International Studies (IS) Major Proposal 2023–2024

These guidelines are meant to help you imagine and construct your proposed International Studies (IS) major.

Please address each of the questions on this form thoughtfully and clearly, in the order in which they appear. Be sure to include both the course number and title whenever you mention a course. Your answers to the questions below, along with the “Coursework for International Studies Majors” which you can find below this section, will constitute your IS major proposal.

You should feel free to ask for help from the IS Director, the IS student interns, and/or any other member of the International Studies program faculty (a list of IS faculty members appears at the top of the IS section of the Vassar Catalogue, and on the IS website).

Your proposal is meant to help you clarify and convey your goals and your concrete plans as an IS major, so that you (and your advisers) will have a clear vision of what your particular IS major will look like. This said, we understand that it is unlikely that you will execute your IS major precisely as its laid out in your proposal. Specific courses may not be offered when you plan to take them, new courses that suit your needs may be offered, and/or your interests may change. Do your best to be specific, but do not worry that you are locking yourself into something that you will later regret. This is a plan, not a binding contract.

Your initial proposal should be turned in by Friday, November 3. Please attach a copy of your proposal to an email sent to the IS Director. Please also cc Ms. Sheila Stukes, the IS administrative assistant ( Your proposal will be reviewed by the IS Panel of Advisors—a small group of IS faculty. We will return your proposals as soon as we can—in some cases with suggestions for revisions and/or clarification.    

Please make sure to fill out and submit “Coursework for International Studies Majors”.    

Note well: this is a proposal, not an application. If you want to be an IS major, you may be an IS major!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.


Please address each of the following questions thoughtfully and clearly. Please type your answers, and save a copy of your completed proposal. (Be sure to check the requirements for an International Studies major.)

  1. Why do you think an IS major makes sense for you? What substantive, thematic concerns or curiosities underlie your curricular plans for a major in International Studies?
  2. In what two disciplines will you concentrate? Briefly explain why, in your judgment, study in these disciplines will help to satisfy the curiosities you express in your response to question 1 (above).
  3. What sequence of courses do you plan to take in these two disciplines? List the courses you plan to take within your areas of concentration (the two disciplines you choose). The IS major requires at least two 200-level courses and one 300 level course in each discipline. Make a separate list for each discipline, and list the courses in the order that you plan to take them, noting the semester and year in which you hope to take each. Place an asterisk next any courses you have already taken. (And please list the course number and the course title.)
  4. How will these courses help you to meet your intellectual objectives? Explain briefly any thematic relationships between the courses you list in your response to question 3 and the curiosities you express in your response to question 1.
  5. Geographic specialization. On which geographic area or areas do you plan to focus? Why?
  6. Use of 100-level courses. What 100-level courses will you need to take as prerequisites for courses that will be part of your IS major?
  7. 200-level work in social sciences. List the courses that you will take to fulfill the “social science” requirement: “one unit of intermediate (200-level) work relevant to your IS major in each of three of the following disciplines: Political Science, History, Economics, and Geography.” (Note that INTL 255: Political Economy of Globalization counts as an “economics” course in this context.) If any of these 200-level courses have prerequisites, please list these prerequisites.
  8. Total credits. What is the total number of credits you will accumulate with the course work listed above? Do you plan to take other courses (or pursue other projects—e.g. and “intensive”) as part of your IS major? 
  9. Thesis ideas. Describe briefly any preliminary ideas you have about your thesis topic. Note that thesis topics are typically rooted in an IS major’s course work and experience. This means that (a) your thesis topic should be related to the themes and emphases of your overall major and (b) your thesis plans are likely to change over the next couple of years.
  10. Career Objectives. Do you have career (or other) aspirations at this point? Please describe briefly how a major in International Studies might inform or prepare you (if at all) for your plans following graduation.
  11. Languages. Do you plan to study a language (or languages) other than English during your time at Vassar? Which language(s)? Are you multi-lingual? If yes, in what language(s) are you fluent (or proficient, or competent)?
  12. Study abroad. Do you plan to study abroad? If so, where?
  13. Other information. Is there anything else we should know? Provide here any additional information that you think would be relevant to the Panel of Advisors when they review your IS major proposal.
  14. With whom (if anyone) have you consulted while preparing this proposal? If you attended one of the open meetings about the IS major offered earlier this fall, please make a note of it here.

