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Global Studies FAQ

How is Global Studies a distinct field of study that differs from adjacent disciplines such as International Relations/Studies?How is Global Studies different from Political Science and International Relations?

Global Studies brings together courses across the curriculum that focus on, or provide means to, understanding and analyzing global processes, systems, and phenomena; the relationship between the local and the global; and trans-border connections among people and events. While Global Studies’ popularity as a field can be attributed to the ascent of globalization, which is an important object of study within it, Global Studies goes beyond examining this particular phenomenon to encourage a “critical reflection on how the world works as an interlinked, interactive set of processes and relationships that operate across broad spheres of experience, from the social to the political, the economic to the cultural, the religious to the environmental, the legal to the technological, the scientific to the subjective.”[1] Global Studies’ core focus, while touching upon international relations (which tends to take states as the unit of analysis), concentrates on trans-border relations, movements, structures. As an example, Global Studies tends to encourage a connecting approach, which weaves a theme (say, colonialism) together from different disciplines (say, literature, political science, anthropology, and language).  In Global Studies, we focus on cross-cultural competence, a variety of perspectives on global challenges, which take into account non-Western-centric viewpoints, and language study as one of the instruments of a window into the world.  We are not contained by the paradigms of any one discipline.

[1] Quote taken from UC Santa Barbara’s department of Global Studies, which is one of the earliest programs in the USA and was set up by Mark Juergensmeyer, whose work still influences the field today:

What is a “paired” course?

Students can pair courses to achieve a comparative and/or a cross-regional emphasis. To elaborate, if students choose to take paired courses that are eligible for GLBL, they must combine two paired courses from different departments and/or programs in order to receive credit for each course for the minor.  Moreover, an additional core course (additional to the core course requirements in the minor)  can count as a paired course with another GLBL-paired course.

If you are interested in a special major, the distribution of core versus paired courses will be decided when you craft your entire list of courses that make up the special major.

Paired courses are predominantly courses that study a part of the world or an issue area, topic, or theme through a part of the world. These courses may present global concepts, systems or phenomena, but are limited by focus on a specific part of the world. These courses are noted in the catalog entry notes as “Eligible for GLBL - Paired.” 

Examples of paired courses: 
ANTH 009C. Cultures of the Middle East + POLS 059. Middle East Politics
Regional Pairing - Middle East

CHIN 065. Peking Opera and Globalization + POLS 058. Contemporary Chinese Politics
Regional Pairing - China

ANTH 037C. Anti-Corruption Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean + POLS 057. Latin American Politics
Thematic Pairing - Politics

BLST 033. African Cinemas + FMST 051. European Cinema
Thematic Pairing - Cinema

Example of an unacceptable pairing:
ARAB 023. Identity and Culture in Arab Cinema + HIST 060. The East India Company, 1600-1857
Different regions and different themes

Can I take all core courses and therefore not pair any courses?

Yes, you may take all core courses.

Is the foreign language requirement included in the credit hour requirement for the minor or special major?

The short answer is “no”, but the following is relevant.  There are certain advanced level courses that may fulfill the language requirement and is a GLBL- paired or -core course.  Ex: FREN 015 

You may also talk to the GLBL coordinators to see whether you can list language courses, beyond the GLBL language requirement, as part of your special major.

I am a junior/senior and want to add the Global Studies major or minor. What is the process to special major in Global Studies?

First, students should complete the online Global Studies minor or major application form. The Global Studies coordinator will contact you to discuss your plan. Second, students wanting to add the major need to complete the Individualized Special Major form and obtain the necessary signatures. Finally, once the coordinator has approved your plan for the major or minor, you will need to add it in the portal.

How many credits are required for the Global Studies (GLBL) special major?

10-12 credits are required for the special major, and the College’s Individualized Special Major form needs to be filled. Of those 10 -12 credits, a minimum of 6 must be GLBL-eligible courses. (Please note that some GLBL Special Major themes suggested on the website require courses that are not GLBL-eligible.  While these courses may comprise the overall special major plan, they cannot be included in the six minimum Global Studies-eligible courses). 

How do I complete the Individualized Special major Form?

Aside from your name, ID number, and Grad Year, you will need to provide the title of the special major and the Comprehensive Exercise. Please note that all special majors have to start with the following title: Special Major in Global Studies followed by the thematic focus of your major, such as “Special Major in Global Studies:  Global Political Economy.”  For the Comprehensive Exercise, please write “Senior Reflection Exercise.” 

All courses that comprise your special major, including courses that are not Global Studies eligible (e.g. STAT 011) but are necessary for your theme should be included. Please note that a minimum of six credits must be Global Studies-eligible. 

The Global Studies coordinator will need to sign the Individualized Special Major form as the Special Major Faculty Advisor and the Comprehensive Exercise Chair. 

Why do I need to complete both an application form and Individualized Special Major Form?

The Global Studies minor application and major application provide more information about your overall plan, theme, and language background. The Special Major form is the official form that notifies the Registrar’s Office that you are formally requesting to add the Global Studies special major. 

I am a sophomore planning to apply for the Global Studies minor or special major. What do I need to do?

Information about the sophomore plan can be found here. Please note that students must also complete the Global Studies application form for the Global Studies minor or major. Students intending to special major, will also need to complete the Individualized Special Major form

Can I create my own special major theme?

A student may propose to the coordinator a distinctive special major theme; however, these are subject to the review and approval of the Global Studies coordinator. Please note that once approved, the theme will contain the label “Special Major in Global Studies.”

I am a special major and made a change to my courses. Do I need to complete a new special major form?

In most cases, it is necessary to amend the form and obtain signature approvals or complete a new form. 

What are the program’s policies on completing courses Credit/No Credit?

None of the credits for the Global Studies minor may be taken for CR/NC (excludes first semester of first year).  

For those completing a special major in Global Studies, up to 1 credit may be taken CR/NC (excludes first semester of first year), but this rule excludes the mandatory Introduction to Global Studies (GLBL015).  

For any consideration of an Honors degree in Global Studies, the Program will examine shadow grades for all CR/NC courses and take them into consideration in determining eligibility. Admittance into Honors remains at the discretion of the Program coordinator(s).

What can I do with a Global Studies minor or major?

A Global Studies degree provides individuals with a wide variety of opportunities. Graduates may pursue careers in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, and focus in areas such as public policy, community outreach, and academia. They may also pursue graduate degrees. You can visit to learn more about what some of Swarthmore’s recent Global Studies majors and minors are doing.

Can I study abroad as a Global Studies major or minor?

Yes, study abroad is not only permitted but encouraged. However, please note that only one course taken off campus, including courses taken at Bryn Mawr and Haverford, may count toward the minor.  We are happy to count up to two credits from any type of off-campus study for special majors.

Also, students will need to submit a syllabus and complete reading list at the conclusion of the study abroad period in order to qualify for credit transfer.