International Relations

Undergraduate

International relations is the study of the interaction of nation-states and non-governmental organizations in fields such as politics, economics, and security. Studying international relations will help you develop a global perspective on the origins of the current international system, current issues that transcend national boundaries, and the emerging challenges humanity will face in the years ahead.

Program Overview

The International Relations major is broad-ranging and versatile. It covers such topics as foreign policy, international political economy, the environment, and international law.

As an international relations major you will complete a course of study that includes 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.

The Five College Certificate in International Relations serves as the minor in International Relations.

We encourage you to attain a level of proficiency in a foreign language that will allow you to do basic research in it.

International Experience for International Careers

Careers in an increasingly globalized world require the ability to navigate a fast-paced environment that spans state borders. We encourage you to study abroad and pursue internships that will expose you to different cultures and languages and to obtain the skills needed to continue to succeed beyond Mount Holyoke.

International Relations graduates have many options. Our graduates have gone on to have distinguished careers in government, academia, business, law, journalism, and the non-profit realm. Many have earned master's, doctoral, or law degrees along the way.

Alum Connections

Stories from International Relations Alums

Our courses

We offer courses at the 200 and 300 levels that are open to International Relations majors as well as to nonmajors seeking to fulfill distribution requirements. Politics 116, World Politics, is a prerequisite for most courses in the program. IR 200, Research Methods, is required of all IR majors and should be taken in the sophomore year. In addition, students take courses offered by related departments, including Economics, Geography, History, and Politics, in the focus field of their choice.

Selecting courses in your first year

If you are interested in majoring in International Relations, you should begin taking the core courses during your first year:

  • One of the following: Economics 165: International and Development Economics or 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. If you want to count Geog-206: Political Geography, you must have successfully completed A-levels or an IB in human geography and 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

Courses and Requirements

Learning Goals

By majoring in International Relations, students should gain an understanding of:

  • The key concepts and approaches in the study of modern history.
  • The key concepts and theories of international relations as a subfield of political science.
  • The key concepts and theories of international economics.
  • The key concepts and theories of world geography.
  • How these disciplines inform the study of the evolution of the modern international system and particular issue areas in contemporary international relations, such as international security, international political economy, international law and organizations, and protection of the environment.
  • Basic research methods in history and the social sciences, including both qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Foreign language at the intermediate level of proficiency or above.

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 40 credits:

ECON-165International and Development Economics 14
or ECON-213 Economic Development
GEOG-105World Regional Geography 1, 34
or GEOG-206 Political Geography
HIST-151Modern and Contemporary Europe 14
or HIST-161 British Empire and Commonwealth
POLIT-116World Politics 14
IR-200Research Methods 14
At least 12 credits at the 300 level in two different disciplines (see Focus below)12
8 additional credits in international relations8
Total Credits40
1

These introductory courses provide the foundation for more advanced course work in the IR major. Therefore, they should all be completed within the first five semesters at Mount Holyoke. IR-200 is intended for IR majors in their sophomore year.

2

Please note that the Department of Economics requires ECON-110 Introductory Economics as a prerequisite for ECON-165 and ECON-213.

3

Students with high school preparation in geography should take GEOG-206.

Other Requirements

  • Focus. 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. They may also design a focus, with the approval of their advisor and the chair.
  • Independent study. Only 4 credits of independent work can count toward the requirement for courses at the 300 level.
  • Foreign language. Each student is expected to possess or acquire intermediate-level or higher proficiency in a foreign language (usually four semesters).

