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Do I need to fulfill all of my core before doing my area and policy studies?

There are differing philosophies on sequencing your major.  One is to get through your requirements in the first and second year.  You certainly don’t want to be a senior, avid to pursue your own interests, but stuck in an introductory course.  Sometimes, however, the scheduling doesn’t work out.  Keep in mind that faculty sabbaticals or leaves may change the normal schedule of a course.  A class normally offered in the Spring, in the Fall or every other year, may be offered during a different semester or year.  Remember it is your responsibility to fit everything in.

The second philosophy in sequencing your major is a mix of core and upper levels.  Make progress on your core courses, but try to accelerate in the discipline or geographic area where you think you will likely concentrate.  You don’t want to be a first semester junior taking your first upper level government course if you are interested in international politics.  Why?  The next semester you go away, you are excited about your chosen course of study, you return to Colby but you are not able to pursue upper level work with the right professor because you haven’t done much individual work with the faculty member.  Faculty members don’t like to assume leadership of senior projects when the student hasn’t demonstrated success in relevant courses.

In addition, you may go on the job market in the fall of your senior year; if you return to campus and ask your professor for a letter, it is likely that the letter will not be able to address your ability to do advanced work.  Rather, it will be based on that one introductory course you took with the professor. Even if you were terrific, there isn’t much substantive to say!   Building a course cluster early allows you to add to your expertise in your senior year — not begin it.

Talk to your advisor about the best strategy for you.  It often depends on when you declare the major, how many applicable courses you took in your first year and how many all college distribution requirements you have outstanding.  There is no perfect path.

What is the difference between a cultures & places and a themes course?

A themes course would normally meet two or more of the following criteria:

  • A course that focuses on more than one country
  • A course that centrally engages relations or flows between nations
  • A course that sharpens a thematic focus on a specific issue in globalization such as environment, gender or human rights.  The global theoretical content of the course would ground more than half the course.

A cultures & places course develops a specific geographic and language focus.  It normally:

  • Would engage deep cultural and historical learning about a country or an area
  • Focus on a country or countries with a shared linguistic heritage
  • Cultures and places courses fit broadly into an “area studies” category.



themes cultures & places
 A course on women in Latin America that  substantially develops the theme of gendered relations and applies it to more than one country in the region A course that compares the experiences of women in different Latin American countries
A course that studies the relations between European nations A course that compares the political structures of countries in Europe
A course that explores the development strategies within a region that includes substantial material on flows of  goods, money and people across borders. A course about a single economy
A course that centrally analyzes global systems, including but not limited to movements of people (migration) or products  (food, energy) A course that develops a dominant theme (e.g.poverty) in a single country case.


Please note:

  •  It is possible for a course to be designated as both themes and cultures and places.  Example:  Environment in Latin America or the Economies of East Asia.
  • A cultures and places course may be applicable for a thematic concentration.  For example, a course on social justice in South Africa would receive credit for cultures and places, but could count toward the African, social justice & human rights or development concentrations
  • Global Studies Major Diagram shows a visual representation of the major

Can a course count for both area AND policy?

NO.  As we just noted above, some courses receive dual designations.  For example, Latin American Economic Policy can count toward an area studies or a policy studies BUT NOT BOTH.  Furthermore, this same course can be paired with a 2 credit independent study to count as a required senior seminar, but it then cannot be counted as an area or policy.  The rule of thumb:  NO DOUBLE COUNTING.  That is, except for concentrations.

What if I get less than a C- in one of my courses?

You must get at least a C- for the course to count toward the GS major.  If you do not, you must retake the course.  You may retake it at Colby or in a summer program if it is approved by the appropriate department chair (e.g., Economics for macro principles.)  You can pick up the form for the department chair to sign at the registrar’s office.

Can I fulfill a course requirement in a summer program?

Yes, if it is approved by the appropriate department and the GS director.