February 21, 2012

Citing Popular Demand, University Considers International Relations Major

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Despite its rigorous workload, the international relations minor has increased in popularity among students, leading administrators to consider changing the I.R. minor into a major in “global affairs.”“The moment is right for us to really consider this possibility,” said Fredrik Logevall, director of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. “This is the time to think about whether we can make this a reality. It’s certainly an exciting possibility.”Logevall attributed the rising interest in the I.R. minor to a change in students’ worldview.“There is a sense now that the world is becoming a smaller place and more interdependent,” he said. “We’re all more interconnected than we used to be, and therefore, it’s more important for us to understand the world around us. Perhaps students and parents see a greater need for at least a minor.”Still, administrators said that a new major faces several roadblocks. Prof. David Lee, applied economics and management and director of the I.R. minor, said that the Einaudi Center is unable to create a major due to a lack of “administrative resources.” The minor is currently coordinated part-time by a graduate student, but will need a full-time staff in order to expand.Additionally, Lee said, the possibility of offering an I.R. major “comes down to funding, like so much else.”“It would be great and highly advantageous for students to have the option of an international relations major or global study major, but it would only make sense if we do it right, which would mean investing more resources,” he said.Several students who expressed interest in an I.R. major said that the current minor is too demanding for them to complete. The minor requires students not only to take eight courses — which is on par with the number of required credits for several majors, such as economics — but also fulfill a language requirement to complete it. Because of this requirement, Lee said, approximately 80 percent of I.R. minors are in the College of Arts and Sciences, where the minor’s language requirement can be partially fulfilled by the school’s distribution requirements.Some students in colleges which do not require proficiency in a foreign language said this particular requirement discouraged them completing the minor.Sae Ryoung Lee ’15, one student who is hesitant about completing an I.R. minor because of its requirements, said that she thinks completing six courses should be “good enough” for a minor.Enrico Bonatti ’14 agreed, saying that although the minor’s courses are “really interesting,” its extensive requirements deter many from completing it.“I know a lot of people who were considering an I.R. minor … but then half of them dropped [it],” he said.Although Logevall acknowledged that “compared to numerous other minors, the I.R. requirements are heavy,” he said he does not think they are “unduly burdensome.” “There’s a logic to the requirements that we have. I want it to be a serious minor and one that is meaningful,” he said.In addition, Logevall said that the minor’s requirements help narrow down its pool of applicants to those who are serious about the minor, adding, “I want it to be a serious minor and one that is meaningful.”Not all students agreed with Logevall, however.Jared Macher ’14, who said he was interested in the I.R. minor but decided not to pursue it because of its requirements, said that students should be able to pursue a minor without having to complete extensive coursework.“I think a lot of students at Cornell don’t particularly choose a major because they’re totally interested in it, but because they see the value of that degree,” he said. “You want to offer the greatest degree of academic flexibility and opportunity sustenance.”However, both Lee and Logevall said if a major is not created, the minor is still useful for entering.“One of the reasons why we have the program we have is because it draws students from across the University … and I think that reflects in large part the diverse nature of Cornell,” Logevall said. “The way the I.R. minor is construed currently, it is an interdisciplinary-focused minor so you draw classes from government, from economics, from AEM, from anthropology and so forth. And that speaks to one of the strengths of Cornell, which is its breadth.”

Original Author: Kaitlyn Kwan