International Relations

Sohail Hashmi, Chair

Linda Chesky Fernandes, Academic Department Coordinator

109A Skinner Hall

Overview and Contact Information

The Department of International Relations (IR) focuses on the myriad and complex interactions of human beings across state boundaries. It aims to provide students a global perspective on the origins of the current international system, the salient concerns in international relations today, and the emerging challenges humanity will face in the years ahead. These goals can best be achieved through an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon the theoretical insights and empirical knowledge of several disciplines, including economics, geography, history, and political science. International relations majors are expected to complete a course of study that includes introductory core courses in each of these fields, a course in research methods, as well as advanced courses in a number of more focused tracks. They are expected to attain a level of proficiency in a foreign language that will allow them to do basic research in it. They are also encouraged to study abroad during their junior year. The department strives to educate informed citizens and thoughtful leaders for our emerging global society.

The Five College Certificate in International Relations serves as the minor in International Relations.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to spend at least one semester studying abroad during their junior year. A suitable program and course of study should be chosen with the help of the student’s advisor.

Honors Work

The department reserves its honors for majors who successfully complete a thesis in their senior year. Seniors writing a thesis must enroll in IR 395, Independent Study for two semesters.

See Also


This area of study is administered by the Department of International Relations:

Sohail Hashmi, Professor of International Relations on the Alumnae Foundation and Professor of Politics

Stephen Jones, Professor of Russian Studies

Girma Kebbede, Professor of Geography, Teaching Fall Only

Kavita Khory, Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics

Jeremy King, Professor of History

Eva Paus, Professor of Economics, On Leave 2019-2020

Jon Western, Carol Hoffmann Collins '63 Professor of International Studies and Five College Professor of International Relations; Dean of Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs

Sarah Adelman, Associate Professor of Economics

Andy Reiter, Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, On Leave 2019-2020

Katherine Schmeiser, Associate Professor of Economics

Serin Houston, Assistant Professor of Geography and International Relations

Christopher Mitchell, Assistant Professor of International Relations and Politics

Bryan Nakayama, Visiting Lecturer in International Relations

Vijaya Pastala, Visiting Lecturer in International Relations

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 40 credits:

12 credits must be at the 300 level and undertaken in at least two disciplines. These courses must be taken at Mount Holyoke or another of the Five Colleges. Only 4 credits of independent work can count toward the requirement for courses at the 300 level.

ECON-165International and Development Economics4
or ECON-213 Economic Development: A Survey
or ECON-218 International Economics
GEOG-105World Regional Geography 1, 34
or GEOG-206 Political Geography
HIST-151Modern and Contemporary Europe 14
or HIST-161 British Empire and Commonwealth
POLIT-116World Politics 14
IR-200Research Methods 14
At least 12 credits at the 300 level in two different disciplines (see Focus below)12
8 additional credits in international relations8
Total Credits40

Other Requirements

  • Focus. Each student’s major must have a focus, consisting of at least 12 credits in two different disciplines, only 4 credits of which may be independent study. Students may elect one of the following five foci: global commons, international institutions, international peace and security, international political economy, or international ethics. They may also design a focus, with the approval of their advisor and the chair.
  • Foreign language. Each student is expected to possess or acquire proficiency in a foreign language up to the intermediate level.

Additional Specifications

  • Soon after declaring their major, students should plan individual programs of study in consultation with one or more members of the faculty committee, one of whom will be designated the student’s academic advisor.
  • Exceptions to the requirements above will be made only in rare cases and require the approval of the chair.
  • The Department of International Relations does not cross-list courses in other departments that satisfy the major’s requirements. Generally, all courses taught by members of the IR Committee count toward the major. For courses offered by other faculty, the policy of the department is to accept any course in any department that is directly pertinent to the student’s focus in the major. Thus, for example, a student whose focus is global commons could conceivably count courses offered by the geology or biological sciences departments. Or a student focusing on international ethics could use certain courses in the religion or philosophy departments to satisfy the requirements of the major. Any questions concerning the appropriateness of a particular course can be answered by the advisor or the department chair. It is important for the student to verify that the course in question will count toward the major before taking.
  • The IR major focuses on global issues and institutions, and relationships across regions and nations. This does not preclude students from developing expertise in a particular region or nation; indeed, part of the study of international relations is how global issues find local expressions. But students whose primary interest is in a particular area of the world should elect a more appropriate major, such as Latin American or Asian studies.
  • Students who declare an international relations major automatically fulfill the College's "outside the major" requirement.

