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Thematic Areas

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Drawing students from all over the world, AU's top-ranked SIS has the largest faculty and most comprehensive curriculum of any school of international affairs in the United States. With our D.C. location and a multidisciplinary approach that marries theory and practice, you won't find a better place to build your global practice of service.

Note: The following class lists are samples; other courses may apply.

1. Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution (PGSCR)

The Peace, Global Security and Conflict Resolution thematic area explores the causes and consequences of war as they relate to competing understandings of peace and security. Courses in this area help students assess the choices as well as challenges involved in preventing, resolving, and managing conflict. Students engage theories and historical cases from international security, strategic studies, human security, peace studies, and conflict resolution to conceptualize war and insecurity. The gateway course begins this journey by establishing the broader philosophical traditions associated with competing schools of thought. Students examine the different definitions of peace, security, and conflict as well as general patterns of violence and insecurity in the world. The course builds on this foundation by introducing students to the dynamics of political violence and different peacebuilding and conflict resolution mechanisms.

Gateway Course
SISU-210 Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution (3)

Thematic Area Courses
IBUS-471/MGMT-471 Peace through Entrepreneurship and Global Business Practicum (3)
RELG-475 Religion and Violence (3)
SISU-310 Topics in Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution (3)
SISU-312 Governance, Development, Security in Asia (3)
SISU-313 Transatlantic Security (3)
SISU-316 United States-Russian/Eurasian Security Relations (3)
SISU-318 Topics in Global Security and Foreign Policy (3)
SISU-319 Arab-Israeli Relations (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-461 Topics in Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution (3)
SISU-482 U.S.-China Relations (3)
SISU-483 Nuclear North Korea (3)
WGSS-350 Interpreting Gender in Culture: (topics) Gender and Violence (3)

2. The Global Economy (GE)

The Global Economy aims at exploring the social, political and economic benefits and costs of global integration by studying the channels through which it occurs: trade, financial flows, migration, cultural exchanges and illicit traffics, just to mention a few. This thematic area explores how globalization changes the world and alters the political, economic and social prospects of nations and their citizens. It also considers how international organizations struggle to manage this complex process and create governance structures to adapt to these changes and how national governments attempt to balance their sovereign mandate to govern and protect their people, with the frequently disrupting financial and trade-related impacts of global competition. A more integrated world has raised the living standards of millions of people, yet it is blamed for causing all sorts of damages to societies, the environment, national cultures and domestic sovereignty. Students will study the political economy of this evolving international landscape and analyze economic growth, winners and losers, and the legitimacy of these changes.

Gateway Course
SISU-220 International Political Economy (3)

Thematic Area Courses
ECON-332 Money, Banking, and Finance in the Global Economy (3)
ECON-372 International Economics: Finance (3)
ECON-458 Economics of the World Regions (3) (topics)
IBUS-300 Fundamentals of International Business (3)
MGMT-361 Global Entrepreneurship and Micro Enterprises (3)
SISU-320 Topics in Global Economy (3)
SISU-321 Political Economy of Africa (3)
SISU-324 Topics in Political Economy of Latin America (3)
SISU-328 Global Economy and Sustainable Development (3)
SISU-329 Global Economic Governance (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-462 Topics in Global Economy (3)

3. Foreign Policy and National Security Thematic Area (FPNS)

The Foreign Policy and National Security thematic area features course offerings on U.S. foreign policy, war and diplomacy, and both national and global security concerns. The gateway course for this thematic area is Analysis of U.S. Foreign Policy (SISU-230), which aims to provide students with an understanding of broad historical trends and traditions in U.S. foreign policy; the ability to assess the main theoretical perspectives relevant to the field of U.S. foreign policy; the ability to identify the key actors, institutions, and political processes involved in the making of U.S. foreign policy; the capacity to analyze selected contemporary policy issues; and an opportunity to demonstrate research, analytical, writing, and presentation skills.

