International Relations

The study of international relations provides an integrated approach to the understanding of economic, political, and social interactions among states, supranational organizations, transnational business firms, and other non-governmental organizations operating in the transnational arena. Students of international relations investigate the factors that shape the global milieu within which interstate and transnational activities are conducted, including the concept of state sovereignty; competing state ideologies and interests; differing political, economic, and social systems; and inequalities among states resulting from variations in size, location, population, resources, infrastructure, history, and position in the international division of labor.

The study of international relations is, of necessity, a multidisciplinary undertaking. A recognized scholar in the field once described a student of international relations as “a person who regrets that he does not better understand psychology, economics, history, law, jurisprudence, sociology, geography, perhaps language, comparative constitutional organization, and so on down the list.” The curriculum of Trinity College includes a sizable number of courses, in a variety of disciplines, that are appropriate to a program in international relations.

Although the College offers no formal major in international relations, students may, in consultation with one or more of the faculty named below, construct a coherent sequence of courses that provides grounding in international relations or one of its subfields. Such a sequence will often be taken by students majoring in economics, history, political science, or international studies, but it may also be pursued in conjunction with various other majors. Alternatively, students may, with the sponsorship of faculty members from two different disciplines and the approval of the Curriculum Committee, carry out an individually tailored, interdisciplinary major in international relations. Students interested in this option should consult the general guidelines on student-designed majors in the Student Handbook and the specific guidelines on international relations given below.

Participating faculty

The individually tailored, interdisciplinary major in international relations—The following guidelines govern proposals for individually tailored, interdisciplinary majors in international relations. Students should read them in conjunction with the section on student-designed majors in the Student Handbook, which specifies the format in which proposals are to be presented to the Curriculum Committee. As a first step in preparing a major proposal, the student should consult with Professor Clark in economics, or Professor Messina in political science, or the chair of economics or political science.

Guidelines—Proposals for individually tailored, interdisciplinary majors in international relations must include:

Foreign language—Students majoring in international relations must complete a minimum of two years of college-level work in a pertinent foreign language or submit evidence of equivalent preparation. Language courses do not count toward the 15 to 18 courses required for the major.

Research methods—Students of international relations are encouraged to familiarize themselves with social science research methods, typically by taking one of the following as part of the major: ECON 318L. Basic Econometrics or SOCL 201L. Research Methods in the Social Sciences. It is particularly important that students contemplating graduate work in international relations or closely related fields include one of these courses in their program.

Study away—A period spent studying abroad can strengthen a student’s understanding of the subject matter of international relations. Thus, courses taken in an approved program in another country may, with the concurrence of the faculty sponsors and the Curriculum Committee, be counted toward the requirements of an international relations major. Certain internships may also be creditable toward the major.