International Studies draws in record number of freshmen

By Allison Divine

This year, 150 freshmen have indicated they are interested in majoring in international studies. This is a relatively high number even accounting for the large freshman class. There are currently 67 international studies majors, down from a ten-year high of 81 in fall 2008.The international studies department chair, David Moore, said that about 60 percent of students who take an introductory international studies course end up majoring in I.S.

Much of this interest is due to the admissions department’s emphasis on internationalism in their recruitment efforts.

“The materials produced by our admissions department,” Moore said, “refer to internationalism and global engagement in many ways.

“People who read that get the general sense that I.S. is the way to go. And so, just prior to arrival, they rightly map Macalester’s broad strength onto my specific department.”

Emily Murphy ’13 said that before coming here she “had the impression that a lot of kids from Macalester majored in I.S.”

“I like how the I.S. major here is so much broader than an international relations major,” she said.

Tani Prell ’13 said that the I.S. major was a large part of her decision to attend Macalester.

She said that “they just make it sound like, ‘Oh my god, international studies is going to be this huge thing, you’re going to be able to rule the world, you’re going to be just like Kofi.'”

Despite this initial interest or how it is established, the number of people who actually end up majoring in international studies is much smaller, and Moore said the number of students planning on majoring in international studies is already starting to decline.”

“International studies is closely linked with the college’s own identity,” Moore said, “Somebody who comes with a general idea of international studies might not necessarily mean my department: they mean ‘I want to engage the world.'”

Julia Peterson ’13 explained the high interest by saying “I think there has been a lot more focus in the last couple years in the U.S. on the fact that we don’t have great relations with the rest of the world, and I think that people of our age are starting to think that that’s a really big issue, especially since that was focused on so much during the presidential campaign.”

Rather than just turning away from the major altogether, some students simply find what they seek in other areas.

Moore said, “It’s a sign of the college’s strength that that number specifically focused on I.S. drops over the first year, since that number is redistributed to other, less immediately prominent departments in a healthy way.”

“The life skills that you need to do this, you can’t be taught in a classroom,” Prell said. “I just don’t know how you major in living in cultures.