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Watson implements new IAPA concentration

Introductory courses, advising now available, IAPA seminars to begin next year

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs has begun developing its new concentration in International and Public Affairs.

The Watson Institute has designated existing courses as introductory classes for each of the three IAPA tracks — Policy & Governance, Development and Security — and established a new advising structure for the concentration, Director of the Watson Institute Edward Steinfeld P ’20 said. Watson is still in the process of finalizing the list of electives that will count toward each of the three IAPA tracks. In addition, the planned third- and fourth-year seminars for the concentration have not yet been created.

The new IAPA concentration, which was announced last spring, will replace the three previous Watson concentrations: International Relations, Development Studies and Public Policy, The Herald previously reported. Students will be allowed to declare the previous concentrations alongside the new IAPA concentration until the Spring of 2021.

Currently, four second-year students have declared a concentration in IAPA: three in the Security track, and one in the Development track. Steinfeld expects this number to increase as the concentration declaration date approaches in the spring.

Over a dozen students have declared one of the three previous Watson concentrations so far this year, Steinfeld said. In past years, about 75 second-year students declared IR per year, 50 declared Public Policy and 15 declared Development Studies, he added.

One goal of the new concentration is to give IAPA concentrators more opportunities to interact with faculty, mainly through new third- and fourth-year seminars, Steinfeld said. However, because the concentration currently does not have any third-year students, seminars will be implemented next year.

While these new seminars will primarily be reserved for IAPA concentrators, Steinfeld expects there to be some availability for non-concentrators to enroll in the seminars as well. “We don’t have any desire to throw up barriers to entry for these courses,” he said.

IAPA also aims to give concentrators access to faculty advisors across disciplines through a new “multi-tier advising system,” Steinfeld said. Anita Nester, manager of academic programs in IAPA, said the new advising structure “makes it easier for the student to reach out to these faculty mentors” and “have that interaction that they didn’t have before.”

Some directors of the original Watson concentrations are now directors of the new IAPA tracks, Steinfeld added.

Ivan Arreguín-Toft, director of the security track of IAPA, said the concentration’s new track system “gives you more options — less of a sense of being trapped in one thing.” This increased flexibility will allow students to choose whether to pursue a language, which is required for IR but not for IAPA, and will make it easier for students to study abroad, Arreguín-Toft said. In IAPA, “it will be much more rare to have a student come back from studying abroad and find it hard to get courses to finish their concentration.”

Some students interviewed by The Herald still expressed reservations about the new IAPA concentration.

Vanessa Fajardo ’21, a public policy concentrator, says she does not agree with consolidating “three already broad concentrations into an even broader concentration. … I think it’s doing a big disservice to incoming freshmen because they’re not letting people get specific with their interests.”

Caroline Deitch ’20, an IR concentrator, also expressed concern about replacing three concentrations with one. “For me, the big problem is public policy, development studies (and) IR are all very different things,” she said. While Deitch recognizes that some subjects, such as sociology, are useful to all three fields, “You lose something when you take away the specificity of having multiple concentrations.”

But other students interviewed by The Herald see some benefits of IAPA.

Michael LeClerc ’20.5, a public policy concentrator, disapproved of the new concentration when it was first announced, but he now thinks that IAPA will “help break down some of the barriers that exist within Watson that make it harder to take different types of classes.”

Tzion Jones ’22, a double-concentrator in IAPA and computer science, said that he decided to declare the new concentration because it “encourages you to dip your toes into all three of (the) areas” covered by the old Watson concentrations.

Andrew Steinberg ’22, a student in the process of declaring IAPA, was interested in both IR and public policy when he arrived at the University. “When the opportunity came to combine those two, it was almost too good to pass up.”

“The new concentration reflects a new commitment to twenty-first century leadership,” Steinberg said. “There’s a common conception when you have international relations, public olicy and development as three separate fields of study that they have three separate silos. … In the future, leaders must be able to traverse these disciplines because the world is becoming ever interconnected and complicated.”


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