The University of Iowa

UI creates new major with international relations

September 10th, 2012

By Anna Theodosis, The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa students may now study politics and economics on an international level without the hassle of studying in two different departments.

The new international-relations major, which is housed in the Political-Science Department, began this semester. Officials said the major was created in response to interest among students.

While the international-studies major offers classes that focus more on international ties through literature, culture, and language, the international-relations major will focus on those ties through political and economic aspects.

Associate Professor of Political Science Brian Lai, who helped implement the major, said the new major will allow students who are interested in the subject can now have an option that is made for what they desire to study.

“Part of this came from a review of the international studies major,” he said. “[Students] were interested in how these state interact with each other. They were looking for a set of classes that speak to that.”

It took about a year for the major to be approved. After it was proposed, it needed to be passed by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Registrar’s Office, and the state Board of Regents.

Lai said the new major has the ability to prepare students for numerous careers.

“If you want to position yourself in a career where you’re going to work internationally, [you can benefit from it],” he said. “If you’re interested in policy between states and economic interaction between states, this is the sort of major that provides the background for that.”

The major not only requires students to take classes from the Political Science Department, but from the Economics, History, and Geography Departments. Lai said in addition to the new area of study, the structure of the program showed the liberal-arts school how to create a successful interdisciplinary major.

“The college was very encouraging of us to develop this major,” he said. “I think the college also recognized there was a split of students in the international-studies major. It also for them represented how to do an interdisciplinary major [that] has a departmental home.”

Helena Dettmer, the associate dean for undergraduate programs and curriculum, said she expects many students to show interest in the major.

“There was certainly student interest in this area when it was a track in international-studies major, and it made sense for it to become a bona fide major,” she said. “We think that there will be quite a bit of student interest in pursuing this major.”

Students may earn a B.A., B.S., or a minor in the program. Any student can major in international relations, and officials say admission will not be selective.

Martha Greer, senior academic adviser for international relations, said the new major is a great addition to the UI.

“I’ve spoken with many students since the beginning of classes who have thanked us for creating this major specifically because if offers what they want to focus on,” she said. “Bottom line, I would say it’s really addressing a student demand that was clearly there at the University of Iowa.”