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International Affairs Program
Last updated 10/3/2002

Knowledge and skill goals for this undergraduate degree program are recorded in the most recent CU-Boulder catalog.

In some summaries of assessment activity, goals are referred to by number (e.g., K-2 is knowledge goal 2).

Assessment activity through 1996-97
Assessment activity for 2001-02

Assessment activity through 1996-97

Many of the courses in the International Affairs program are taught by other programs. Until 1995-96 it had only one part-time faculty member of its own, the program director, who is a member of another department and has teaching responsibilities there as well. Through 1993-94 the program had no courses of its own.

From 1989-90 through 1992-93 the program's assessment process focused on goal K-2. Each year external reviewers read and evaluated International Affairs majors' final exams from three upper level courses required of senior majors. 20 exams were randomly selected from each course. The particular set of courses varied from year to year, and included ECON 3403 (International Economics and Policy), HIST 4412 (20th Century Europe), and PSCI 4182 (International Law). ECON 4433 (US Economic Relations with Japan and Canada) was evaluated in 1991-92 instead of ECON 3403. In 1992-93, the program's goals statements, detailed course syllabi, and information on the major's requirements were provided to assist the evaluation.

Overall, the reviewers' comments suggest that the students' understanding of the material varied from course to course and year to year, ranging from quite satisfactory to quite weak with no consistent pattern within a course or year. It was not clear to the reviewers whether these changes reflected changes in the students or in the ways the courses were taught.

With so little control over the availability, content, or teaching of the courses in its program, it was difficult to see how to apply the external reviewers' comments to program improvement. In 1993-94 the new program director dropped the course by course external review. Instead, he conducted a study of majors' views of the program in hope that it might reveal problems or issues which could be addressed. This was part of a formal program review, and the 1993-94 and 1994-95 outcomes assessment reports drew heavily on the program review report.

Student Affairs Research Services assisted with a telephone survey of seniors who had entered CU-Boulder as freshmen and had declared International Affairs as their first major. The population included both ex-majors (those who had dropped out of the major) and seniors who were still International Affairs majors.

There was no outstanding single reason why some dropped out and others did not. The general explanation from former majors was that International Affairs no longer fit their general interest. The interviewers had the impression that many ex-majors admired the program a great deal but felt that there were too many requirements for them personally. Both current and former majors were generally interested in international business, organizations, and economics. Those who stayed in the program seem to have been much clearer about their academic and/or career goals when they began, whereas ex-majors had a much more generalized impression of the program and of their own needs.

The program's structure was viewed positively by both current and former majors. Both groups seemed to favor its rigor and the multiplicity of requirements. The weakest part of the major from the students' view was the lack of courses in certain areas of concentration. While the program cannot control course offerings in the contributing departments, it has undertaken (a) a comprehensive review of the curriculum in an attempt to make the requirements more straightforward and (b) an increase in the number of courses that satisfy each requirement. As a result, the curriculum was substantially restructured for 1994-95. In addition, and at least partly spurred by the survey finding that students who stayed in the program seemed to have had a clearer view of both the program and their own goals at the start, an introductory course was offered for the first time in 1994-95. One function of IAFS 1000 (Introduction to International Affairs) is to help the students understand what the major is and isn't so that they can decide early in their study whether they want to continue in the program.

Over the past several years the International Affairs Program has revised its curriculum in order to better assure that students will acquire the knowledge and skills listed in our goals. We have introduced a new basic course in international affairs entitled Global Issues and International Affairs (IAFS 1000). We have also added a faculty member who teaches most of her load in International Affairs. Her courses include an honors seminar (IAFS 4800), an internship class (IAFS 4930), and a critical thinking course, Global Perspectives and Political Philosophy (IAFS 4700). We have offered a capstone course, the Post-Cold War World (IAFS 4500) specifically designed for International Affairs majors, which is offered each semester.

Students responded well to these new courses. Students' evaluations on the university's Faculty Course Questionnaire (FCQ) ranged from B for the large introductory course to A+ for the upper division courses. The FCQs for the upper division courses also included questions designed to tell if students had integrated the work of the program. They gave grades from A- to A+, affirming that the courses unified earlier work, developed critical thinking, and broadened knowledge of international affairs.

In 1996-97 International Affairs committee members read some of the term papers and group projects of students enrolled in these upper division courses. The students' work indicated that the classes fulfilled the aims of the program to develop knowledge of and the ability to think critically about contemporary global issues.

Responses to exit interviews of graduating International Affairs seniors confirmed that International Affairs majors received broad training in global issues. For example, students commented

  1. "I was able to get a broad understanding of International Affairs through political, historical, and economical perspectives."
  2. "My expectations for an International Affairs major were completely fulfilled. I enjoyed the wide range of areas studied."
  3. "After being exposed to lessons in history, economics, political affairs and foreign language, I feel more in touch with what has happened out there and why things are going on today."

Activity for 2001-02

In the spring of 2002, the department sent Prof. Jean Garrison of the political science department of the University of Wyoming 24 term papers from seniors enrolled in the International Affairs capstone seminar, International Affairs 4500, The Post-Cold War World. These papers were drawn randomly from students in each of the three sections of the course offered in the semester. Professor Garrison was asked to assess each student's work based on their knowledge of contemporary international affairs, their analytical and reasoning skills, and their ability to form hypotheses and draw conclusions. She was also asked to compare the students' work with that of other undergraduates she has taught at several universities across the country. Follow this link for Professor Garrison's report.

The program has made use of Professor Garrison's report in its continuing evaluation of its senior capstone courses. The program has decided to make more consistent the course requirements in the various sections.

In addition to external evaluations of students' mastery of the subject matter of International Affairs, the Program also conducts an annual survey of its students' experience as majors. Students have recently requested coverage of more regions of the world. They are also interested in the changes in international affairs brought about by the atrocities of September 11, 2002.

The International Affairs Program regularly reviews its curriculum in light of the surveys and assessments made by external reviewers. To that end we have added a section of IA 4500 dealing with contemporary Africa (fall 2002) and another dealing with technological threats to world order (spring 2003). The Program is also expanding its offerings in area studies as part of its current program review. We contemplate offering separate tracks for students specializing in regions of the world such as Western Europe, Eurasia, Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East. Under this plan students would have the option of pursuing a major with greater depth in one region of the world. They would also have the option of continuing the current curriculum in which a student pursues courses across the spectrum of international affairs and studies one region.

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Last revision 10/07/02


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