Our Program History

An Overview

Our program began nearly 40 years ago as International Studies, available then only as a second major. In the early 2000s several of the area studies merged with us and we became a prime major called International and Area Studies. Over time, several of the area studies concentrations left to become independent majors and our curriculum developed to focus more on global concentrations, as opposed to specific geographic areas. In recognition of that change, we will rebrand as Global Studies in Fall 2021.

    Program Timeline


    The International Studies Program is first offered as a secondary major.


    International Studies becomes International and Area Studies and is offered as a primary major with concentration options of East Asian Studies, European Studies, International Studies, and Latin American Studies.


    Three concentrations are added: Development Studies (now Development), Global Futures (later Sustainable Development), and Global Cultural Studies.


    2014: Branching off from IAS, the Latin American Studies and East Asian Studies concentrations become their own programs. 2015: Eurasian Studies becomes a concentration. 2016: International Affairs becomes a concentration. Development Studies and Sustainable Development merge to form the Development concentration.


    International and Area Studies becomes Global Studies. Global Asias becomes a concentration.

    Our Curriculum & Goals

    We believe Global Studies best encapsulates our program’s curriculum and goals, which have remained constant since our inception:

    • Promoting an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the cultural, economic, ecological, historical, social and political processes that contribute to interdependence and globalization 
    • Fostering a deeper understanding of the increasing importance of interdependence in our everyday lives 
    • Increasing knowledge of current affairs and policy, and the skills to analyze such policies and situations 
    • Strengthening abilities to appreciate and explore the relationship between 'the global' and 'the local' 
    • Developing cultural awareness and sensitivity, among other cross-cultural capabilities 
    • Achieving proficiency in another language 
    • Building the overall capacities to be productive and ethical global citizens

    What's in a Name?

    Most universities today have an interdisciplinary program like ours. They go by names such as International Studies, International and Area Studies, Global Studies, among others. While one would be hard-pressed to find an explicit rationale for choosing one name over another, these names may reflect the dominant concerns of society at the time they were adopted.

    International Studies (IS) is the oldest term associated with programs like ours. International Studies as a program of study and training was a response to the events of WWII and the recognition of globalization as an important force. The term emerged as an attempt to distinguish between international relations (a field that studies diplomatic and political relations) and international studies (a broader field that covers phenomena and global topics). IS probably received its largest organizing boost with the formation of the International Studies Association in 1959. 

    International and Area Studies (IAS) has its legacy in the Cold War when the US government began funding language and regional studies programs in U.S. universities through policies such as the International Education Act of 1966. Such government support, heavily driven by national security concerns, sought to form a pool of graduates with a sophisticated awareness and understanding of the world beyond our borders. Much of that government funding disappeared with the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union (1989-1991). Since 9/11, the government has reignited some support for language training, with a strong emphasis on languages deemed critical for foreign affairs (e.g. Chinese, Arabic, and Swahili).  

    Global Studies (GS), sometimes also called Global Affairs, is the newest label, having been formalized through the first Global Studies conference in 2008 at the University of Chicago. It may also be the broadest of the terms. In contrast to the focus primarily on national units implied by titles using “International,” Global Studies expands attention beyond the relations and connections of states, to include the relations and connections of all global actors.