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.