International Studies Statement of Purpose

At Macalester, International Studies explores the dynamics of human encounter in the context of globalization. We examine how our increasingly globalized world not only connects people, but also highlights, threatens, polices and protects difference – and to what consequence.

We take an interdisciplinary approach, drawing together the humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and to some extent the physical sciences. This distinguishes us from many International Studies programs, which primarily employ the social sciences or study only International Relations, a sub-discipline of Political Science.

Our interdisciplinary approach provides many entry-points and frameworks to study the global interconnections of politics, society, culture, economics, and ecology and the issues of difference they raise. We look at international law and governance, transnational economic systems, ecological globalization, and flows of culture, people, texts, and ideas. 

To ground our study, we offer courses that delve into topics of global importance, including development, the environment, global health, human rights, media and cultural production, migration, world-spanning literature, post-colonial studies, and contending ideologies of power, leadership, and identity. Many of our courses are globally oriented, while our regionally specific offerings reach outward and provide analytical tools that can be applied to similar issues worldwide.

Within our major requirements, study abroad provides further opportunity to synthesize global and local issues, immersing students in a non-native place and the dynamics of cross-cultural encounter. Advanced language study develops fluency. Finally, our major develops scholarly depth through its five-course disciplinary focus, which familiarizes students with the literature, debates, and methods a discipline of their choice offers for studying international issues.

Through this integrative approach, we seek to equip International Studies majors with the knowledge and skills necessary to both critically analyze and constructively engage with our complex contemporary world.