Students in the School of Foreign Service have long joked that the rigid core curriculum practically forces them to major in core requirements. Meanwhile, another familiar refrain claims that SFS actually stands for “Safe From Science.”
Both of these distinctions may subside starting with the Class of 2022. Last week, Senior Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Daniel Byman announced plans to introduce a science requirement into its core curriculum but reduce the number of major course requirements.
The current SFS core consists of one freshman proseminar, two humanities or writing courses, two theology courses, two engaging diversity courses, two government courses, three history courses, two philosophy courses, a language proficiency requirement and the one-credit “Map of the Modern World.” Under the proposed plan, the Dean’s Office is considering the number of required economics courses from four to three and giving students the ability to count one- or four-credit classes toward their graduation requirements.
Although we applaud the Dean’s Office and SFS Academic Council for implementing these changes and loosening these requirements, the SFS can further make strides in promoting academic freedom and diversity in the course offerings of its students by extending the ability to minor and cross-count courses in the school.
Currently, the SFS embraces a philosophy of “depth over breadth,” which stresses developing a specialization in a subject area rather than dabbling across fields. Although this is an admirable credo, it often manifests itself in curricular offerings that are decidedly limiting for students who wish to pursue new academic interests outside the SFS.
Unlike their counterparts in the Georgetown College or McDonough School of Business, students in the SFS can neither double major nor select a non-language minor. While MSB students are afforded the opportunity to pursue minors outside the business school — such as English, philosophy or computer science — students within the SFS are restrained to a limited number of certificates offered in the school. By extending this option to SFS students, the school could give its graduates a new degree of dimensionality in their studies.
Although the new “Design Your Own Certificate” program for the Class of 2019 onward might allow SFS students to explore new interests, many simply wish to earn accreditation within fields that already exist in schools such as the College. Students are far more multifaceted than their degree in International Political Economy or Regional and Comparative Studies may suggest, and, by permitting students in the SFS to earn minors or other credits outside the school, they can establish faculty connections and expertise beyond the fields of international affairs.
Students ought to continue to voice their opinions to the Academic Council and other SFS administrative representatives in order to craft programs that cater to a variety of interests and provide feedback as the administration moves forward with these changes.
The Editorial Board encourages the SFS Dean’s Office to seize this opportunity to restructure the core curriculum requirements to accommodate interdisciplinary studies across the sciences and arts for students interested in exploring interests beyond the scope of international relations. By permitting students to minor according to their interests and cross-count their credits, the SFS can truly foster a liberal arts education befitting the mission of the school.
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