Regional and Comparative Studies

The major in Regional and Comparative Studies (RCST) allows students to focus on the detailed study of one (“Regional Studies”) or two (“Comparative Studies”) world regions:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Western Europe
  • the region comprising Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe
  • the United States (comparative studies only)
  • the region consisting of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (comparative studies only)

Students may propose an alternative definition of a world region if that region’s definition has an intellectual validity and a compelling claim can be made that it cannot be studied well via one or two of the standard regions listed above. An alternative concentration must be proposed by petition and approved by both the advising dean and Regional and Comparative Studies Field Chair.

Goals of the Major

The study of a particular region or two regions is a vital enterprise that provides a student with insights into different societies that cannot be gained otherwise.  Understanding a region through intense study of its languages and cultures allows students to gain expertise that is invaluable.  It is this focus that makes it possible to see crucial differences and similarities within and between regions.  Students, through the study of a region(s) of the world, become informed world citizens able to interpret the actions and policies of the areas they study.

Regional and Comparative Studies students develop the insight, knowledge and skills needed to deal effectively with far-reaching challenges of the contemporary world.  Given the largely self-defined nature of the major, students become responsible for their own education through grounding in a core theories and methods course and region-specific courses selected to explore a topic in greater depth.  The theoretical component and rigorous curriculum provide students with tools that serve virtually any profession, whether in the region(s) studied or elsewhere. The literacy in language(s) and the understanding of political, economic, social and cultural realities permits them to do specialized work.  Graduates are prepared to enter careers in law, education, government, non-governmental organizations, and business.

The Regional and Comparative Studies major is designed to provide students with extensive knowledge of one or two regions of the world so that they understand issues that occur on the world stage.  In Regional Studies, students pursue a study of one region:  Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Western Europe, or the region consisting of Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe. Comparative Studies students pursue any two of these regions with additional options of the United States and the region made up of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Students receive training in theories and methods to gain analytical tools for a detailed study of the region(s). Drawing from the disciplines of anthropology, economics, government, history, international affairs, linguistics, sociology, and theology and religious studies, students build a comprehensive groundwork in a self-identified theme within a region(s).  Students also acquire necessary language skills appropriate to the region(s) by taking a minimum of four semesters of language or by passing the SFS proficiency exam in a language of the region (English does not count towards the regional language requirement).

In the Regional and Comparative Studies major, students design their own curriculum.  RCST students identify and explain a major theme in a region or regions and justify the value of its study.  Students construct an intellectual argument and propose a course list to enable a comprehensive multi-disciplinary study of the selected theme.  Through the mentoring of the advising dean, the Faculty Field Chair and faculty, students receive guidance to undertake a meaningful study within a region(s).

Objectives of the Major

Through a diverse combination of courses centered on a theme, the RCST major prepares students to investigate and comprehend a topic of importance in a region(s). The Regional and Comparative major enables students to:

  • Understand on a theoretical and practical level different societies and their histories.
  • Develop analytical tools to understand and interpret a theme in a region or regions.
  • Analyze different aspects of societies outside of the United States.
  • Use the comparative method to assess the complexities of different regions of the world.
  • Identify, explore and evaluate an important theme through a comprehensive study across multiple disciplines.
  • Gain knowledge of, or proficiency in, a language(s) specific to a region(s).

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service in Regional and Comparative Studies

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

For students majoring in Regional Studies:

  • One course from a pre-approved list of theories and methods courses
  • Seven region-specific, theme-related courses from one of the stand-alone regions
  • Four language courses or language proficiency in a language of the region

For students majoring in Comparative Studies:

  • One course from a pre-approved list of theories and methods courses
  • Seven region-specific, theme-related courses divided between two regions
  • Four language courses or language proficiency in a language of one of the two regions studied 

Writing in the Major

Students majoring in RCST develop writing skills throughout their major coursework.  When students declare their major, they write a significant essay identifying and explaining a theme to be explored within a region(s) of the world, which they develop and revise under the direction of the field chair and curricular dean.  In the major, all students receive training in theories and methods to gain analytical tools for a detailed study of the region (s). The theories and methods course requires students to complete various writing assignments honing their research, writing, and presentation skills.  Finally, students who pursue an honors thesis gain significant experience in writing under the direction of a faculty mentor.

Honors in Regional and Comparative Studies

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

In order to graduate with honors in Regional and Comparative Studies, a student must:

  • Earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 and a grade point average of 3.67 in the major by the date of graduation.
  • Successfully complete two semesters of tutorial work and participate in the thesis writers workshop dedicated to preparation of the thesis.
  • Submit a senior thesis on an approved topic which is judged to be of honors quality by a faculty committee appointed for this purpose.

RCST students who choose not to write a senior honors thesis are required to take the one credit RCST Portfolio course, RCST 4960, in the fall of their senior year (beginning with the class of 2024).  This course will provide RCST students with a capstone experience. 

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

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