Additional Specifications

  • Soon after declaring their major, students should plan individual programs of study in consultation with one or more members of the faculty committee, one of whom will be designated the student’s academic advisor.
  • Exceptions to the requirements above will be made only in rare cases and require the approval of the chair.
  • The Department of International Relations does not cross-list courses in other departments that satisfy the major’s requirements. Generally, all courses taught by members of the IR Committee count toward the major. For courses offered by other faculty, the policy of the department is to accept any course in any department that is directly pertinent to the student’s focus in the major. Thus, for example, a student whose focus is global commons could conceivably count courses offered by the geology or biological sciences departments. Or a student focusing on international ethics could use certain courses in the religion or philosophy departments to satisfy the requirements of the major. Any questions concerning the appropriateness of a particular course can be answered by the advisor or the department chair. It is important for the student to verify that the course in question will count toward the major before enrolling.
  • The IR major focuses on global issues and institutions, and relationships across regions and nations. This does not preclude students from developing expertise in a particular region or nation; indeed, part of the study of international relations is how global issues find local expressions. But students whose primary interest is in a particular area of the world should elect a more appropriate major, such as Latin American or Asian studies.
  • Students who declare an international relations major automatically fulfill the College's "outside the major" requirement.

Certificate Overview

The Five College International Relations Certificate Program offers students an opportunity to pursue an interest in international affairs as a complement to their majors. It prepares students to make interdisciplinary connections between their field of study and the complexities of global challenges such as globalization, regional and ethnic conflict, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, demographic stress, global climate change, wide disparities in global economic development, and challenges to global public health.

The Five College Certificate in International Relations serves as the minor in International Relations.

Requirements for the Certificate

A minimum of seven courses:

One course on introductory world politics1
One course on global institutions or problems1
One course on the international financial and commercial system1
One course on the historical development of the international system since 17891
One course on contemporary American foreign policy1
Two courses on the politics, economy, and/or society of foreign areas, of which one must involve the study of a third-world country or region outside of the United States and Europe2
Proficiency in a contemporary foreign language through the completion of two years of the language at the college level or its equivalent0-4
Total Courses7-11

Additional Specifications

  • A complete list of the Five College courses for each of the seven areas of study is available from the IR certificate advisors and the program’s website.
  • No more than four of these courses in any one discipline can be counted toward the certificate.
  • No single course can satisfy more than one requirement.
  • Students must complete the required courses (with the exception of the foreign language courses) with letter grades of B or better (no satisfactory/unsatisfactory grades).
  • For further information consult with one of the Mount Holyoke College advisors. Additional information also can be found at the program's website.

Course Offerings

IR-200 Research Methods

Spring. Credits: 4

Develops students' skills in writing expository essays and introduces basic quantitative and qualitative research methods used in the social sciences and history. The course provides a foundation for writing research papers in advanced courses, as well as an honors thesis.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
S. Hashmi, S. Mueller-Redwood
Notes: This course should be taken by International Relations majors in their sophomore year.

IR-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

IR-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

Courses Approved for International Relations Focus Fields

Global Commons

Economics
ECON-325Economics of Health Care and Health Service Organizations4
ECON-352Advanced Economic Development4
Geography
GEOG-105World Regional Geography4
GEOG-202Cities in a Global Context4
GEOG-204Human Dimensions of Environmental Change4
GEOG-208Global Movements: Migrations, Refugees and Diasporas4
GEOG-313Third World Development4
GEOG-319Africa: Problems and Prospects4
GEOG-328Climate Migration4
History
HIST-247Mountains and Modernity4
HIST-249The Environment and South Asian Lifeworlds4
HIST-257City Life in Modern Europe, 1750-19144
HIST-258Travel, Self, Identity between Europe and South Asia4
HIST-277History of Energy4
Politics
POLIT-232Introduction to International Political Economy4
POLIT-366Global Migration4
POLIT-380Nationalism and Ethnic Politics4
Spanish
SPAN-330SLAdvanced Studies in Identities and Intersections: 'Spain and Islam'4
SPAN-350MGAdvanced Studies in Concepts and Practices of Power: 'Spanish Migrations'4

