The University announced last month that the Elliott School of International Affairs will begin offering a Bachelor of Science degree next fall.
The move was heralded as an opportunity for students to have even more academic freedom and it is an incredibly positive step. The new degree option will grant students even more flexibility to take classes that align with their academic interests and expand their career options when they depart from GW – and the University should continue expanding these options.
International affairs is a major that requires more credits than most other programs at GW. The major itself requires 40 credits while majors in similar fields of study require fewer. The political science major has a less-rigorous general education requirement and only requires 30 credits of major-related courses.
With those requirements in mind, it previously spread students impossibly thin if they wanted to tack on an entirely different field of study to their international affairs degree.
It would take 150 credits to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Elliott School and a Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which, assuming a student takes on a full-time course load of 15 credits per semester, would take five years.
But, now that the Elliott School will offer a Bachelor of Science option, taking more science-based classes will be more manageable and students can more easily double-major. Science courses that are added to the Elliott School’s core curriculum for the Bachelor of Science program will fulfill some SEAS requirements, meaning that student pursuing a double-major will have to take fewer classes.
Despite the support for this new degree, some faculty argued that allowing students to simply tack on a STEM major could lead them to take classes that are irrelevant to international affairs.
But it isn’t just double-major candidates that are helped by the new program. It also helps those who don’t go that route. Obtaining a Bachelor of Science from the Elliott School will require taking introductory classes in areas like computer science, finance and engineering. Gaining knowledge and skills in these areas could set the stage for students to pursue graduate education in any of those fields. A post-graduate degree is increasingly necessary, especially in areas related to STEM, an area in which the number of careers has nearly doubled since 1990.
Even if students decide not to pursue topics like computer science as a second major, it is an opportunity for students in the Elliott School to become more well-rounded. Foreign policy is an area in which concepts like cybersecurity and computer science are becoming more and more prominent.
NASA, for example, faced numerous hacking attempts last month when it was left near-defenseless due to the government shutdown. There is also the threat of Russia attempting to interfere with our elections through hacking polling machines, and our country’s power grid remains vulnerable to cyber attacks. The leaders of the foreign and domestic affairs of tomorrow will need to have an understanding of the way other fields factor into their jobs.
Pursuing a field of study that corresponds with one’s personal interests is the most important part of the college experience. That’s why the Elliott School’s move was a commendable one and should serve as an example for GW for how higher education should put students’ academic exploration front and center.
Andrew Sugrue, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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