Carnegie Mellon University

Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Politics

Kiron K. Skinner, Faculty Director,
Emily Half, Associate Director of Academic Affairs,, Baker Hall A55B, 412-268-7082

The International Relations and Politics (IRP) major analyzes the role of politics at the national, regional, international, and transnational levels; examines political and institutional arrangements within and among these levels; and investigates the grand strategy of nation-states.

Statesmen, scholars, and policy makers often define grand strategy as the combination of diplomatic, economic, military, and political factors used by leaders to defend their respective nation-states. The IRP major investigates the way in which leaders and citizens construct grand strategy and national security policy more generally; the impact of domestic and international forces on states’ security and economic policies; and the significance of alliances, coalitions, and international institutions for world politics.

Although the study of grand strategy and political institutions is the flagship initiative of the major, students are also able to study the effects of culture, economics, and society on the international system through a rich set of elective courses.

Thinking systematically about international and domestic politics is the core objective of the IRP major. To this end, the major has prerequisites in mathematics and statistics that help to sharpen students’ ability to undertake scientific analysis in the required substantive and historical courses. The major is rooted in the discipline of political science but also utilizes the interdisciplinary strengths of behavioral decision science, complex social systems, economics, and political history. Thus, students pursuing this major will use the analytic tools of game theory, economic and statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, rational choice theory, and theories of behavioral decision making as they study alliances, coalitions, institutions, and political strategy.

The name of the major signifies that those studying IRP learn about international relations and domestic politics from the standpoint of the discipline of political science. Thus, the IRP major preserves and expands CMU’s tradition in political science. At the same time, IRP taps into and contributes to CMU’s strengths in other social sciences that combine analytical and empirical methods. IRP has recently launched an innovative initiative to incorporate decision science in international relations. It will enable students to learn and apply the burgeoning science of judgment and decision making to understanding political actors’ strategies and foibles, the strengths and weaknesses of formal methods of policy analysis (e.g., cost, risk, benefit, analysis), and the factors shaping public responses to politics and policies.

Recognizing the influence of language and culture on politics, students are required to complete the intermediate (200) level, or its equivalent, in a modern language other than English. Advanced-level study is strongly encouraged.

Open to all Carnegie Mellon undergraduates, the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) allows students to study public policy and intern in Washington for one semester. Courses taken through CMU/WSP will count toward the elective sequence in public policy for IRP majors.

Students’ understanding of politics is further informed by courses and colloquia offered by CMU’s top-ranked departments, divisions, and schools in business, computer science, engineering, and the humanities.

IRP majors interested in developing their research skills are encouraged to apply for a research position with the Center for International Relations and Politics. They are also encouraged to join student organizations focused on domestic or international politics. Becoming involved in the Institute for Politics and Strategy, as well as attending lectures and events sponsored by the Center for International Relations and Politics will provide additional opportunities for students.

The International Relations and Politics major is offered through the Institute for Politics and Strategy.  It is available as a primary major and additional major in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  Minors in International Relations and Politics and Politics and Public Policy are also available.