was president and relations with Libya were being normalized. Recent violence in Libya stands in contrast, as does the current presidency of President Barrack Obama.
The IR and DS Programs have been changing with the times and with a new commitment “to make these concentrations more streamlined, integrated, and better-suited to current student interests,”  according to Professor Mark Blyth, who was appointed  director of both  programs in 2010.

Going forward, the IR curriculum will have two tracks: Security and Society, and Political Economy and Society. Both tracks have a common core of five requirements drawn from courses designed with IR concentrators in mind by the History Department, Anthropology Department, and others. “What we are trying to do with the core is to introduce students to how different fields think about ‘the international,’” Blyth says. Additional requirements build upon this core, as do language requirements and capstone learning experiences.

The new DS curriculum will also provide more choice in core courses and in the capstone experience, including such innovations as video documentaries.
The IR and DS enhancements were announced during the spring semester, following months of consultation with students and faculty and the deliberations of a committee – including students, faculty, and administrators – convened by the Dean of the College.

“This structure is more demanding, but it is also more rewarding. We truly believe that building upon our strengths at Brown we can create the very best, and uniquely so, IR and DS concentrations in the country,” Blyth says.