Gateway Course
SISU-230 Analysis of United States Foreign Policy (3)

Thematic Area Courses
ANTH-337 Anthropology of Genocide (3)
COMM-546 Foreign Policy and the Press (3)
GOVT-226 The Constitution, Presidential Power, and the War on Terror (3)
GOVT-464 Politics and Policy in the Electronic Age (3)
GOVT-465 Politics and the Internet (3)
GOVT-526 U.S. Intelligence Community (3)
GOVT-529 Principles of Homeland Security (3)
HIST-235 The West in Crisis, 1900-1945 FA2 (3)
HIST-445 Russian Studies: (topics) The Cold War and the Spy Novel (3)
HIST-461 U.S. Foreign Relations since 1918 (3)
HIST-500 Studies in History: (topics) Early Modern European History (3) World War I (3)
SISU-330 Topics in National Security and Foreign Policy (3)
SISU-332 Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy (3)
SISU-333 European Foreign and Security Policy (3)
SISU-334 U.S. Foreign Policy toward Latin America (3)
SISU-335 U.S. Foreign Policy toward the Middle East (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-463 Topics in Foreign Policy and National Security (3)
SISU-482 U.S.-China Relations (3)
SISU-483 Nuclear North Korea (3)
SPAN-559 Colloquium on Latin America: (topics) Conflict and Culture in the Andes (3)

4. Global Inequality and Development (GID)

Global Inequality and Development is concerned with the pressing challenges of poverty alleviation and global inequality. Courses will focus on the evolution and current practices in the field of international development, emphasizing theories that have influenced its underlying premises, and resulting policies, programs, and political arrangements. Students will engage in critical examinations of key propositions that emerge in contemporary debates, from the very definition of development to potential costs, benefits and limitations of various policies and interventions.

This thematic area directly addresses issues concerning the theory and practice of achieving equitable and sustainable human development. Courses will encompass a broad examination of issues related to poverty and inequality as they intersect with urban and rural geographies, the built and natural environment, food systems, conflict, education, gender, youth and development, and possibilities for bilateral and multilateral cooperation. This area will include historical analysis of the field of development studies from colonialism through the present with a focus on understanding and analyzing conflicts, shared goals, and normative values embedded in development objectives. Students will become equipped to understand and analyze the multiple causes and consequences of development and inequality, and will become better equipped to understand the mechanisms of governance best able to respond to these challenges.

Gateway Course
SISU-240 International Development (3)

Thematic Area Courses
ECON-318 Economic History (3)
ECON-361 Economic Development (3)
ECON-362 Macroeconomics of Economic Development (3)
ECON-363 Macroeconomics of Economic Development (3)
EDU-285 Education for International Development FA3 (3)
GOVT-235 Dynamics of Political Change FA3 (3)
HFIT-575 Global Health (3)
SISU-340 Topics in Global Inequality and Development (3)
SISU-343 Third World Cities (3)
SISU-348 Gender and Development (3)
SISU-349 Topics in Global Inequality, Development, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Health (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-395 Social Entrepreneurship (3)
SISU-464 Topics in Global Inequality and Development (3)
SOCY-365 Economic Development and Social Change (3)

5. Environmental Sustainability and Global Health (ESGH)

The Environmental Sustainability and Global Health (ESGH) thematic area is concerned with the conditions required for human flourishing on a resource-constrained planet. Many of the most profound challenges facing humanity relate to the environment, health, or the intersection of the two. Climate change and species extinction currently undermine the quality of life for many and threaten, in the extreme, to compromise the fundamental, organic infrastructure that supports all life on earth. Infectious diseases like HIV and malaria remain a major cause of death in poorer countries, while chronic diseases, once most apparent in richer countries, are becoming increasingly prevalent around the world. Meanwhile, environmental toxins, air and water pollution, and soil degradation compromise the health and well-being of peoples everywhere. Not only do ecological issues have the potential to impact public health, but decisions made by communities and the private and public sectors—from transportation to agriculture—markedly influence ecosystem functions.

At a conceptual level, the ESGH thematic area introduces students to the socio-political dynamics of global health and environmental affairs. It explores the multiple causes and consequences of environmental harm and ill health, and has students work to understand the mechanisms of governance best able to respond. Cutting across both issues are the fundamental inequalities between people as well as between countries that exacerbate the impacts of environmental and health problems, and hamper identification and implementation of solutions. Ultimately, ESGH offers students the chance to develop the intellectual and applied tools needed to simultaneously work towards a safer, saner planetary condition and healthier populations.

