A set of miniature international table top country flags

International studies (IS) is an interdisciplinary major with a broad background in international and transnational political, social, economic, commercial, and environmental affairs, together with a comparative study of politics, economics, security, and culture. The goal is to provide students with the necessary tools to understand global processes in their totality and how they are situated and lived in specific regions. The major provides an integrated program of courses that lays the foundation for professional training in a wide variety of areas. Such a foundation can be invaluable in securing a place in competitive graduate or professional schools, which, in turn, prepare students for government service, or for other careers with an international focus, including those in multinational corporations, international finance, non-governmental organizations, and institutions of teaching and research.

The IS major complements numerous majors across campus. Many students choose to double major or enhance their studies with one or more certificates, such as the global health certificate or those offered by the area studies centers.

This major is interdisciplinary, offering a wealth of options. Careful planning and consultation with the IS advisor is especially important.

IS Majors specialize in one of three options:

Option I: Global Security

In this option, majors explore conditions that challenge the ability of people and societies to survive. Students consider the causes of and solutions to political crises and violent conflicts in interstate, transnational, and domestic settings. Using historical and regional approaches, students develop a better understanding of the dilemmas the state and the global community face when confronted by threats to human rights, peace, and stability.

Option II: Politics and Policy in the Global Economy

This option offers a multidisciplinary survey of international economic and political institutions and transactions, as well as the policy issues pertaining to international commerce and trade, international finance and monetary relations, international macroeconomic policy coordination, U.S. trade imbalances, aid and development, and related environmental and natural resource problems.

Option III: Culture in the Age of Globalization

In this option, majors investigate cross-cultural interactions at different levels: local, national, and transnational. Students engage in such issues as cosmopolitanism; international and global flows of images, ideas, and people; questions of identity; changing assumptions of what it means to be indigenous and foreign; globalization and technology; and the impact of globalization on cultures.

Study Abroad

International studies and studying abroad are a natural combination. While study abroad is not a requirement for the major, all IS students are strongly encouraged to pursue a significant international experience during the course of the undergraduate career. Whether through a study abroad program, an internship, or service learning, the experience of studying or working in a foreign culture is invaluable. Many courses taken abroad will count toward the IS major. See the IS advisor for specific guidelines. More information about study abroad and internships is available through International Academic Programs.

How to Get in

Students are advised to declare the major by the end of the sophomore year and/or before studying abroad.

To be eligible to declare the international studies major a student must have completed these courses:

INTL ST 101 Introduction to International Studies3-4
Introductory Economics (complete one):4-8
Principles of Microeconomics
and Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Economics-Accelerated Treatment 2
Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics
and Principles of Macroeconomics
International Political Economy
Complete the 5th unit of a foreign language3-4
Consult the list of Foreign Language courses on the Requirements page

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (BS)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.

Bachelor of Science Degree Requirements

Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Language Complete the third unit of a language other than English.
LS Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements of the Major

Students must declare the major, complete the common requirements, and the requirements for one of these options within the international studies major:

  • Culture in the Age of Globalization
  • Global Security
  • Politics and Policy in the Global Economy 

A student may not declare or earn more than one major option.  The major requires 35 credits total. 1

