The BA in International Studies 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.

Degree Progression

The sequencing of the BA in International Studies 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 includes foundational SIS courses such as World Politics, Cross-Cultural Communication, and a First Year Seminar, together with SIS Mentorship, 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.

First Year Seminar

A First Year Seminar at SIS is a seminar-format course capped at 20 first-year students; it is an opportunity for students to begin to develop critical intellectual skills and habits of mind that will prepare them to get the most out of their college experience, while studying a special topic that the professor has chosen because it genuinely excites their passions and piques their scholarly interests. The following are first year seminars taught in fall 2017; seminars offered change from semester to semester.

  • SISU 106-002 Reflections: United States in the Mirror
  • SISU 106-003 Global Cities
  • SISU 106-004 Diplomacy in Practice
  • SISU 106-006 Democracy, Demagogues, and Dialectic: Reading the World through an Ancient Lens
  • SISU 106-007 Bean to Brew: The International Myths, Methods, and Power of Coffee
  • SISU 106-008 Guerrillas, Insurgents, and Paramilitaries
  • SISU 106-009 Gross National Happiness
  • SISU 106-011 Weak and Fragile States
  • SISU 106-012 Game Changers
  • SISU 106-013 Why Do They Love and Hate Us?
  • SISU 106-014 When Worldviews Clash: Navigating Constructively across Identity Fault Lines
  • SISU 106-017 The Global and Local HIV Epidemic
  • SISU 106-019 Culture and Power in International Education 

The second year features core research design and methodology sequence, together with gateway courses in the key Thematic Areas in which students choose to concentrate their coursework during their third year.

The Undegraduate Research Experience: SISU 206 & 306

The second year of the SIS BA curriculum is comprised of a two-semester methods and methodology course sequence designed to provide students with essential research skills and competencies and to empower them to conduct their own independent research. It is in this course sequence that students transition from being receivers of information to critical consumers and producers of knowledge.

The first course, SISU 206: Introduction to International Studies Research, introduces students to important epistemological questions about social science research and to foundational skills and competencies. Students are then guided through the development of several research designs for their topics, with each design employing a different methodological approach. This introduction to the methods and methodologies of research is the foundation for the second course, SISU 306: Advanced International Studies Research, in which students complete their research project through the application of the research skills and one or more of the methodologies learned in SISU 206. SISU-306 culminates with the production of an original scholarly research project—a paper and a presentation—that is not only a stand-alone product, but may well serve as the basis for future research and fieldwork while studying abroad, pursuing national scholarship opportunities such as the Boren or Fulbright, or while conducting additional research for a Capstone course. Many SISU 306 students have also published their work or presented at external conferences after revising the SISU 306 paper to take into account course feedback.

SISU 306 offerings vary by semester; in general, sections specializing in qualitative case-study analysis, large statistical analysis, game theory, discourse analysis, process tracing, and ethnography are offered. Some sections of SISU 306 offer a thematic focus as well as a methodological focus (e.g. Case Study Analysis in US Foreign Policy), while others are open to topic area. Students should read the SISU 306 course descriptions carefully and consult with their SISU 206 professor as they select a section of SISU 306.

Students at SIS also focus in depth on a particular region of the world.

Thematic Areas

Thematics Areas are the themes around which students choose to concentrate their coursework during their third year in the SIS undergraduate program. Students will complete 9 credit hours of gateway courses from three different Thematic Areas prior to declaring their chosen primary and secondary Thematic Areas, in which they will complete 6 credit hours and 3 credit hours of coursework, respectively.

Regional Focus

The regional focus is a key part of the BA in International Studies. It consists of three courses in the region of your choosing: Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, or South Asia. At least one of these courses must be taken at the 300 level. Students often prefer to take these classes abroad.

The final year features a Senior Capstone class that allows for the integration of various aspects of the undergraduate educational experience and enables the creation of a summative project.

Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone course is specifically designed to provide the cumulative academic experience for our undergraduate students. Capstone courses are topical; they are not specifically linked to any one Thematic Area. A Senior Capstone class is integrative, while also giving students the opportunity to work on a comprehensive project of their own. Capstone projects enable students to integrate their previous coursework and demonstrate the skills and competencies they have gained during their time with us. For some students this may be a research paper; for others, a documentary film; for still others, a piece of international service on which they reflect in a systematic way. The following are senior Capstone courses available in fall 2017; courses will vary.

  • SISU 419-001 Voices of Terrorism
  • SISU 419-003 The Environment and Political Conflict
  • SISU 419-005 Inclusive Sustainable Development: 2030
  • SISU 419-006 Security Issues in the 21st Century
  • SISU 419-008 Comparative Social Movements
  • SISU 419-012 Negotiating Israeli-Palestinian Peace
  • SISU 419-014 Asian Identities in Multicultural America: Challenges of Migration and Integration
  • SISU 419-016 Peace and Social Justice
  • SISU 419-017 From Empire to Globalization: Critical International Relations
  • SISU 419-018 Critical Social Theory
  • SISU 419-020 The United States and International Human Rights
  • SISU 419-024 Strategies of Rebellion

Thematic Areas

Thematics Areas are the themes around which students choose to concentrate their coursework during their third year in the SIS undergraduate program. Students will complete 9 credit hours of gateway courses from three different Thematic Areas prior to declaring their chosen primary and secondary Thematic Areas, in which they will complete 6 credit hours and 3 credit hours of coursework, respectively.

