Science, Technology, and International Affairs Major

Now more than ever, science and technology are at the heart of international affairs.  The Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) major  equips students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to engage with these challenges and opportunities. STIA students follow the regular SFS core curriculum, complete a lab science sequence, and develop an in depth understanding of a technical area as a concentration. The STIA major is designed to facilitate pre-medicine and pre-engineering programs as well as complimentary training in areas cybersecurity and business.

Goals of the Major

Some of our graduates become scientists and doctors. However, the goal of the major is to create technically informed leaders who engage in some of the most pressing political, social, and ethical issues at the interface of science, technology, and international affairs for the benefit of their organizations, countries, and the world.

STIA majors will:

  • complete a challenging introductory course to build a foundation for Science & Technology in a Global Arena
  • understand the theory and practice of science through a laboratory based science sequence
  • develop expertise in an area of concentration
  • integrate science into the SFS’s core foundation in the liberal arts, ethics, language, and international understanding.

Requirements for the Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service in Science, Technology, and International Affairs

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

STIA Major Requirements

  • STIA 305 – Science & Technology in the Global Arena, usually taken in sophomore year (4 credits);
  • Science Foundation sequence of laboratory based, natural or computer science (see Science Fundamentals below);
  • One approved research methods or statistics course (minimum 3 credits);
  • One Senior Seminar or Honors Thesis course (minimum 3 credits);
  • Four courses from an area of concentration chosen in consultation with the STIA faculty advisor and STIA Curricular Dean. At least two of these courses shall have STIA prefixes and two may be additional science, computer science, or mathematics courses.

Science Fundamentals

STIA majors are required to develop a grounding in at least one field of science. This requirement can be minimally met by taking a foundation sequence of laboratory based, natural or computer science. For natural sciences, this typically means Biology I and II with labs, General Chemistry I and II with labs, or Physics I and II. For Computer Science, the requirement can be met with Computer Science I and II (COSC 051, 052) plus Mathematical Methods of Computer Science (COSC 030) or an alternative approved for computer science majors. The STIA major science requirement can be met before or after declaring STIA as a major. 

STIA students are STRONGLY encouraged to develop a deeper background in science and technology through additional coursework related to your foundational sequence of science courses. One option is the completion of the courses equivalent to a science minor or other structured sets of course work such as Pre-Engineering, Pre-Medicine, or CyberCorps.

Note that science classes that meet the SFS (INAF 100s) and main campus core science requirements do not meet the STIA major science requirement. However, natural science classes (e.g. classes other than computer science) that meet the STIA major science requirement do meet the SFS and main campus core requirements.

Enrolling in courses that meet the STIA science requirement in their sophomore year demonstrates interest in the STIA major.

STIA Concentration Areas include:

  • Energy and Environment
  • Business, Growth, and Development
  • Biotechnology and Global Health
  • Science, Technology, and Security

Students may also apply to the STIA Director to create their own concentration that aligns with their academic goals and interests. This application must describe 1) how the proposed concentration will cultivate a deep understanding of a STIA relevant topic, 2) the reason for the student’s interest; 3) proposed courses that would constitute the concentration; and 4) identify a faculty member who will act as the advisor and mentor. Before applying, students must speak to a potential STIA advisor for guidance.

Study Abroad

STIA students are strongly encouraged to spend meaningful time abroad.  STIA requirements mean that coursework should be carefully planned so students are encouraged to speak early and often with their STIA faculty adviser and STIA Curricular Dean to plan coursework and discuss the most relevant opportunities to spend time abroad.

Honors in the Major

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 STIA, 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 two semester Honors seminar series in Science Technology and International Affairs.
  • Present the senior thesis before a committee of faculty members and peers during the spring semester.

Writing in the Major

A core part of the STIA major is learning how to translate science to non-science decision-making.  Students must learn to think critically and communicate what they learn effectively.  This requires being able to formulate meaningful questions, find information that will inform questions, evaluate information sources, effectively synthesize and analyze information, and present findings to varied audiences.

STIA students are expected to gain experience in discussion and debate, oral presentation, and, of course, advanced level writing. The STIA major seeks to help students build these communication competencies throughout the curriculum.   There are three primary components of the major that focus specifically on writing:

All STIA majors are required to take STIA-305/Intro to Science and Technology in the Global Arena.  By taking this gateway course, students move beyond the fundamentals of academic writing gained in SFS core courses and make progress in evaluating primary and secondary sources and communicating science to non-scientists.

All STIA classes are expected to have at least one written assignment. Most classes have multiple writing assignments ranging from literature reviews to research proposals and full research papers to policy briefs, professional blogs and opinion pieces.

All STIA majors are required to complete either a STIA Senior Seminar or the STIA Honors Thesis Seminar. By completing this course, students are expected to generate original research questions, devise plans to test and prove their findings and present a convincing hypothesis to a diverse audience through a significant writing assignment.

Complementary Programs

Some students combine the STIA major with programs in business, CyberCorp, Pre-Medicine, or Columbia’s 3-2 Engineering program. Students who wish to combine a STIA major with any complementary program with structured course requirements should discuss their plans with the STIA Curricular Dean for assistance in course planning. These programs complement the STIA experience but require careful planning.

Additional information on STIA and required coursework can be found on the BSFS website.

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