International Studies Major

Connolly House

The section below outlines the graduation requirements for students majoring in International Studies. Detailed information about major requirements is also available in our Academic Advising Handbook.   

There are five components to the IS major:

  • Taking the IS major core courses
  • Selecting a concentration
  • Learning a language (or two)
  • Studying abroad
  • Completing a senior capstone

IS Core Courses

Where on Earth? Foundations in Global History, Culture and Society (INTL 2200)

  • 6 credits; fall semester of sophomore year
  • [Class of 2020: complete 2 approved courses in History, Culture and Society]

Introduction to International Relations (INTL 2501)

  • 4 credits; spring semester of sophomore year

One designated Comparative Politics course (POLI x4xx)

  • 3 credits; any semester

Principles of Economics (ECON 1101)

  • 4 credits; any semester
  • Students with a score of 5 on both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics AP exams may skip ECON 1101, but they are required to take another Economics elective (ECON 2xxx) in its place.
  • Students with a score of 5 on either AP Microeconomics or Macroeconmics, but not both, are required to complete the IS core Economic requirement through Principles of Economics (ECON 1101).
  • Note for class of 2020 majors: Students who took either ECON 1131 (Principles of Microeconomics) or ECON 1132 (Principles of Macroeconomics) should take the alternate course your senior year.

An approved upper-level Economics course (ECON 2xxx)

  • 3 credits; any semester after Principles of Economics

Ethics, Religion, and International Politics (INTL 5563)

  • 4 credits; usually taken after studying abroad


IS majors focus their interests in one of four interdisciplinary concentrations, in which they will take two foundations courses and four electives from an approved list.

Cooperation and Conflict

This concentration considers fundamental theoretical and empirical questions about the study of cooperation and conflict in international affairs, including the causes of world wars, revolutions, and terrorism; the consequences of international and domestic actors’ attempts at reconciliation; the role of arms control, intelligence, international institutions, global governance, and grand strategy; and sources of state and individual security and insecurity. Every war is unique, every peace different, and students will have ample opportunity to study historic and contemporary cases from around the world. At the same time, students will approach war, peace, and security as general social phenomena and examine shared features and dynamics across cases and theoretical perspectives.

Ethics and Social Justice

This concentration considers religious and secular frameworks for relating ethics to contemporary international affairs, as well as specific areas of international politics where ethical questions are likely to arise, including sovereignty, terrorism, peacemaking, human rights, economic justice, and the use of force in war or humanitarian interventions. Students will have the opportunity to explore the role of religion and motivations of social justice in the interaction between state and non-state actors.

Global Cultures

This concentration considers two dimensions of culture-making and community in a globally connected world. In the “Cultures at Work” cluster, students examine professional cultural production, engaging with critical inquiry into culture as both a complex meaning-making activity and as commodities central to the global economy. In the “Cultures and Social Movements” cluster, students examine how communities and projects for change form through cultivating and deploying shared social, cultural, religious, political, and economic resources. Global Cultures concentrators may elect to complete a 1-credit elective internship either in the creation of a cultural product or in grassroots mobilization and other participatory approaches to issues of global importance and cultural representation.

Political Economy and Development Studies

This concentration considers the interplay between politics and economics in determining interactions among states, markets, and societies, both in the developed and developing world. Students will gain an understanding of the economic, political, and moral stakes in international public policy issues and develop the ability to analyze policy choices. A central focus of the concentration is improvement in human well-being, especially, though not exclusively, in the context of developing countries, including those in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America.

Language Requirement

IS majors must demonstrate advanced proficiency in one modern foreign language or intermediate proficiency in two modern foreign languages. IS minors must demonstrate intermediate-level proficiency in a modern foreign language. See the language requirement page for details on what these terms mean and how you can satisfy the requirement.

Study Abroad

IS majors are expected to study abroad for a semester, but are not required to do so. Nearly 90% of our majors study abroad for a summer, semester, or year. Those who do not -- either because they are international students at BC, or for economic, personal, or athletic reasons -- can take advantage of other opportunities to engage with international students, use their language skills, and meet people and groups from around the world (through the Global Engagement Portal, for example). See our Study Abroad page for more details.

Senior Capstone / Thesis

Seniors complete their IS major by choosing either to take a one-semester senior research seminar or to write a year-long senior thesis with a faculty member. See the Courses page for a list of senior seminars, and the Thesis page for details about writing a thesis.