Common Major Requirements

Introductory Requirements 

INTL ST 101 Introduction to International Studies3-4
Introductory Economics (complete one of the following):4-8
Principles of Microeconomics
and Principles of Macroeconomics
Principles of Economics-Accelerated Treatment
Introduction to Agricultural and Applied Economics
and Principles of Macroeconomics
International Political Economy
Foreign Language (Complete one):3-4
Fifth Semester Arabic
Sixth Semester Arabic
Fifth Semester Summer Arabic
Sixth Semester Summer Arabic
Fifth Semester Swahili
Sixth Semester Swahili
Advanced Readings in Arabic Texts
Fifth Semester Yoruba
Sixth Semester Yoruba
Fifth Semester Chinese
Sixth Semester Chinese
Fifth Semester Japanese
Sixth Semester Japanese
Fifth Semester Korean
Sixth Semester Korean
Fifth Semester Filipino
Sixth Semester Filipino
Fifth Semester Hmong
Sixth Semester Hmong
Fifth Semester Indonesian
Sixth Semester Indonesian
Fifth Semester Thai
Sixth Semester Thai
Fifth Semester Vietnamese
Sixth Semester Vietnamese
Fifth Semester Hindi
Sixth Semester Hindi
Fifth Semester Tibetan
Sixth Semester Tibetan
Fifth Semester Persian
Sixth Semester Persian
Fifth Semester Urdu
Sixth Semester Urdu
Fifth Semester Burmese
Sixth Semester Burmese
Fifth Semester Khmer
Sixth Semester Khmer
Fifth Semester Southeast Asian Language
Sixth Semester Southeast Asian Language
Fifth Semester South Asian Language
Sixth Semester South Asian Language
Modern Japanese Literature
Academic Writing II 1
Intermediate Language and Culture
Literature, Comics, and Film in French
Advanced Composition and Speaking
Advanced Writing Workshop
Professional Communication and Culture in the Francophone World
Contemporary Issues in Business, Government and NGOs
Medieval and Early Modern French Literature
Modern French and Francophone Literature
Visual Culture in French/Francophone Studies
Medieval and Early Modern Culture
Modernity Studies
Applied French Language Studies
Introduction to the Romance Languages
Readings in Medieval and Renaissance Literature
Readings in Early Modern Literature
Francophone Modernity Studies
French/Francophone Literary Studies Across the Centuries
French/Francophone Cultural Studies Across the Centuries
Introduction to Phonetics
Dutch Conversation and Composition
Intermediate German - Speaking and Listening
Intermediate German-Reading
Intermediate German-Writing
Literatur des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts
Third Semester Dutch for Graduate Students
Topics in Dutch Literature
Advanced Composition & Conversation
Introduction to German Linguistics
Topics in German Linguistics
Study Abroad in German Literature
Study Abroad in German Culture
Study Abroad in German Linguistics
Study Abroad in Dutch Literature
Study Abroad in Dutch Culture
Study Abroad in Dutch Linguistics
Kultur des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts
Letterkunde der Lage Landen
A Theme in German Literature
Cultuurkunde der Lage Landen
Seminar in German Culture Studies
Readings in Greek Literature
Elementary Prose Composition
Greek Lyric Poets
Greek Comedy
Greek Tragedy
Attic Orators
Hellenistic Greek
Introduction to Hebrew Literature
Introduction to Hebrew Literature
Topics in Modern Hebrew / Israeli Literature and Culture I
Topics in Modern Hebrew / Israeli Literature and Culture II
Biblical Texts, Poetry
Biblical Texts, Poetry
Modern Italian Culture
Advanced Italian Language
Writing Workshop
Studies in Italian Literature and Culture I
Studies in Italian Literature and Culture II
Introduction to the Romance Languages
Special Topics in Italian Literature
Special Topics in Italian Studies: Culture, Film, Language
The 19th Century
The 18th Century
Features in Italian Literature
The Italian Novel
The Renaissance
Dante's Divina Commedia
The 13th Century
Introduction to Hebrew Literature
Readings in Latin Literature
Elementary Prose Composition
Third Year Conversation and Composition
Third Year Conversation and Composition
Fourth Year Composition and Conversation
Fourth Year Composition and Conversation
Readings in Norwegian Literature
Readings in Swedish Literature
Readings in Danish Literature
Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature: From the Middle Ages to 1900
Masterpieces of Scandinavian Literature: the Twentieth Century
Contemporary Scandinavian Languages
Scandinavian Children's Literature
The Drama of Henrik Ibsen
The Drama of August Strindberg
Nineteenth-Century Scandinavian Fiction
Kierkegaard and Scandinavian Literature
Contemporary Scandinavian Literature
The Art of Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen
The Sagas of Icelanders in English Translation
The Scandinavian Heritage in America
Third Year Russian I
Third Year Russian II
Third Year Polish I
Third Year Polish II
Study Abroad in Poland
Polish Culture and Area Studies on Study Abroad
Russian Area Studies on Study Abroad
Russian Language and Culture I
Russian Language and Culture II
Fourth Year Russian I
Fourth Year Russian II
Fourth Year Polish I
Fourth Year Polish II
Soviet Literature
History of Polish Literature after 1863
Introduction to Hispanic Cultures
Introduction to Hispanic Literatures
Intermediate Language Practice with Emphasis on Writing and Grammar
Advanced Language Practice
Topics in Spanish Language Practice
Spanish Phonetics
Survey of Early Hispanic Literature
Introduction to Spanish Linguistics
Spanish Civilization
Spanish American Civilization
Literatura del Siglo de Oro
Literature of the Twentieth Century
Literatura Hispanoamericana
The Spanish American Short Story
Spanish American Theater and Drama
Spanish American Poetry and Essay
Topics in Spanish American Literature
Topics in Hispanic Culture
Topics in Latinx Culture
Undergraduate Seminars in Hispanic Literature/Culture/Linguistics
Total Credits10-16