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 (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 310-001 Dynamics of International Security
  • SISU 310-002 Migration and Security
  • SISU 310-003 Gender and Conflict
  • SISU 310-004 Culture and International Security
  • SISU 310-006 Intervention in Civil War
  • SISU 310-007 Peace and International Organizations
  • SISU 318-001 Causes of War (multiple sections available)
  • SISU 318-003 The Politics of Nuclear Weapons
  • SISU 318-005 The Human Face of Battle
  • SISU 359-001 Environment, Conflict, and Peace

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. In the Global Economy Thematic Area, students will study the political economy of this evolving international landscape and analyze economic growth, winners and losers, and the legitimacy of these changes. They explore how globalization changes the world and alters the political, economic, and social prospects of nations and their citizens. They also consider 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.

Gateway Course

SISU 220 International Political Economy (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 320-002 International Money and Finance
  • SISU 329-001 Global Economic Governance

The Foreign Policy and National Security Thematic Area features course offerings on US foreign policy, war and diplomacy, and both national and global security concerns. The gateway course for this Thematic Area is Analysis of US Foreign Policy SISU 230, which aims to provide students with an understanding of broad historical trends and traditions in US foreign policy; the ability to assess the main theoretical perspectives relevant to the field of US foreign policy; the ability to identify the key actors, institutions, and political processes involved in the making of US 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 US Foreign Policy (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 318-001 Causes of War (multiple sections available)
  • SISU 318-003 The Politics of Nuclear Weapons
  • SISU 318-005 The Human Face of Battle
  • SISU 330-002 Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and War on Terror
  • SISU 330-003 US-Israel Relations
  • SISU 330-005 US Allies in War on Terror
  • SISU 330-006 The End of the Cold War

The Global Inequality and Development 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 (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 340-003 Geography of Uneven Development
  • SISU 340-004 Migration and Development
  • SISU 348-003 Gender and Development
  • SISU 349-001 Politics of Conservation
  • SISU 349-002 Global Hunger
  • SISU 349-003 Health in the Developing World 

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 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. The Environmental Sustainability and Global Health Thematic Area introduces students to the socio-political dynamics of global health and environmental affairs. Students explore the multiple causes and consequences of environmental harm and ill health and 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, students 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 (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 349-001 Politics of Conservation
  • SISU 349-002 Global Hunger
  • SISU 349-003 Health in the Developing World
  • SISU 350-002 Sustainable Cities
  • SISU 359-001 Environment, Conflict, and Peace

Issues of identity, whether avowed or ascribed and socially constructed or naturally derived, fundamentally shape people's lives and 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 these identities often appear to be static and fixed from the outside, they are dynamic and ever-changing, driven by the broader cultural and social influences in which they arise and exist. Courses in this Thematic Area 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, as well as in a historical and an intersectional manner that explores the relationship between them.

Gateway Course

SISU 260 Identity, Race, Gender, Culture (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 348-003 Gender and Development
  • SISU 360-002 Discourse and Power in International Development: The West and the Rest
  • SISU 360-004 African Political Thought
  • SISU 365-001 The World of Islam
  • SISU 379-001 Nazi Germany and the Making of the Holocaust
  • SISU 466-001 History of Racism

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 Human Rights (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 370-001 Human Rights: The United States' Relationship with Genocide
  • SISU 372-001 Human Rights in East Asia
  • SISU 379-001 Nazi Germany and the Making of the Holocaust

The Global and Comparative Governance 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. This theamatic area 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 Ruling the World: Comparative and Global Governance (multiple sections available)

Thematic Area Courses

  • SISU 329-001 Global Economic Governance
  • SISU 380-001 Empire and Imperialism
  • SISU 380-002 International Law

Regional Focus

The regional focus is a key part of the BA in International Studies. It consists of three courses in the region of your choosing: Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, or South Asia. At least one of these courses must be taken at the 300 level. Students often prefer to take these classes abroad.

The following courses are representative of what is offered to students.

  • SISU-360 African Political Thought
  • SISU-310 The Politics of Conflict and Conflict Resolution in Africa
  • SISU-340 Urbanization in Africa
  • SISU-386 Contemporary Africa
  • SISU-212 China, Japan, and the US
  • SISU-372 Human Rights in East Asia
  • SISU-352 Environmental Politics of Asia
  • SISU-213 Contemporary Europe
  • SISU-379 Nazi Germany and the Making of the Holocaust
  • SISU-216 Contemporary Russia
  • SISU-214 Contemporary Latin America
  • SISU-324 Political Economy of Latin America
  • SISU-334 US Foreign Policy Toward Latin America
  • SISU-360 Race and Ethnicity Across Americas
  • SISU-370 Justice, Ethics, Human Rights Hispanola
  • SISU-310 Culture and International Security
  • SISU-330 Al-Qaeda, ISIS, & War on Terror
  • SISU-330 US-Israel Relations
  • SISU-365 The World of Islam
  • SISU-215 Contemporary Middle East
  • SISU-319-001 Arab-Israeli Relations
  • SISU-419 US and South Asia—Friends, Foes, and Flawed Policies
  • SISU-380 Democracy and Development in South Asia
  • SISU-360 Gender in South Asia: Colonialism and Beyond

Application            At a Glance

View a detailed admission and degree requirements listing for your degree of interest.

Entrance Semester
Fall and Spring
Application Deadline
Varies based upon entrance semester
Additional Requirements
At least a B average in secondary school
Other factors considered include cultural background, leadership qualities, character, and personal interest
SAT/ACT
Application
Completion of online application