Certificate Overview

The Five College International Relations Certificate Program offers students an opportunity to pursue an interest in international affairs as a complement to their majors. It prepares students to make interdisciplinary connections between their field of study and the complexities of global challenges such as globalization, regional and ethnic conflict, environmental degradation, resource scarcity, demographic stress, global climate change, wide disparities in global economic development, and challenges to global public health.

The Five College Certificate in International Relations serves as the minor in International Relations.

Requirements for the Certificate

A minimum of seven courses:

One course on introductory world politics1
One course on global institutions or problems1
One course on the international financial and commercial system1
One course on the historical development of the international system since 17891
One course on contemporary American foreign policy1
Two courses on the politics, economy, and/or society of foreign areas, of which one must involve the study of a third-world country or region outside of the United States and Europe2
Proficiency in a contemporary foreign language through the completion of two years of the language at the college level or its equivalent0-4
Total Courses7-11

Additional Specifications

  • A complete list of the Five College courses for each of the seven areas of study is available from the IR certificate advisors and the program’s website.
  • No more than four of these courses in any one discipline can be counted toward the certificate.
  • No single course can satisfy more than one requirement.
  • Students must complete the required courses (with the exception of the foreign language courses) with letter grades of B or better (no satisfactory/unsatisfactory grades).
  • For further information consult with one of the Mount Holyoke College advisors. Additional information also can be found at the program's website.

Course Offerings

IR-200 Research Methods

Spring. Credits: 4

Develops students' skills in writing expository essays and introduces basic quantitative and qualitative research methods used in the social sciences and history. The course provides a foundation for writing research papers in advanced courses, as well as an honors thesis.

Applies to requirement(s): Meets No Distribution Requirement
S. Hashmi, S. Mueller-Redwood
Notes: This course should be taken by International Relations majors in their sophomore year.

IR-295 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 4

The department
Instructor permission required.

IR-337 International Human Rights Advocacy in Theory and Practice

Fall. Credits: 4

Human rights have emerged in the past sixty years as a powerful set of ideas in international relations. This course explores the intellectual and political evolution of these rights and their integration into the international system today. We will examine the principal human rights institutions, protocols, and conventions and analyze their successes and limitations in theory and practice. We will also examine the central controversies and challenges -- the practice of human rights in a system based on sovereign states; the tensions associated with cultural relativism; and, the challenges of dominant states selectively applying rights to serve their own interests. We will also examine the role of human rights advocacy in the era of globalization.

Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
J. Western
Prereq: 8 credits in Politics or International Relations including POLIT-116.

IR-361 Religious Nationalism and Democratic Nation-Building in Ex-Soviet States

Spring. Credits: 4

This course analyzes how religious nationalism in three ex-Soviet states -- Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia -- influences and often obstructs democratization. Students will read the literature on ethno-nationalism and banal nationalism to provide a theoretical framework for the study of religious nationalism. The course also compares the role of religion in nationalism in Western nation-states and ex-Soviet states.

Crosslisted as: RES-361
Applies to requirement(s): Social Sciences
T. Grdzelidze
Prereq: 8 credits in Politics or International Relations including POLIT-116.

IR-395 Independent Study

Fall and Spring. Credits: 1 - 8

The department
Instructor permission required.