Gateway Course
SISU-250 Environmental Sustainability and Global Health (3)

Thematic Area Courses
CSC-310 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
SISU-350 Topics in Environmental Sustainability and Global Health (3)
SISU-352 Environmental Politics of Asia (3)
SISU-358 Global Health (3)
SISU-359 Environment, Conflict, and Peace (3)
SISU-465 Topics in Environmental Sustainability and Global Health (3)

6. Identity, Race, Gender and Culture (IRGC)

Issues of identity, whether avowed or ascribed, socially constructed or naturally derived, fundamentally shape people’s lives and the life of society. In particular, race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, and nationality are determinate identities for many though in reality everyone holds multiple identities at the same time. Although they often appear to be static and fixed from the outside, these identities are dynamic and ever-changing driven by the broader cultural and social influences in which they arise and exist. The construction and salience of these identities, in particular, rises with the emergence of the modern world system. Culture is critical in the construction and re-construction of identities made more complex in the contemporary era by processes of economic, political, and cultural globalization. The digital age, especially, introduces new variables in shaping identity that brings together local, national, regional and global actors leading to multiple configurations of self and community. Courses in this thematic, at the undergraduate and graduate levels, examine the nature of these identities in a world in transition. Our courses, embodying both theoretical and grounded approaches, explore each of these identities in their own right but also in a historical and an intersectional manner that explores the relationship between them.

Gateway Course
SISU-260 Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture (3)

Thematic Area Courses
ANTH-210 Roots of Racism and Interracial Harmony FA3 (3)
COMM-365 Digital Media and Culture (3)
COMM-354 Race and Gender in Communication and Media (3)
HFIT-540 Health Communication (3)
SISU-360 Topics in Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture (3)
SISU-363 Topics in Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture: Europe (3)
SISU-364 Topics in Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture: Latin America (3)
SISU-365 Topics in Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture: Middle East (3)
SISU-368 Differences and Similarities in Conflict Resolution (3)
SISU-369 Topics in Public Diplomacy (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-466 Topics in Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture (3)
SISU-485 Race and Ethnicity in Europe (3)
SOCY-210 Power, Privilege, and Inequality FA4 (3)
SOCY-351 Race and Ethnic Conflict: Global Perspective (3)
SOCY-553 Intersectionality: Theory and Research (3)

7. Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights (JEHR)

The courses that constitute the Justice, Ethics and Human Rights thematic area wrestle with the thorny issues of justice, equality and human rights. How do we create more just societies? What are the conditions that promote or impede collective violence and mass murder? What kinds of peace settlements are long lasting? Can we protect human rights and simultaneously reduce poverty and inequality? What kinds of criminal and transitional justice systems are both fair and effective at reducing abuse? Students in the program will learn about an array of empirical cases and master the pertinent theoretical and ethical debates.

Gateway Course
SISU-270 Introduction to Human Rights (3)

Thematic Area Courses
SISU-370 Topics in Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights (3)
SISU-372 Human Rights in East Asia (3)
SISU-374 Human Rights in Latin America (3)
SISU-375 Human Rights and Islam (3)
SISU-378 Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy (3)
SISU-379 Topics in Human Rights, Identity, and Culture (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-467 Topics in Justice, Ethics, and Human Rights (3)

8. Global and Comparative Governance (GCG)

The Global and Comparative Governance (GCG) thematic area is designed for students who are interested in how a range of actors (local, national, global) seek to understand and solve the compelling security, development, environmental and economic problems of our time. GCG also focuses on the role of civil society and the development of international norms and regimes in world politics, including international law. Students can specialize in geographic regions, as well as investigate the overarching problems that transcend national borders. Students will take a multidisciplinary approach and will acquire the skills to empirically evaluate phenomena, anticipate emerging trends, and interpret data through an innovative curriculum that emphasizes theory and applied knowledge.

Gateway Course
SISU-280 International Organizations (3)

Thematic Area Courses
GOVT-315 Elections and Voting Behavior (3)
SISU-380 Topics in Global and Comparative Governance (3)
SISU-381 African Political Institutions (3)
SISU-383 Overview of the European Union (3)
SISU-385 Islam and Democracy (3)
SISU-386 Contemporary Africa (3)
SISU-387 Contemporary India (3)
SISU-393 International Relations Theory (3)
SISU-468 Topics in Global and Comparative Governance (3)
SISU-471 Topics in Africa (3)
SISU-472 Topics in East Africa (3)
SISU-473 Topics in Europe (3)
SISU-474 Topics in Latin America (3)
SISU-475 Topics in Middle East (3)
SISU-476 Topics in Russia (3)
SISU-477 Topics in South Asia (3)