Please proofread your proposal.

Thanks, and we are glad that you are thinking about majoring in IS.

Please make sure to fill out and submit “Coursework for International Studies Majors” (see below).

Coursework for International Studies Majors

Please list the courses you plan to take as part of your International Studies Major on this form. Please hand this in has part of your proposal. Remember to include the course number and course title of each course.  

100-Level Course Work (including prerequisites for courses in the major)

  • INTL 106: Perspectives in International Studies

200-Level Courses

  • Disciplinary Concentration I (Two courses)
  • Disciplinary Concentration II (Two courses)
  • Social Sciences    
    (At least one 200-level course from three of the following four disciplines: Geography, History, Political Science, and Economics)

300-Level Courses

  • Disciplinary Concentration I (at least one course)
  • Disciplinary Concentration II (at least one course)
  • International Studies courses
    • INTL 301: Senior Thesis
    • INTL 305: Senior Seminar
  • Do you plan to study abroad? If so, where and when?
  • What language courses do you plan to take during your time at Vassar?

The Major

The International Studies (IS) Major and IS Requirements

The International Studies (IS) major is a multidisciplinary major. That is, a student who majors in IS designs a major that includes courses from several academic disciplines (departments and programs). An IS major is 11 units.

Prospective IS majors are expected to submit a “major proposal” before officially declaring an IS major. This proposal is not an “application,” but rather a plan so that a student and their adviser are clear about how the pieces of the student’s major will fit together.

An IS major is required to take INTL 106 (the IS Program’s intro course), INTL 305 (the senior seminar) and INTL 301/302 or 300 (senior thesis).

Each IS major chooses two “areas of concentration”—two departments, typically—in which they take two 200-level courses and one 300-level course. History, Political Science, Geography, Sociology, Economics, Anthropology, and Education are common choices, although many students choose disciplines other than these. IS majors fulfill this part of the major requirement very differently, depending upon which disciplines they choose. IS majors tend to have a social science focus, but not always. Political Science is the most popular “area of concentration,” followed by Geography, History, Economics, Sociology, and Education. IS majors have had concentrations in Religion, Hispanic Studies, Philosophy, English, and many others.

Social Science Requirement. Each IS major is required to take a 200-level course in three of the following four disciplines: History, Political ScienceEconomics, and/or Geography. (Note: INTL 255, Political Economy of Globalization, can count as an economics course for the purposes of this requirement.) In many cases, this requirement will be met—in part or entirely—by “double counting” one or more courses in a student’s two areas of concentration. 

If the completion of the requirements listed above leaves a student with fewer than 11 units in IS, the student must take (and/or engage in) other approved courses/experiences consistent with the themes, and focuses (regional or other) of their unique IS major.

Recommendations for IS Majors

  • “Language Competency.” IS majors are strongly encouraged to achieve “competency” at (or above) the 3rd year level in at least one language other than English.
    • IS majors are strongly encouraged to live and study outside of the United States at some point during their time as a Vassar student. Typically, this will be a study abroad program. (Note: study abroad courses may count toward the completion of the IS major—subject to approval.)

International Studies (IS) Major Requirements

Total number of units required for the IS major


Required Courses in INTL


INTL 106


INTL 305 (Senior Seminar)


INTL 301 & 302 or INTL 300 (Senior Thesis)


Additional requirements:


Disciplinary Concentration I: Two 200s; One 300


Disciplinary Concentration II: Two 200s; One 300


Other approved IS courses/experiences consistent with the themes, and focuses (regional or other) of each student’s unique IS major.




Additional Requirements for IS Majors

  • Each student’s major should meet the above requirements. It should also have a logic, a coherence. That is, “checking all the boxes” isn’t enough.