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International Studies

Understanding the powerful forces that shape our world

Today, technological advances, political and cultural influences and economic ties closely connect nations in every corner of the globe. More than ever before, a thorough understanding of these powerful forces is essential to succeeding in business, education and other cross-cultural endeavors.

Elon’s international studies major is an interdisciplinary program that combines a broad knowledge of international affairs with focused study of one region of the world. Balancing study abroad experiences, foreign language study and other Elon coursework, the program fosters an understanding of emerging global issues along with respect and appreciation for other peoples and cultures.

An integral part of the international studies curriculum is the opportunity to study abroad. Such hands-on learning activities combined with classroom study provide international studies majors with the necessary skills to succeed in graduate school or careers in government, business, travel and nongovernmental organizations. 

“As the world grows increasingly more connected, the international studies major at Elon offered me an interactive and challenging way to gain an understanding of this new world through exciting research and study abroad opportunities.”

Justine Davis ’08

Dynamic curriculum

Elon offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in international studies. With faculty advice, each student can build a curriculum tailored to his or her interests and strengths. The foundation is built from coursework drawn from a range of subjects, including politics, economics, history, geography, literature, foreign language, religion, society and culture. 

International studies is also an attractive option for students who want to double major. The program complements study in many disciplines, including foreign language, political science, history and communications. Because the curriculum draws on the expertise of a diverse interdisciplinary faculty, international studies students benefit from examining issues and ideas from a variety of perspectives. International studies majors also benefit from resources and staff in the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center, located on campus in Carlton Building.

International studies majors take courses focused on one region of the world. Most students elect to concentrate on one of four regions — Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe or Latin America — although students and their advisers can develop coursework in other regions of the world. Since its inception the major’s curriculum development has benefited from four successful grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program. The most recent grant supported the development of Middle East and Arabic studies at Elon as well as study abroad opportunities in Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

Faculty Mentors

One of the primary strengths of the international studies major is that students are exposed to the expertise of faculty spanning many disciplines.

Dr. Laura Roselle, professor of political science and the 2009 Elon Distinguished Scholar, recently concluded a term as president of the International Communications Section of the International Studies Association. 

Dr. Brian Digre, professor of history, coordinates the international studies major. A former Peace Corps volunteer, he leads Elon’s study abroad program in Ghana and is conducting research in Ethiopia and the United Kingdom..

Dr. Chalmers Brumbaugh, professor of political science, leads Elon's Costa Rica study abroad program and advises Elon's highly-ranked Model UN program..

Dr. Prudence Layne, associate professor of English, provides dynamic leadership to the growing African/African-American Studies minor and developed Elon’s study abroad course in South Africa.

Dr. Michael Matthews, assistant professor of history, mentored Elon Lumen Fellow Christopher Jarrett, who upon graduation received a Fulbright Fellowship to continue his research in Ecuador.

Dr. Safia Swimelar, associate professor of political science, is associate coordinator of International Studies.  She has been coordinating the revised Peace and Conflict Studies program, teaches and does research on human rights, international law, European politics and identity, and film and visual culture and leads a winter term program to London on immigrant communities.  

Dr. Pamela Winfield, assistant professor of religious studies, who has invigorated Asian studies as the minor's new coordinator, recently published her book, Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism: Kukai and Dogen on the Art of Enlightenment, with Oxford University Press.

At Elon, classes are small, which allows faculty to give each student individual attention to ensure academic success. Faculty members keep generous office hours and are available to help students with advice or to discuss assignments. Those mentoring relationships don’t end with graduation; alumni and faculty often stay in touch for years. Faculty also maintain a network of professional contacts that they share with their students to help them land internships or jobs.

Study abroad opportunities

In addition to coursework on a selected region, international studies majors are required to study abroad and are encouraged to spend at least one semester overseas and learn a foreign language.

Elon is a national leader in study abroad and offers students approximately 80 semester abroad options. Financial assistance, including need-based aid, is available. International Studies majors have participated in winter term programs from China to Costa Rica. They have also spent semesters studying in London, Egypt, Ghana, Argentina, Czech Republic, Rwanda, Vietnam and China, among others.

Professional experience

Internships provide students with excellent opportunities to gain professional experience before they graduate. Many international studies majors complement their academic work and study abroad experiences by completing internships with organizations nationwide and overseas.

Recently, international studies majors have worked with the Center for Democratic Development, a public policy institute in Accra, Ghana; the House of Commons in London; Oxfam, an international organization working for peace and social and economic justice; and the Asian division of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Research opportunities and rewards

International studies majors regularly participate in Elon’s annual Spring Undergraduate Research Forum (SURF), collaborating with faculty mentors to design, develop and complete projects. One international studies major helped conduct research and translated German documents with his professor, Dr. David Crowe, for his authoritative biography of Oskar Schindler.

Recent international studies majors have garnered competitive national awards recognizing their research achievements and proposals, including the Fulbright U.S. Student Grant, DACOR Bacon House Foundation Graduate Fellowship and Rotary Scholarship.

Majors are also eligible to participate in Sigma Iota Rho, the international studies honor society.

After you graduate

Elon’s international studies program prepares students for advanced study in graduate school or a variety of careers. Students who are interested in continuing their education in graduate school are encouraged to pursue a double major at Elon, combining international studies with another discipline. Recent Elon graduates are pursuing graduate degrees at institutions including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Law School, American University College of Law and University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Other international studies graduates have attended University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke Law School, American University and New York University.

The international studies curriculum, study abroad experience and foreign language training provide a strong foundation for careers in fields ranging from government to business to humanitarian or development work with nonprofit organizations. Recent international studies students have gone on to serve in the Peace Corps in Malawi, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod world mission in Germany and a children’s nutrition program in Haiti.