International Politics

The International Politics (IPOL) major examines how states and non-state actors cooperate and compete on political issues. In contemporary geopolitics, there is no longer the stable hierarchy of issues that dominated policy makers’ and scholars’ attention during the Cold War period of 1945 through the late 1980s. Now, numerous non-security issues compete with security for the attention of policy makers, outside analysts, scholars, and citizens.

Goals of the Major

The International Politics major is designed to provide students with the substantive expertise and analytical skills necessary to understand, and become leaders in, the study and practice of world politics. The major provides all students with in-depth knowledge of the issues and actors that constitute three central arenas in international politics:

  • International Law, Institutions, and Ethics
  • International Security
  • Foreign Policy and Policy Processes

Students build their substantive expertise in these areas through in-depth foundational courses. Within each area, they are also expected to gain expertise on matters of particular interest to them by taking supporting courses in a wide range of specialized topics. In addition, all students are expected to master the analytical methods and statistical skills necessary to be productive consumers and producers of research in international politics.


The international political arena is dynamic. The ability to recognize the potential for cooperation and conflict among a diversity of state and non-state actors and then to choose and implement an appropriate policy response to the issue at hand requires a sophisticated and informed understanding of international politics as well as the skills to respond to unforeseen threats and opportunities. To be prepared to do so, students will be educated to do the following:

  • Understand, evaluate and apply the key concepts and scholarly research in international politics regarding the behavior of state and non-state actors in the international system.
  • Identify key institutions and dynamics in the development of the contemporary international system as well as their historical foundations and precedents.
  • Explicate and critique international and domestic political issues, dynamics, and events in clear and concise writing.
  • Analyze world political phenomena systematically using statistical methodologies to evaluate global trends and relationships.
  • Develop substantive and theoretical expertise necessary to understand, interpret, and explain complex current events and historical case studies.
  • Recognize important moral dimensions of world politics and apply ethical frameworks to the multifaceted challenges faced today.
  • Develop the substantive, analytical, and ethical skills necessary to anticipate emerging threats, challenges, and opportunities in the global arena and respond effectively.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service in International Politics

Courses in the SFS Core requirement serve as foundational requisites of this major.

There are four areas in which International Politics majors may concentrate:  

  1. International Law, Institutions, and Ethics
  2. International Security
  3. Foreign Policy and Policy Processes; or
  4. Self-Defined

Please note that although the majority of courses in the major are taught by political scientists, there are significant contributions from the departments of History, Philosophy, Sociology, and Theology and Religious Studies, and from regional studies programs.

For the International Law, Institutions, and Ethics; International Security; and Foreign Policy and Policy Processes major, the nine courses in the major are divided between a five-course concentration in one of the major fields (1–3) listed above, three additional courses drawn from at least two of the other concentrations, and a quantitative methodology course.

The self-defined concentration also includes nine total courses, including a quantitative methodology course.

The requirements are summarized as follows. See the schedule of classes for detailed course listings.

  • INAF-3200:  Quantitative Methods for International Affairs.
  • Five courses listed under the student’s major field concentration. Of these courses, students must take one thematic concentration course.
    • Students pursuing a concentration in International Security must take at least one of the following courses:
      • GOVT-2600:  International Security or
      • IPOL-3365: Military Security in World Politics.
    • Students pursuing a concentration in International Law, Institutions, and Ethics must take at least one of the following courses:
      • GOVT-2603:  International Law;
      • GOVT-2602:  International Organizations;  or
      • GOVT-4660:  Ethical Issues in International Relations.
    • Students pursuing a concentration in Foreign Policy and Policy Processes must take at least one of the following courses:
      • GOVT-2604:  Contemporary U.S. Foreign Policy;  
      • HIST-2806:  The US in the World to 1945;  or
      • HIST-2807: The US in the World after 1945.
  • Three major elective courses, including the distributional requirement of at least one course each from the two other non-concentration fields. Additionally, students may select ​one course from the supporting electives list towards the completion of this requirement.
  • Students pursuing a Self-Defined concentration must take at least one course in all three of the other concentrations (International Law, Institutions, and Ethics; International Security; and Foreign Policy and Policy Processes). The remaining courses can be distributed in any way the student chooses within the IPOL curriculum.

Writing in the Major

Students majoring in IPOL fulfill the University’s integrated writing requirement through their coursework in the Government Department and fulfill the Quantitative Reading and Data Literacy through INAF-3200. All seminars require students to conduct original research, formulate logical arguments, and present their arguments with supporting evidence in both short and long papers.

Honors in International Politics

Selection of honors candidates is based on evaluation of proposals submitted during the spring semester of junior year.

In order to graduate with honors in International Politics, a student must:

  • Earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 and a grade point average in the major of 3.67 by the date of graduation.
  • Successfully complete the honors seminar in International Politics offered in the fall semester (IPOL-4980). Please note that participation in this seminar is by invitation only.
  • Successfully complete a spring semester tutorial (IPOL-4998) in which the senior thesis is prepared.
  • Submit a senior thesis on an approved topic that is judged to be of honors quality by a committee of faculty members chosen for this purpose.

Additional information on the major and required coursework may be found on the BSFS website.

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