UCLA International Institute, August 4, 2014 — As UCLA’s central hub for global and area studies, the International Institute offers rigorous academic degree programs that focus on globalization, development and world regions. These interdisciplinary programs are designed to give students access to all UCLA faculty experts on a given world region or issue, thereby gaining a comprehensive understanding of their chosen subject.
Students interested in cross-cutting global issues — such as climate change, growing economic inequality, development, international migration, gender inequality, terrorism, religious polarization and armed conflict — can pursue an undergraduate degree in the International Institute’s International Development Studies or Global Studies programs.
For students seeking to acquire broad knowledge of a specific world region, the Institute’s International & Area Studies Program offers a variety of undergraduate majors and minors, as well as four graduate degree programs (see related article).
International Development Studies Program
International Development Studies (IDS) is the largest and most popular degree program of the UCLA International Institute. Established in 1987, the program is designed for students who want to pursue careers or vocations in international development. Unlike other International Institute degree programs, IDS offers only an undergraduate major, not a minor. It also requires two preparatory economics courses and one statistics course.
The IDS Program seeks to cultivate students’ critical thinking skills while imparting a deep understanding of the challenges, achievements and concerns of developing countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Its interdisciplinary approach lets students consider urgent global issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including those of anthropology, economics, public health, gender studies, geography, history, political science, and sociology.
“The experience of living in both India and the United States has brought me an acute awareness of the disparity between the two countries. Through the interdisciplinary curriculum of the International Development Studies major, I now understand how [they] can learn from one another and can mutually grow and prosper. In the long run, the understanding of development and world affairs I have acquired here will help serve as a building block in diminishing the distance of global inequality worldwide.
—Garisma Kadakia (UCLA 2013/ IDS and History Major, South Asian Studies Minor)
Coursework encourages students to acquire theoretical and conceptual knowledge and to apply this knowledge to global realities in equal measure. Learning is thus balanced between applied case studies and theoretical instruction that provides a foundation for eventual work in academic, governmental, business, nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations.
Like the other degree programs offered by the UCLA International Institute, students can, within a framework of basic requirements, creatively tailor their coursework to their specific interests. Among the many topics an IDS student might explore are the history of international economic expansion, development theory and aid institutions, the consequences of rapid urbanization, population-resource issues, human rights and environmental justice, political stability and democratization, conflict resolution, human migration and refugee relief, and gender disparities in the developing world.
“There's no other major like [International Development Studies] at UCLA that allows you to have such a holistic experience in academics." —Jessica Du (UCLA 2014/ IDS Major; Public Policy Minor)
Curriculum. The formal curriculum of the program consists of 6 preparatory lower-division courses in the humanities and social sciences, 2 years of language study (i.e., completion of the intermediate level — generally, 6 quarters), and 11 upper-level division courses.
Students are also encouraged, although not required, to acquire field experience in the developing world via travel, study abroad, work, or volunteer programs, as well as to complete an internship in a local, national or international community development organization.
Examples of coursework for an International Development Studies major can be found in the .pdf file at the bottom of this page.
Both the faculty program chair of the International Development Studies Program, UCLA Professor of Political Science Mike Lofchie, and academic counselor Sandy Valdivieso are on hand to guide students enrolled in the program. In addition, an online alumni and current student directory for UCLA International Institute degree programs gives potential students a window into the activities of their peers and the professional avenues open to them with an IDS degree.
Admission. To apply to the IDS Program, students must have completed the aforementioned preparatory courses by the end of fall quarter of their junior year (maintaining a minimum GPA of 2.0 in these courses), as well as at least one year of language study. Admission to the program is highly competitive, with preparatory requirements the minimum standard for consideration.
“IDS trained me to be a true Renaissance man. Not only was I required to master a secondary language, but I was also challenged to focus on the political and economic development of two regions, the Western Hemisphere and Southeast Asia.”
—Josue Lopez Calderon (UCLA 2010/ IDS Major)
Global Studies Program
Created in 2005, the Global Studies Program is the International Institute’s newest undergraduate degree program and focuses on the fundamental dynamics of globalization. The program offers both an undergraduate major and minor. The major requires a demanding course of study, with a more proscribed curriculum than either the IDS or International & Area Studies majors.
Global Studies examines the ways in which people across the globe are affected every day by an unprecedented array of linkages that defy geographic and political boundaries. It uses a multidisciplinary curriculum in the humanities and social sciences to explore the complex, multifaceted interconnections of the contemporary world, with particular attention to the interactions between nation states; international institutions; nongovernmental organizations; and ethnic, cultural and religious groups.
