Watson Institute at Brown University
International and Public Affairs

About the Curriculum

All International and Public Affairs concentrators take a common core of classes including a “gateway” lecture course that examines broad global themes and provides an introduction to multidisciplinary analysis; one qualitative and one quantitative research methods course (language study at the 0400 level or above can substitute for one of the methods courses); a junior seminar; and a senior thesis or capstone seminar.  

In addition to taking these core classes, students choose one of three tracks of specialization: Development, Policy & Governance, or Security.

The Development Track is concerned with understanding and improving human living standards, quality of life, and prosperity.  What accounts for problems of inequality, unequal access to opportunity, and unequal access to public goods?  What is the role of politics, social movements, and civil society in shaping developmental outcomes?  How are these outcomes influenced by relationships of power and hierarchy?  How do race, ethnicity, and gender affect development?  What makes some geographies – cities, regions, countries – prosperous and others poor?  How do factors such as trade, regional integration, and international economic institutions affect living standards, quality of life, and equality?  How does the rise of particular countries affect others’ prospects?

The Policy & Governance Track is concerned with the design and generation of policies to address societal problems (whether at the local, national, or international levels), the implementation of those policies, and the assessment of the effectiveness of those policies once they are in place.  What factors drive the characteristics and scope of particular policies (whether in the areas of social policy, health policy, environmental policy, foreign policy, etc.)?  Why does implementation go predictably in certain situations, but unpredictably in others?  How do relationships of power affect policy design and implementation?  What is the role of civil society and social movements in influencing governmental policy?  What types of analytical tools can be used to frame problems, craft solutions, and evaluate policy effectiveness?

The Security Track is concerned with understanding the incidence and prevention of violence in societal contexts, whether local, national, or international.  What are the causes of interstate violence?  What drives intrastate violence?  What accounts for variation in policing?  How do relationships of power or institutions of governance affect the incidence and severity of violence and coercion?  How does technology impact the prosecution and prevention of violence geopolitically, nationally, and locally?