International Institutions

History
HIST-124History of Modern South Asia, 1700 to the Present4
HIST-239ENTopics in Asian History: 'Empire, Nation, and the Making of Tribes in South Asia'4
HIST-244European Public Policy, West and East4
HIST-24620th Century Europe4
HIST-252History of Money and Finance4
HIST-260HHTopics in the Recent History of Europe: 'The Habsburgs, Hitler, and the Law'4
HIST-323Germans, Slavs, and Jews, 1900-19504
HIST-357History of British Capitalism4
Politics
POLIT-116World Politics4
POLIT-208Chinese Politics4
POLIT-247International Law and Organization4
POLIT-267The Politics of Finance and Financial Crises4
POLIT-341Political Islam4
POLIT-363Political Economy of the European Union4
Russian & Eurasian Studies
RES-240Contemporary Russian Politics: From Lenin to Putin4
Spanish
SPAN-230GVIdentities & Intersections: An Introduction: 'Gendered Violence from Medieval to Contemporary Spain'4
SPAN-330SLAdvanced Studies in Identities and Intersections: 'Spain and Islam'4

International Peace and Security

Economics
ECON-325Economics of Health Care and Health Service Organizations4
Geography
GEOG-319Africa: Problems and Prospects4
History
HIST-240The Holocaust in History4
HIST-24620th Century Europe4
HIST-262Stalinism in Central Europe4
Politics
POLIT-209Contemporary Russian Politics4
POLIT-218Israel/Palestine: Fact/Fiction4
POLIT-224The United States and Iran4
POLIT-226The United States, Israel, and the Arabs4
POLIT-270American Foreign Policy4
POLIT-300Democracy and Its Challengers: Populism, Nationalism, and Autocracy4
POLIT-314Political Violence: Causes and Solutions4
POLIT-319War: What Is It Good For?4
POLIT-327Transitional Justice4
POLIT-357War and Peace in South Asia4
POLIT-366Global Migration4
POLIT-380Nationalism and Ethnic Politics4
POLIT-384Ending War and Securing the Peace: Conflict Mediation and Resolution in the 21st Century4
POLIT-385International Security4
POLIT-387CYAdvanced Topics in Politics: 'Cyberpolitics'4
POLIT-387SPAdvanced Topics in Political Theory: 'U.S. Foreign Policy in Space'4

International Political Economy

Economics
ECON-213Economic Development4
ECON-215Economics of Corporate Finance4
ECON-312Seminar in International Trade4
ECON-314Globalization and Development4
ECON-352Advanced Economic Development4
Geography
GEOG-313Third World Development4
History
HIST-208The Consumer Revolution: A History of Shopping4
HIST-252History of Money and Finance4
HIST-257City Life in Modern Europe, 1750-19144
HIST-277History of Energy4
HIST-301CSColloquium: 'Capitalism in South Asia'4
HIST-357History of British Capitalism4
Politics
POLIT-232Introduction to International Political Economy4
POLIT-267The Politics of Finance and Financial Crises4
POLIT-312Silk Roads: Ancient and Modern Highways across the Eurasian Continent4
POLIT-363Political Economy of the European Union4

International Ethics

Economics
ECON-314Globalization and Development4
Geography
GEOG-313Third World Development4
Politics
POLIT-247International Law and Organization4
POLIT-305International Society4
POLIT-319War: What Is It Good For?4
POLIT-327Transitional Justice4
POLIT-333Just War and Jihad: Comparative Ethics of War and Peace4
POLIT-341Political Islam4
POLIT-342Islamic Political Thought4
POLIT-343Law and Religion4
POLIT-365Ethics and International Relations4

Contact Us

The International Relations Department educates students to be informed citizens and thoughtful leaders for a changing global society.

Linda Chesky Fernandes
  • Academic Department Coordinator

Next Steps

Apply to Mount Holyoke

Mount Holyoke seeks intellectually curious applicants who understand the value of a liberal arts education and are driven by a love of learning. As a women's college that is gender diverse, we welcome applications from female, trans and non-binary students.

Financing your education

Everyone’s financial situation is unique, and we’re here to make sure cost does not get in the way of an exceptional education.