International Studies Advisory Board Considers Opening Program to All Students

The Academic Advisory Board of the International Studies (IS) Program has discussed whether the major should be open to all students who are interested in the subject area. This year is the 16th year that the program has been offered at Boston College.

Under the current system, students apply at the end of their freshman year, and the number of applications typically averages from around 115 to 120. Between 90 and 100 students are admitted to the major each year.

“To move forward from here, we’ll need to add additional sections of classes, and we hope to do that in the next few years, so that we might be able to open the major to all students, without an application,” said Robert Murphy, the program’s director.

“No decisions have been made with timing, but our goal is that we would like to do that, to open it up at some point.”

The Advisory Board has estimated that the class size would jump to around 150 students if it were not a restricted major. If it does open the program, it plans on making sure that it has the capacity to meet additional demand if it is above what is expected.

“It will probably require more faculty to cover these courses, whether that is using faculty that are here at BC, but maybe we are able to have them teach for international studies and meet some of our needs that way, or it might be that we have to hire some additional faculty to cover these courses,” he said. “Probably most likely a little of both.”

Murphy said the major has reached its maximum sustainable capacity. Over the past 10 years, the number of majors enrolled in the IS program has increased from 132 to 253, according to the BC Fact Book.

Curriculum changes, however, may dampen overall student demand.

“I think one thing that is an important feature that may keep the numbers from rising too quickly, or by too much, is that we have strengthened the language requirement, so students now have to go through a third year of language, or do a second intermediate language,” Murphy said. “I think that may be something that students consider when they decide if they want to do the IS major.”

The IS major also consists of 14 courses, four larger than the typical major at BC, which generally consists of 10. This could be a deterrent for some students, even if the application were no longer restricted.

“I think [this] will also perhaps sort students in a way that keeps numbers from becoming too hard to manage,” Murphy said.

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