Next fall, students may be able to declare a minor in international relations, combining courses from different departments with study abroad programs. After more than a year of deliberation, administrators in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts said they expect the minor will be ready to offer students by fall term.
An international relations minor would be interdisciplinary, uniting existing curricula from political science, economics, comparative literature and history departments, to name a few. The minor may also draw courses from colleges other than LSA.
With the increasing globalization of society, students should have the opportunity to study international relations, said Ryan Ford, LSA Student Government president.
“We feel it’s necessary for our University — especially given its commitment to making the University a place where students become accustomed with lots of different cultures and countries — that it’s very important for the University to have an international relations program,” said Ford, an LSA senior.
The University is one of the only Big Ten schools without an international relations program, Ford added. That fact, coupled with an increase in student demand for such a program, propelled LSA-SG to lobby for the new minor, he said.
LSA-SG gave the proposal to LSA deans last fall suggesting the implementation of two different types of international relations minors — one with a traditional focus and one with a cultural focus, said Paige Butler, academic relations officer for LSA-SG.
“One would be more what you would typically think of as an international relations minor, and it would pull classes from economics and political science,” said Butler, an LSA junior. The other minor would have a cultural focus, drawing classes from anthropology, history, comparative literature and language departments, she added.
“We’d like to see the cultural minor housed in the comparative literature department. We’d like to see the traditional minor housed in either the economics or the political science department,” Butler said.
Marjorie Horton, assistant dean for LSA undergraduate education said she has worked closely with LSA-SG representatives in moving forward with the minor, providing input and acting as a sounding board.
“I do give the LSA Student Government a lot of credit and respect for their help. … They’ve conducted their research and their advocacy and are representing the broader student interest,” Horton said.
While LSA faculty have researched the possibility of a minor, they have yet to formally approve the official proposal for the new minor.
“The goal is to have these faculty work together to ideally submit two proposals that would then go through the normal review and approval mechanisms like any other academic minor,” Horton said. She added that faculty from several departments and the International Institute are still discussing the matter.
Establishing the international relations minor should be the first step in the eventual creation of an international relations concentration, Ford said.
Political Science Prof. Mark Tessler, director of the International Institute, said he supports the creation of the minor, but added that he hopes LSA will eventually create an international relations concentration.
“My own personal view is that we ought to have both,” Tessler said. “We shouldn’t limit ourselves to only thinking about a minor.”
Horton said if LSA were to create an academic concentration in international relations, it would require an entirely new department. “We’re aware that that’s a student interest, and at this point we’re enthusiastically working with them to support the launch of a minor,” Horton said.
Tessler recently met with LSA-SG representatives to discuss the International Institute’s role in the international relations program. He said he suggests LSA should look outside its own college for courses applicable to the minor, suggesting the School of Public Policy and the Business School as possibilities.
He added that the International Institute would be open to housing the department. “We’re happy to participate in a conversation about what’s the best place for it and that might include us as well,” he said.
In another show of student support for the international relations minor, a majority of LSA students voting in the recent student government elections — 857 out of 1246 voters — said they would choose either a minor or a concentration in international relations if offered.
“It was kind of a really shocking thing for us to see that over two-thirds of students who took part in the last LSA Student Government election would take some sort of an international relations program,” Ford said.
Butler said she has met with Horton and other administrators many times over the last year to promote implementation of the international relations minor. “It’s been a very slow process, but things are moving,” she said.
“Our role is just pushing it forward, and we’ve been doing that,” Ford said.
LSA’s Academic Relations Committee is working with the Michigan Student Assembly’s Academic Affairs Committee to invite speakers for a symposium about international relations, Butler said. She said the symposium would take place in the winter term and would help publicize the international relations minor.
Budget cuts are not expected to hamper the minor’s creation, Horton said, especially because LSA will be using existing courses for the minor.
“It’s of course possible that in the future the faculty may be interested in developing one or more courses for the minor. This could potentially require new funding,” Horton said.