Wilson School Faculty Approve Details of New Undergraduate Major
Princeton undergraduates interested in public and international affairs will soon have a newly designed Woodrow Wilson major to consider when choosing their concentrations. Starting with the Class of 2015, the new curriculum aims to provide students with a road map that will help them chart a course of study needed to understand a range of domestic and international policy issues.
After voting to end selective admissions and restructure the Woodrow Wilson School’s undergraduate program last spring, an implementation committee went to work over the summer and fall to flesh out the details. The result is a comprehensive plan that the Wilson School faculty approved on January 24, 2012.
“The new curriculum meets our overarching goal of creating a program that is truly multi-disciplinary, shaped with the understanding that there are many ways to look critically at an issue,” said Christina Paxson, dean of the Wilson School. “We want Woodrow Wilson School students to graduate with a broad base of skills needed to tackle the emerging policy issues of the day.”
The newly designed undergraduate major balances structure and flexibility by mandating that students complete courses that span disciplines, yet giving students a number of choices within each requirement. The areas of required study – science for public policy, economics, politics, and sociology or psychology – are the fields that loom large in the area of public and international affairs today. Students will be expected to take no more than four courses drawn from a list provided by the School in each of these disciplines so that they graduate with a true multi-disciplinary experience. Woodrow Wilson School courses in economics and policy and some in science for public policy require knowledge of single variable calculus, which many students will know from high school.
In addition, students will be required to choose an ethics course from a range of options. To round out their course selections, students will be able to opt for pre-approved electives from across campus that meet a determined policy focus area.
Advising will be critical to ensure that students make informed choices regarding courses and policy specialization, so under the new major, each student will be assigned a faculty course adviser.
Field Experience and Language Proficiency
Students in the new major will be required to have a “field experience” that exposes them to new cultures and/or provides valuable hands-on policy experience. Again, flexibility is key; students may opt to study or work abroad; participate in a government, non-profit, or international agency internship; conduct senior thesis research in the field; or work in a paid or volunteer position in an underserved community. ROTC is also considered a qualifying experience.
In addition, because studying a foreign language is another means of gaining cultural competency and a valuable skill for any public leader, Wilson School majors will now be required to take one semester beyond the current University language requirement.
Junior independent work
Historically, junior independent work has been a hallmark of the Wilson School major; as juniors, students have completed two junior policy task forces or conferences. Last year’s committee determined that the policy task forces and conferences, which have been frequently taught by practitioners rather than regular faculty, were not providing students with sufficient preparation for the senior thesis. Their solution was to replace one of the two policy task forces with a junior policy research seminar. The junior policy seminar will be like a policy task force in that students will focus on a specific policy issue. However, it will be supplemented with a “methods lab” that will provide additional training in research design and a range of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The “tool kit” of skills developed in the methods lab will help students reach a higher level of sophisticated analysis in their independent work. It will also equip them to design and implement independent research projects in the summer before the senior year.
Concluded Vice Dean Stephen Kotkin, who chaired the implementation committee, “The newly designed major will undoubtedly augment Princeton’s tradition of service. It will help students understand the new world of public policy where leaders must think globally, whether they are concerned with domestic or international issues. We are proud of the new design and looking forward to the first class starting in fall 2013.”
Briefings on the new major will be held:
Thursday, February 16, 7:30 p.m. -- Forbes College, Forbes Multi-Purpose Room
Tuesday, February 21, 7:00 p.m. -- Mathey College, Mathey Common Room
Prospective WWS majors can find details about the new requirements here.
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