Carnegie Mellon University

Undergraduate Degrees in IPS

Kiron K. Skinner, Faculty Director; kskinner@andrew.cmu.edu, Porter Hall 223E
Emily Half, Deputy Director; ehalf@andrew.cmu.edu, 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.

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 decision science, 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.

Courses and research opportunities across this diverse intellectual spectrum provide the foundation for IPS studies and are at the heart of the undergraduate major. Students may pursue electives in the following areas:

  • International and National Security
  • Domestic and Comparative Political Institutions   
  • Grand Strategy   
  • Cybersecurity
  • International Political Economy and International Development    
  • Politics and Public Policy    
  • Decision Science and International Relations

Politics and economics are deeply interconnected. Political institutions and decision-making impact economic growth, income distribution, and many other aspects of economic life. Both fiscal and monetary policies affect the economy, but these policies are often employed with political considerations in mind and can influence political activity. Conversely, economic outcomes shape political preferences and policy choices. The overlap between these two disciplines is endless. For example, while the United Nations is often thought of in purely political terms, the Security Council can and does impose sanctions on countries- an example of an economic policy used for political change.

The Economics and Politics major is offered jointly between the Undergraduate Economics Program (UEP) and the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS). Students are equal members of both academic units and receive advising from both units. The major will appeal to any student interested in the design, evaluation, and political implementation of policy. It will be especially attractive to students considering careers in politics, government agencies, political and business consulting, lobbying, or the law.

The B.S. in Economics and Politics is an interdisciplinary major. The major will develop the political context and underpinnings of economic policy making. It will explore how political institutions resolve the tradeoffs and disagreements associated with policymaking and how they can facilitate or impede desirable economic outcomes.

The International Relations and Politics (IRP) minor 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 minor 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. The study of grand strategy and political institutions is the flagship initiative of the minor.

The minor in cybersecurity and international conflict analyzes the role of cyber warfare and cybersecurity in international politics—past, present, and future. Cyber attacks by nation-states and their proxies have the potential to reshape how wars are fought in the twenty first century. As such, the complexity and policy challenge of cyber-engagements is immense and altogether without precedent. The minor addresses the role of deterrence, dissuasion, and attribution in cyber conflict, while also studying the nuances of key components of modern warfare—from the security dilemma to escalation management.

Courses in this minor focus on the existing gaps in our understanding of cybersecurity and international conflict, such as whether or not cyberspace is offense or defense dominant and which factors are most important in determining the answer to this, and other relevant questions, including how nation-states, their primary adversaries, and a bevy of nonstate actors engage online and in the virtual and information environments. Accordingly, the minor exposes students to basic technology concepts, methods of attack and defense, potential strategy and goals for cyber-engagement, and response and forensics for cyber-engagements.

Rooted in the discipline of political science, the minor in Politics and Public Policy investigates U.S. public policy issues and other matters of domestic politics while providing students hands-on and practical learning experiences.  Students pursuing the Politics and Public Policy minor must participate in the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program for one semester during their undergraduate experience.