International Relations is an interdisciplinary major. Students take introductory core courses in economics, geography, history, and politics, as well as a course in research methods. More advanced coursework is done in one of five focus fields: global commons, international institutions, international peace and security, international political economy, and international ethics. All courses meet the College's learning goals and the department's learning goals. For a more detailed description, please see the International Relations chapter of the catalog. For an overview of the IR major, see the Planning the Major form.

International Relations Major


  • A minimum of 40 credits 
  • 12 credits must be at the 300 level and undertaken in at least two disciplines. Disciplines are economics, geography, history, politics, and other fields. IR is not a discipline; most IR courses are politics courses by discipline. Only 4 credits of independent work can count toward the requirement for courses at the 300 level. 
  • Intermediate level proficiency in a foreign language.


The following courses are required:

  • One of the following: Economics 165: International Development and Economics, 213: Economic Development, or Economics 218: International Economics. Please note that the Economics Department requires Economics 110: Introductory Economics as a prerequisite for Economics 213 and 218. 
  • One of the following: Geography 105: World Regional Geography or Geography 206: Political Geography. Students wanting to count Geog-206: Political Geography need to receive permission from a geography professor. 
  • One of the following: History 151: Modern and Contemporary European Civilization or History 161: British Empire and Commonwealth 
  • Politics 116: World Politics 

These introductory courses provide the foundation for more advanced coursework in the IR major. Therefore, they should all be completed within the first five semesters at Mount Holyoke.

  • IR 200: Research Methods – intended for IR majors in their sophomore year. 


  • Each student’s major must have a focus, consisting of at least 12 credits in two different disciplines, only 4 credits of which may be independent study. Students may elect one of the following five foci: global commons, international institutions, international peace and security, international political economy, or international ethics. 

Foreign Language Requirement

  • Each student is expected to possess or acquire proficiency in a foreign language up to the intermediate level. This ordinarily requires two semesters of language study beyond the minimum requirements of the college, or four semesters in total. 
  • International students or students whose first language is not English can satisfy the IR Department’s language requirement through the process established by the college for exempting students from the language requirement. An exemption may be granted by the Dean of Studies to those with at least one of the following: 
    • Documented attendance at a secondary school for at least one year at which instruction was conducted in a language other than English. 
    • Documented attendance at a secondary school outside of the US where the language of instruction was English but she elected a language or literature course taught in her native language. 
    • An O-Level, A-Level, or GSCE language result (for students from India, this would be a grade of X or XII) or an official record of satisfactory completion of a college-level language or literature course in her native language.

Courses from Abroad and Language Courses

All courses related to international relations taken abroad and successfully transferred for college credit are eligible to be used toward the IR major. A maximum of 8 credits may be transferred from abroad and only 4 credits can be at the 300 level. No substitutions are allowed for the required courses in the major (20 credits). Language courses do not count for the major unless they are advanced courses on a topic related to the student’s focus. If in doubt about a course’s appropriateness, the student should consult their advisor before enrolling in it. Upon completion of study abroad, they should complete the course approval form and submit it to their advisor for their signature. Without this form, courses taken abroad will not be applied toward the student’s major.

Entrepreneurship, Organizations, and Society Minor

In today’s rapidly changing global world, the lines between workplaces — for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, social impact ventures, start-ups, and the public sector — are increasingly blurred. And today’s college graduates, as their career paths inevitably shift and evolve, will frequently navigate between different workplaces. The EOS interdisciplinary minor aims to prepare students from all majors for the economic realities and social challenges of today’s world. By combining critical analysis with firsthand experiences, students gain the entrepreneurial competence and fundamental knowledge to succeed in different career contexts and to contribute solutions to today’s most vexing problems.

Data Science Nexus

The Nexus in Data Science integrates computational, programming, and statistical skills in applications across a range of fields. Data Science uses different types of data to create an accessible narrative and helps pose new questions, identify patterns, visualize trends, and make predictions using new techniques. The Data Science Nexus track offers students a basic foundation in data science with courses in computer science, statistics, and a domain in which they apply data science.

Development Studies Nexus

Explore the relationship among history, politics, economics, and power that shape the world. The Development Studies Nexus track gives you the analytical skills to understand the complexities of global poverty, inequality, and injustice and strategies that state and non-state actors have used to improve the well-being of the people.

Global Business Nexus

Economic life is increasingly impacted by the forces of globalization. Becoming knowledgeable about the contemporary cooperate world, the role of global markets, and debates about appropriate regulation and long-term implications. Explore the tools of the corporate leadership, the sociology of organizations, and models of regulation through the Global Business Nexus. Pursue internships with national or international for-profit corporations.

Journalism, Media, and Public Discourse Nexus

Examine the world with an educated, critical eye. Become knowledgeable and articulate across a wide array of subjects in the liberal arts, hone your creativity, and develop superior writing and analytical capabilities. With the Journalism, Media, and Public Discourse Nexus master the nuts and bolts of reporting and fact-checking a news story, examine the history of the New York Times, or analyze the role of media in contemporary society.

Law, Public Policy, and Human Rights Nexus

Learn about policies and legislation and how you can help to shape the future. Form a deep understanding of how relationships between local and national political processes create public policies and form legislation. Choose courses from several departments, including politics, economics, history, and sociology. Examine how both law and public policies are imbedded in a much larger social, historical, and economic realities through the Law, Public Policy, and Human Rights Nexus.

Joint BA/MA Program in Geneva

Eligible students have an opportunity to complete a BA at Mount Holyoke and an MA from the  Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in five years, instead of the usual six years.

Participating Mount Holyoke students will spend the fall semester of their senior year at the Graduate Institute in Geneva participating there in the first semester of the MA program. They will return to Mount Holyoke for the spring semester of their senior year and for graduation and then go back to the Graduate Institute for their fifth year of study to complete their Master’s degree.

Deadlines for filing an application to Mount Holyoke are the February prior to the senior year. Please see the Joint BA/MA webpage on the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives website for more information

Five College International Relations Certificate

The minor in international relations is the Five College Certificate in International Relations. See the Five College Consortium chapter of the catalog for specific information.