Curricular reform for a new generation

We are pleased to announce that the University has approved the Watson Institute’s proposal to create a unified undergraduate concentration, International and Public Affairs. Through a gradual, multi-year transition process, International and Public Affairs will eventually replace Watson’s existing concentrations: Development Studies, International Relations, and Public Policy. The existing system will remain in place for current Development Studies, International Relations, and Public Policy concentrators. Indeed, all students currently at Brown (and through the class of 2023) will still have the option of selecting the existing concentrations as we phase in the new International and Public Affairs program.    

The new International and Public Affairs concentration aligns well with the spirit of Brown’s distinctive Open Curriculum, which turns 50 next month and which encourages “active participation and continuous reflection” on the part of each student. The flexibility of the new concentration will enable students to explore international and public affairs guided by their own curiosity, interests, and desire to make a difference in the world.

Included within the concentration’s new approach will be guaranteed seminars taught by Watson faculty, an increased range of senior capstone options, greater access to faculty by lowering the advisor-student ratio and expanded opportunities for research assistantships, and continued flexibility with respect to electives drawn from across the university. These changes reflect the ideas and suggestions that many students have provided throughout the reform process. 

The International and Public Affairs concentration will comprise 11 courses, including a common core of classes featuring a themed gateway lecture course, junior seminars, senior thesis or capstone seminars, and a qualitative and quantitative methodology course. For the many students interested in language, students can choose to pursue language study as an alternative to one of the two required methodology courses. In addition to taking core classes, students will choose one of three tracks of specialization: Development, Security, or Policy and Governance. Each track will have a foundational course to establish for students a common set of questions and issues to explore. In their track of specialization, students can then pursue their particular academic interests and aspirations through the selection of five electives drawn from across the University. The electives provide students the opportunity to focus on the country, region, or issue area of their choice.

The overarching purpose of the reform is to offer students the best, most globally relevant liberal arts education possible. That includes creating a sense of community – and empowering shared learning – across all Watson concentrators, making the Watson Institute the concentrators’ true academic home, building lifelong skills of critical thinking, providing opportunities for all students to work closely with faculty in small group settings, and promoting the application of multidisciplinary study to real-world challenges.