International Relations at Lehigh

International Relations is taught in most American universities as part of Political Science. Lehigh is among the few higher educational institutions in the US that has long had a separate department of IR. This means that students with a particular interest in international affairs will benefit from a concentrated program of study that few other schools offer.

Prospective Students

International Relations does not absolutely require any specific preparation, but pre-collegiate students interested in the study of international relations should take as much college preparatory work in social sciences as is available to them, including economics, history, government, and geography. At least one foreign language is desirable, though there is no specific requirement.

In recent years IR majors have numbered between 45 and 50 per academic class. They come from all over the world (though a majority are U.S. citizens) and display a wide range of interests. Many add a minor or even a second major in subjects as diverse as economics, religion, Asian studies, or language programs. Another 10 or 15 students per year minor in International Relations. Class sizes range from 40 or more in our beginning courses to as small as 10 or fewer in our advanced research seminars.

Major and Minor Curricula

Students considering a major in International Relations are strongly advised to take IR 10: Introduction to World Politics and ECO 1: Principles of Economics as early as possible. We also recommend that IR majors fulfill the mathematics portion of their college distribution requirement with MATH 12: Basic Statistics. This is not; however, a requirement for the major. For full explanation of the structure of the curriculum, or to declare a major or minor, please visit the IR Department.
Course catalog pages present brief course descriptions and syllabi, but check with individual instructors for the most recent version because some of these may be preliminary versions originally placed here during last semester's registration. Any further information available for the course -- such as an individual course website, instructor comments, or additional documents -- will be linked to that schedule.

Completing the IR major requires a grade-point average of 2.0 or better in the courses that make up the major.

How IR major GPA is calculated

Outstanding students may qualify for three prestigious awards:

Aurie Dunlap Prize, (up to two a year) awarded for either Academics or Service
Carey B. Joynt International Relations Leadership Award
Oles M. Smolansky Award for Academic Excellence in International Relations

Honors Thesis

International Relations majors with senior standing may undertake an intensive, two-semester project under the direct guidance of a faculty member in the student's special area of interest. Students who successfully complete the thesis and whose GPA in the major at the time of graduation is 3.5 or higher receive Departmental Honors.

Students considering an honors thesis should begin thinking about possible topics for their project and should contact possible faculty advisers during the spring semester of their junior year.

Honors thesis process
Honors thesis proposals


The Department of International Relations has a strong commitment to supporting undergraduate research. For journals, catalogs, and other useful tools for research, click on the first link below.

Research tools
Lehigh University library citation guide
Departmental citation standards
Policy on Intellectual Integrity, Plagiarism, and Documentation

Student Opportunities

Activities in the Department of International Relations extend beyond the class room, ranging from internships to student associations. The student-run World Affairs Club sponsors a number of activities each year, including the Model United Nations at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania and the Model European Union in Washington, D.C.

World Affairs Club
Model United Nations
Model European Union

Additional opportunities in the study of International Relations are administered through Lehigh's Office of International Education, the Global Union, and Area Studies programs.

Global Union
Study abroad
Asian Studies Program
Russian Studies Program