Courses in Other Departments Counting toward the Major in International Relations

ECON-165International and Development Economics4
ECON-213Economic Development: A Survey4
ECON-307Seminar in Industrial Organization4
ECON-312Seminar in International Trade4
ECON-314Economic Development in the Age of Contested Globalization4
ECON-325Economics of Health Care and Health Service Organizations4
ECON-349DEAdvanced Topics in Economics: 'Advanced Economic Development'4
GEOG-105World Regional Geography4
GEOG-202Cities in a Global Context4
GEOG-204Human Dimensions of Environmental Change4
GEOG-206Political Geography4
GEOG-208Global Movements: Migrations, Refugees and Diasporas4
GEOG-217The African Environments4
GEOG-313Third World Development4
GEOG-319Africa: Problems and Prospects4
GEOG-325Conflict and Displacement in Africa4
GEOG-328Climate Migration4
HIST-151Modern and Contemporary Europe4
HIST-230History and Law4
HIST-240The Holocaust in History4
HIST-244European Public Policy, West and East4
HIST-24620th Century Europe4
HIST-260HHTopics in the Recent History of Europe: 'The Habsburgs, Hitler, and the Law'4
HIST-262Stalinism in Central Europe4
HIST-323Germans, Slavs, and Jews, 1900-19504
HIST-365STModern Europe: The Twentieth Century: 'The Other Europe since Stalin'4
International Relations
IR-200Research Methods4
IR-337International Human Rights Advocacy in Theory and Practice4
IR-361Religious Nationalism and Democratic Nation-Building in Ex-Soviet States4
POLIT-116World Politics4
POLIT-208Chinese Politics4
POLIT-209Contemporary Russian Politics4
POLIT-216Middle East Politics4
POLIT-224The United States and Iran4
POLIT-226The United States, Israel, and the Arabs4
POLIT-228East Asian Politics4
POLIT-229Propaganda and War4
POLIT-230Resistance and Revolution4
POLIT-232Introduction to International Political Economy4
POLIT-242Oil and Water Don't Mix: Geopolitics, Energy, and the Environment4
POLIT-243Introduction to Latin American Politics4
POLIT-247International Law and Organization4
POLIT-255PAGender and Power in Global Contexts: 'The Politics of Abortion in the Americas'4
POLIT-255RPGender and Power in Global Contexts: 'Sexual and Reproductive Rights in Latin America'4
POLIT-264Russia, the West, and Putinism4
POLIT-267The Politics of Finance and Financial Crises4
POLIT-269Social Movements: Theory and Praxis4
POLIT-270American Foreign Policy4
POLIT-272Trade and American Foreign Policy4
POLIT-300Democracy and Its Challengers: Populism, Nationalism, and Autocracy4
POLIT-305International Society4
POLIT-308Nationalism, Populism, and the New World Order4
POLIT-312Silk Roads: Ancient and Modern Highways across the Eurasian Continent4
POLIT-314Political Violence: Causes and Solutions4
POLIT-319War: What Is It Good For?4
POLIT-323Comparative Politics of the Middle East4
POLIT-324Comparative Politics of N. Africa4
POLIT-327Transitional Justice4
POLIT-333Just War and Jihad: Comparative Ethics of War and Peace4
POLIT-341Political Islam4
POLIT-342Islamic Political Thought4
POLIT-343Law and Religion4
POLIT-353The Politics of Work4
POLIT-357War and Peace in South Asia4
POLIT-359Democratization and Civil Society in East Asia4
POLIT-363Political Economy of the European Union4
POLIT-364Human Rights Abuses and Accountability Mechanisms in the Southern Cone of Latin America4
POLIT-365Ethics and International Relations4
POLIT-366International Migration4
POLIT-380Nationalism in Global Politics4
POLIT-382Global Capitalism and Its Critiques4
POLIT-384Ending War and Securing the Peace: Conflict Mediation and Resolution in the 21st Century4
POLIT-385International Security4
POLIT-387CYAdvanced Topics in Politics: 'Cyberpolitics'4
Russian & Eurasian Studies
RES-240Contemporary Russian Politics: From Lenin to Putin4
RES-241Russia, the West, and the Challenge of Putinism4
RES-330Nationalism, Populism, and the New World Order4