The School of Foreign Service Dean’s Office is actively considering restructuring the curriculum of the SFS with new course offerings and updated core requirements in the lead-up to its centennial celebration, with initial changes set to be announced in mid-March.
Currently, students in the SFS must enroll in a proseminar course, fulfill a writing requirement, achieve proficiency in a foreign language, take two philosophy courses, two theology courses, two government courses, three history courses, four economics courses and the “Map of the Modern World” course.
Students can major in one of eight programs that they can also pursue as concentrations or interdisciplinary certificates, the SFS equivalent of a minor. Students are not allowed to double major or declare minors from the College.
Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Daniel Byman said this curriculum structure allows students to have a broad and deep understanding of international affairs.
“Like most curricula, the strengths and weaknesses go together,” Byman said. “One of the strengths to me, at least, is you get a fantastic grounding in the essentials of international affairs very broadly defined. That would range from philosophy and culture, to economics, to finance, history, so it is very deep.”
Byman said any changes to the curriculum are proposed to faculty committees for discussion. These committees evaluate the state of the current curriculum and consult students, alumni and faculty members to determine whether changes are needed and how to implement them.
“I and people in the dean’s office have been talking to students and alums about a very basic question: What should students know and what opportunities should they have at the School of Foreign Service?” Byman said.
Although no specific changes have been agreed on yet, Byman said curriculum reviews are necessary to ensure the SFS is properly preparing students for changing times.
“2016 is not 1916,” Byman said. “In my mind, we have a moment where it is logical for the school to look at what it does well and what it should change to meet the challenges of the coming years.”
SFS Academic Council member Roopa Mulpuri (SFS ’18) said a crucial part of any restructuring is making the curriculum forward-thinking, citing the science, technology and international affairs major as the most forward-reaching.
Mulpuri said SFS students should gain a stronger background in science during their undergraduate experience to ensure exposure to some of the facts behind contemporary issues like climate change and food shortages.
“We want something where you delve into an issue and learn some science abstractly and then look at some of the policy solutions that are already being proposed,” she said.
According to Mulpuri, the faculty committees are also considering adding an ethics course to the core curriculum to provide students with a grounding in Georgetown’s Jesuit values and mission.
Academic Council President Anna Hernick (SFS ’16) said students desire a more balanced curriculum.
“We’re hearing more and more that SFS students appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the core, but hope to find a balance between this breadth and more personalized depth in their undergraduate experiences,” Hernick said. “For example, students want to be able to take more classes in technology, foreign languages and business and have those courses incorporated into their SFS studies.”
Byman said changes to the curriculum require managing trade-offs, as more courses means less flexibility in the curriculum.
“One could argue it has gone too far in one direction or the other. Certainly one thing the committees are exploring is what is the balance between requirements and not required courses,” Byman said.
Alexandra Williams (SFS ’19) called the current economics requirement excessive.
“Personally, I don’t see the necessity for the requirement of four economics classes for SFS students,” Williams said. “For students not interested in majoring in international political economy or international economics], four economics classes seem excessive to me.”
According to Mulpuri, the SFS faculty is aware of complaints regarding the number of economics classes students are required to take. SFS students are currently required to take both “Microeconomic Principles and “Macroeconomic Principles.”
Grady Willard (SFS ’18) said he also believes students should have increased exposure to science classes in the core.
“We come out of the SFS with incredible skills in a variety of fields but understanding scientific knowledge is not one of them. In an interconnected world, it is extremely important that policymakers, consultants, businessmen, et cetera. understand how to interpret scientific information,” Willard said.
Ben Baldwin (SFS ’19) said certain core classes should be substituted.
“If changes were to be made to the curriculum, I would like to see the reduction of the number of core classes or the substitution of some core classes for others, as the sciences or courses in ethics are currently underrepresented in the core curriculum of the SFS,” Baldwin said.