New major in global politics will explore analytical social science base

Carnegie Mellon’s department of social and decision sciences (SDS) and the International Relations (IR) Program have joined efforts to introduce a new major and minor in global politics. The major deals with the intersection of culture, politics, markets, and technology; the overlap between domestic politics and international relations; and the challenging process of economic, social, and political transitions.

Extracting lessons from studies in ideology, identity, religion, culture, and technology, the new major aims to instruct students on the analytical groundwork of international relations. In contrast to the international relations major — which requires the declaration of a primary major in a different department — students will be able to choose this area of study as a primary major.

Global politics is also available as an additional major and minor, allowing students to explore additional areas of interest.

“This new major blends the social science track of the international relations major with the international aspects of the political science major, offering students skills and theories through which to understand global and international relations from the perspective of analytical social science,” said Traci Sebastian, advisor of the IR Program.

According to Sebastian, even though no single discipline can encompass all aspects of a global society, analytical social science can offer a considerable basis of understanding, and this is exactly what global politics intends to do.

The new major has received an enthusiastic response from students, Sebastian said. Even before the major was announced last week, students who had heard about it unofficially contacted her in hopes of declaring it their major.

“In the two days following the announcement of the major, traffic to our website nearly tripled,” Sebastian said.

Along with SDS and IR faculty members, Sebastian believes it is an exciting opportunity for students not only to successfully prepare for careers in global and international affairs, but also to acquire knowledge and skills that will help them to grow into better citizens of the global community.

Sebastian has been giving presentations about the major to some newly admitted students and their parents, and a considerable amount have expressed interest in pursuing global politics when they begin at Carnegie Mellon in the fall.

The global politics major, while integrating various departments, does not have a foreign language requirement.

According to Susan G. Polansky, professor and head of the Modern Languages department, learning a foreign language, although not required, is ideal for any student wishing to pursue any kind of global studies.

“My personal opinion is that the study of modern languages is very important for an individual seriously pursuing work in global studies in order to develop knowledge and familiarity with the associated culture or cultures,” she said. “The new major offers a fine opportunity for students to pursue their interests in global studies.”

SDS professor John H. Miller defended the major’s lack of a foreign language requirement, explaining that most students in the global politics program will be inclined to study a language on their own, even without a set requirement.

There are other ways of endorsing the completion of modern language courses, he added.

“We strongly encourage students to combine the new major with the study of modern languages, and do this through our advising system, study abroad opportunities, and elective structures for the new major,” Miller said.

“While the issue of dictating this requirement outright to the students was discussed at our College Council, it was felt that students are well placed to make appropriate choices in this area given the structure of the major.”

Kenya Dworkin, a Spanish professor in the modern languages department, agreed with Miller.

“I think the SDS global politics program has left plenty of room for those students who already have the linguistic and cultural skills to want to continue these studies, and also for those who may not be so advanced but want to keep improving their foreign language and culture knowledge,” Dworkin said.

As Dworkin pointed out, H&SS has always had strong collaboration among its departments, and which will enable faculty outside SDS to have an impact on global politics students.

“These programs of study are not mutually exclusive,” she said.

More information on the new global politics major can be found at (