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    Oct 07, 2022  
American University Catalog 2022-2023 
    
American University Catalog 2022-2023

International Studies (BA)


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Offered by the School of International Service , the International Studies (BA) prepares students for internationally-focused careers in government, non-profits, and the private sectors. The curriculum is firmly rooted in the liberal arts and sciences, inherently interdisciplinary, and aimed at helping students to think critically and clearly about the most pressing global challenges. It also affords an opportunity for students to find their truest vocations, to discover their passions, and to become active and engaged citizens in a complex global world that defies simple explanations or solutions. SIS faculty and courses help students acquire critical intellectual dispositions and expanded moral imaginations-enabling them to think critically, creatively, and independently about important international issues-that will help them shape the global future.

The seven learning outcomes for the International Studies (BA) are:

  1. Demonstrate critical thinking as evidenced through both written work and oral presentation.
  2. Interpret issues from multiple cultural and philosophical perspectives.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the role of values, ethics, and justice in international affairs.
  4. Understand and apply theories and models drawn from appropriate disciplines such as political science, history, and economics to international affairs.
  5. Display in-depth knowledge of one or more global or regional challenges.
  6. Demonstrate competency in articulating a research question and designing and executing a research project.
  7. Demonstrate at least four-semester proficiency in a foreign language.

SIS believes that the best way to prepare students for global citizenship is to give them opportunities to encounter both the breadth and the depth of international studies. The curriculum stretches students’ horizons even as it allows individual students to customize their path through SIS so as to focus on the issues and topics that most attract their attention. A central feature of students’ intellectual development in SIS involves original student research, which is thoroughly integrated into the entire academic program of study, including two specifically designated research methodology courses. The SIS commitment to undergraduate research helps students develop the critical capacity to question partisan sound bites and to maintain a healthy skepticism about simplistic knowledge claims. The entire curriculum reflects a concerted effort to help students learn to read closely, write cogently, and think critically, thus equipping them with the concepts, skills, and experiences appropriate for internationally-focused careers and vocations.

The sequencing of the International Studies (BA) is designed to give students a firm grounding in the breadth of the international studies field as well as solid research skills before they further develop their own research and substantive interests. The first year experience includes foundational SIS courses such as Introduction to International Studies  and a First-Year Seminar,  as a way of making sure that students are well-prepared to take advantage of all of the opportunities afforded them by SIS, American University, and the city of Washington, DC. The second year experience features the core research design and methodology sequence and an Intercultural Communication  course, together with gateway courses in the key thematic areas in which students choose to concentrate their coursework during their third year. Students at SIS also focus in depth on a particular region of the world. Lastly, a Senior Capstone class in the final year of a student’s course of study allows for the integration of various aspects of the undergraduate educational experience, and enables the creation of a summative project.

Admission to the Program


Candidates for admission to the school must present evidence of excellent personal and academic qualifications. To be considered for first-year admission, an applicant should have earned at least a B average in secondary school. Cultural factors are considered in evaluating transcript and examination results. Other factors taken into account are leadership qualities, character, and personal interest. Students from other regionally-accredited collegiate institutions, and students in other programs at American University who have completed the first year, should maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) to be considered for transfer to the school.

University Requirements


AU Core Requirements


For additional information, see AU Core Curriculum .

Major Requirements


  • 54 credit hours, plus 3 credit hours in foreign language coursework at the Intermediate II level or higher, with grades of C or better, including at least 18 credit hours at or above 300-level
    • Students may apply up to 3 credit hours toward the major from an approved internship

Course Requirements


Foundation (18 credit hours)


Foreign Language (3 credit hours)


  • 3 credit hours in one modern foreign language at or above the Intermediate II level

Research Methodology (6 credit hours)


Note: Other course approved by SIS Undergraduate Program Director can be used as a substitute for SISU-306 Advanced International Studies Research (3) .

Thematic Areas (18 credit hours)


Complete the following:

  • 9 credit hours of gateway courses from three different thematic areas;
  • 6 additional credit hours at or above 300-level from a primary thematic area;
  • 3 additional credit hours at or above 300-level from a secondary thematic area.

In addition to the courses listed below, courses taken abroad may count toward the thematic area. Students should consult their academic advisor for details.

Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution (P)


The Global Economy (E)


Foreign Policy and National Security (F)


Global Inequality and Development (D)


Environmental Sustainability and Global Health (V)


Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture (I)


Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights (J)


Global and Comparative Governance (G)


Regional Focus (9 credit hours)


Complete 9 credit hours, with at least 3 credit hours at or above 300-level, in one of the following regional areas: Africa (Sub-Sahara), East Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, Middle East and North Africa, South and Central Asia, or Western Hemisphere. In addition to the courses listed below, courses taken abroad may count toward the regional focus. Students should consult their academic advisor for details.

Capstone (3 credit hours)


Complete 3 credit hours from the following:

Combined International Studies (BA) and Master’s Degree


American University offers students the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through its combined bachelor’s/master’s programs. See Admission to a Combined Bachelor’s / Master’s Program  and Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees  for more information.

In addition to meeting the minimum university requirements for combined bachelor’s/master’s programs:

  • Admission to the combined BA/MA program requires completion of 75 credit hours, a minimum 3.50 cumulative GPA, a formal application, a written faculty recommendation, and an essay on the student’s academic interests and abilities in international affairs. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required. Interested students should contact the SIS Graduate Admissions Office. Undergraduate students may apply up to 15 credit hours of approved graduate-level coursework to satisfy the requirements for both degrees
  • A minimum of 18 credit hours completed in residence in graduate status after the undergraduate degree has been awarded

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