Why Study International Affairs?

Monroe Hall

Monroe Hall – Home to the Political Science and International Affairs Department

Are you interested in pursuing a career in law, trade, foreign service, international business, non-profits? This major would be perfect for you! International Affairs students want to understand how interconnected politics, economics and the law are at the global level and the impact they have on our everyday lives.

Here we address the following questions:

If you want to learn more about the major, scroll through these sections! And, if you have a question that is not answered here, explore the website and write to our chair, Professor Rosalyn Cooperman.
e-mail: rcooperm@umw.edu



What is International Affairs?

International Affairs scholars are primarily interested in understanding the role and dynamics of power at the global level.

  • What political factors shape the variations in wealth and poverty around the world?
  • How do culture and politics interact?
  • How does the politics of far-flung regions such as the Middle-East, South Asia and Latin America affect our lives?
  • Why are some countries rich and others poor and can this change over time?
  • Are international organizations mere talking shops?
  • Why do countries seek and form alliances?
  • Which hegemony was/is more benign – British? American? Chinese?
  • And finally, why does this all matter?

International Affairs students are curious about the world around them and the dynamics between power, interests and institutions. Here are some student testimonies for why they chose the International Affairs major:

“I always had that innate curiosity of how countries got along (or lack thereof), so studying International Affairs was a way to learn more and talk about things. On top of that, I wanted to be able to get a clearer picture of how policy is formed with regards to current events; prior to declaring, it felt like there was no method to the madness. As a consequence, I feel the craziness of what’s happening in the world makes a little bit more sense.”

“I chose to major in international affairs because I grew up abroad. …I wanted to learn more about globalization and world politics, economics, history and cultures. In my final year at University, I took a TEFL course so that I could teach English. I am now an English academy teacher in Ilsan, South Korea. During my time at Mary Washington I was very curious about economic development as well as gender and development, and I was curious to see how rapid development had affected South Korea; so it influenced my decision to choose Korea as a teaching location.”

“To enter into the workforce without the critical thinking tools and skills that a liberal arts education will provide, especially …an IA degree, would be to enter the workforce unprepared. I’m writing this to you as the city I live in is in rebellion. These issues are affecting our lives right now. We need to develop the skills necessary to engage with the world and move to enact change. These programs can help to get you there.”

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What will I learn from International Affairs courses?

The department faculty are teacher-scholars in the best tradition of the liberal arts. Each of our permanent faculty has a PhD in their field and has an active research program. Above all, they are dedicated teachers who engage their students inside and outside the classroom in learning and research using innovative pedagogy. International Affairs is an interdisciplinary major and as such, requires students to take classes not only within the department but also from Economics, Geography and History and encourages that they take electives from many more disciplines. International Affairs students learn to apply the following skills, all of which are highly sought after by employers and graduate schools:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Analytic writing skills
  • Nonpartisan discussion skills
  • In-depth research skills
  • Clear presentation skills

They learn to look at the world and understand how and why it operates the way it does. They learn to critically assess policies and events at the global level. By studying economics, politics, sociology, literature, law and other disciplines, they learn to understand the world through interdisciplinary lenses and address problems after considering different perspectives.
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As an International Affairs major what could I do outside the classroom?

International Affairs majors have many co-curricular and extra-curricular opportunities available to them. They participate in research and study abroad. They engage in the UMW community through clubs and organizations, volunteer in the Fredericksburg community, intern in Fredericksburg, Richmond and Washington D.C.

Extra Curricular

International Affairs students are deeply involved in the UMW community and engage in all manners of  civic action. There are many opportunities on campus to utilize your skills and meet like-minded peers:

  • Citizens for Democracy
  • Young Democrats
  • College Republicans
  • Pre-Law Club
  • UMW Mock Trial
  • Women’s and Gender Studies Student Association
  • International Relations Association
  • The Center for Leadership and Media Studies
  • Feminists United
  • Young Americans for Freedom
  • UMW Votes
  • And many more!


International Affairs Study Abroad

All UMW students have the opportunity to study abroad, but as an International Affairs student study abroad takes on a new meaning. Despite where you go or what you study there, you see things through the a new interdisciplinary lenses. Students can use Study Abroad to fulfill their foreign language requirement.  If you are interested in going abroad with a specific focus on international affairs, these options have international affairs course options:

Honors and Research

An International Affairs degree from UMW is highly distinguished. Students have the opportunity to be involved in:

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What can I do with an International Affairs degree after college?

Studying International Affairs at UMW is also unique because of its close proximity to Washington D.C. and Richmond. There are many connections to jobs and internships in our national and state governments. Many of our students find internships locally, in Fredericksburg. For a more in-depth look at possible internships, click here.

  • State senate and house offices
  • Various Government Departments
  • Intelligence Agencies
  • Government Agencies
  • Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Defense Contractors
  • International Educator
  • International Organizations
  • And many more!

Students who study international relations can take a variety of paths after graduation. For a more in-depth look at possible careers, click here.

  • Top graduate programs
  • Top law programs
  • Peace Corps
  • International Marketing
  • Foreign service
  • Print and broadcast journalism
  • Social Media Manager
  • Digital communications
  • Political Mapping/GIS
  • International Public Relations
  • Political Consultant
  • English Educator Abroad
  • International Organizations

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What is happening in the field?

Current prominent research happening in international affairs:

  • Gender and variations in levels of development
  • Power dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Decline/revival in globalization in a post-Covid world
  • Human rights and international organizations
  • Trade, finance and global governance

Our faculty is involved in cutting edge research. They each specialize in subfields within international affairs. If you have a certain interest you can learn from and aid a professor in their research. To learn more about our excellent faculty and their research interests, click here. To find professor’s contact information, click here.

Students are also encouraged to participate in research by doing an honors thesis or independent study. They work hands on with a professor to dig deeper into their area of interest and through research, develop those ideas. The list of Spring 2020 theses and independent studies may be found in the Spring 2020 Newsletter. Or, click here to learn more about student research opportunities.
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What if I am also interested in another major?

One of the great things about UMW’s liberal arts education is the ability to learn a variety of things. The political science and international affairs department offers a minor that pair well with a political science major and/or international affairs major, but there are many others that work well with the major as a double major or minor.

  • Security and Conflict Studies (within the department)
  • Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Communications and Digital Studies
  • Geography
  • History
  • Data Science
  • Computer Science

If you are interested in any of these fields and political science or international affairs, consider double majoring or minoring! Reach out to the department with any questions you have and figure out what is best for you.
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