“Global Studies, as an interdisciplinary program, creates a dynamic lens with which young minds learn to analyze complex issues in our global age. I chose this program for the rigorous thesis that is demanded. It was my understanding prior to my admittance that Global Studies was UCLA’s version of an ‘International Relations’ major. However, I quickly discovered its complex, interdisciplinary nature. For this, I am confident that I received an exceptional education, and one that will aid success in my future career.” —Katherine Parkinson (UCLA 2013/ Global Studies major)
Curriculum. Required coursework falls into three categories, which the program identifies as the key “pillars” of globalization: culture and society, governance and conflict, and markets.
The first pillar focuses on the tensions between local ways of life (with their deep historical, linguistic, ethnic and religious roots) and the pressures of transnational cultures and multiple identities fueled by communication technologies and the movement of peoples all over the world. The “governance and conflict” pillar examines the challenges to the nation-state from above and below, and the “markets” pillar addresses interactions among global, regional, national and subnational economic markets and processes.
Global Studies students can draw on the support and advice of the faculty program chair, UCLA Associate Professor of Political Science Mike Thies, and program Academic Counselor Sandy Valdivieso. Another useful resource is the UCLA International Institute’s online alumni and current student directory, which gives students an idea of the kind of activities pursued by current Global Studies students at UCLA, as well as the professional avenues open to them with a Global Studies degree.
Global Studies major. Unique among the Institute’s three degree programs, a Global Studies major requires a senior thesis: a substantial piece of original research (35–50 pages) written under the guidance of a faculty mentor during a student’s senior year. The research project must draw on both primary sources and appropriate scholarly literature.
Altogether, the program requires 7 preparatory and 15 upper-level courses, together with two years’ of language study (i.e., completion of the intermediate level, roughly equivalent to 6 courses).
In addition, students must attend a Global Studies summer travel study program at one of several strategic locations around the world. Conducted in English, these courses allow students to see first-hand how the issues addressed in the core curriculum play out worldwide in places with distinctive histories and cultures. (Merit-based scholarships for summer travel study programs are available to select Global Studies majors.)
“[The Global Studies New York Travel Study Program] was one of the best experiences of my college life. If you are interested in the United Nations and other world organizations, this program will expose you to a wide array of international issues, as well as give you opportunities to meet prominent scholars, politicians, and activists in the international field.”
—Eunchong (Grace) Lee (UCLA 2010/ Global Studies major)
As a designated capstone major, the Global Studies Program expects that in addition to writing a thesis, students in their senior seminar and research seminar classes can demonstrate:
• appropriate mastery of a specialized area of global studies;
• critical understanding of current scholarly concerns, literature and debates in global studies; and
• the ability to identify and analyze primary sources.
To see examples of possible coursework for a Global Studies major, see the .pdf file at the bottom of this page.
Global studies minor. A global studies minor requires three lower-division preparatory courses and five upper-division courses, consisting of the program’s three core courses, plus selections from the three pillars described above.
The minor is an ideal complement to all majors in the arts, humanities and social sciences — not to mention engineering and the hard sciences — because it gives all students a deeper understanding of the interconnected global world and economy in which they live and will work.
To see examples of possible coursework for a Global Studies minor, see the .pdf file at the bottom of this page.
“An international degree is one of the most well-rounded and relevant degrees you can earn today. The Global Studies major, in particular, examines the everyday trends and movements of today's world with strong ties to history, economics and culture.” —Emily Marsh (UCLA 2009/ Global Studies major, Geography minor)
Annual awards and student presentations
The IDS and Global Studies Programs both recognize the work of outstanding graduating seniors who major in the respective programs. The Global Studies Program awards two Outstanding Senior Thesis Awards and IDS, two Senior Awards. Each year, candidates for the awards present their research thesis or community work in international development at a special year-end event.
Reflecting on the 2014 event, Global Studies and International & Area Studies Chair Mike Thies remarked, “It is always enjoyable to meet students who truly take responsibility for their own educations, who do more than they necessarily have to do to earn a UCLA degree, and who seem to have enjoyed the process as well.”
Students and program staff at the 2014 meeting where students presented senior thesis papers
and activist projects. From left: Sandy Valdivieso, Magda Yamamoto, unidentified student,
Grace Cho, Jae Jun, Brian Lee, Michelle Sinness, Jessica Du, Anjuli Dasika, Maddy Glenn,
and Wenxi Lin. (Photo: Catherine Schuknecht/ UCLA.)