Area Studies

Complete one of:3-4
Africa: An Introductory Survey
Introduction to East Asian Civilizations
World Regions in Global Context
Europe and the Modern World 1815 to the Present
Introduction to the Modern Middle East
History of South Asia to the Present
Introduction to Southeast Asia: Vietnam to the Philippines
Latin America: An Introduction
History of Modern China, 1800-1949
History of the Peoples Republic of China, 1949 to the Present
France from Napoleon to the Great War, 1799-1914
Contemporary France, 1914 to the Present
History of Europe Since 1945
History of Germany, 1871 to the Present
The Soviet Union and the World, 1917-1991
History of Scandinavia Since 1815
History of Southeast Asia Since 1800
Introduction to the Middle East
Russia: An Interdisciplinary Survey
Eastern Europe: An Interdisciplinary Survey
Total Credits3-4

Complete the Option Core and Issues and Additional Electives of the Declared Option

Options in the Major

Each option in the major requires 35 credits. This is in addition to completing the introductory requirements. Students select one Area Studies course (above), and the option-specific requirements for Core, Issues, and Elective classes.1

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all INTL ST courses and courses approved for the major
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 Upper-Level major credits, taken in residence 2
  • 15 credits in the major, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the International Studies Major in consultation with the International Studies advisor(s). They must declare prior to enrollment in their Senior Honors Thesis (typically second semester of junior year).

Requirements for Honors in the Major 

To earn Honors in the Major in International Studies, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.500 GPA in major courses
  • Complete 16 upper-level major credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better in each course 2, 3
  • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits, or two Senior Seminars, with grades of B or better; choose from:
Senior Honors Thesis (2 courses):
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis-First Semester
and Senior Honors Thesis-Second Semester
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Seminar (2 courses):
Topics in Global Security
Topics in Politics and Policy in the Global Economy
Topics in Culture in the Age of Globalization



A maximum four courses from a single SUBJECT may be applied to the 35 credits in the major. This excludes INTL ST courses and courses cross-listed in INTL ST. For example: A student with five POLI SCI courses that could apply to the major will see only four of those courses applying in the International Studies major. (However, if one of those POLI SCI courses is also cross-listed in INTL ST, that course will not count against the limit, and thus, all five POLI SCI courses will apply in the major.) The degree audit (DARS) enforces this limitation.

Though some courses are identified as acceptable for two or more requirements, a course may meet only one requirement within the major. For example, a course that could count in either Option Core or Option Issues will meet only one of those requirements, based on which requirement needs that course to become satisfied. The degree audit (DARS) determines the best scenario.


Major courses designated Intermediate and Advanced level are considered upper-level.


A maximum of two courses and 8 credits from UW–Madison Study Abroad may apply to this requirement.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Learning Outcomes

  1. (Interdisciplinarity) analyzing contemporary political, economic, security and cultural realities globally from multi-disciplinary perspectives, ideally including humanities, social sciences, humanitarian, and sometimes natural science approaches.
  2. (Depth of knowledge) mastering at the undergraduate generalist level major issues related to key themes in International Studies (e.g. culture, global security and political economy) by taking 15 credits in one particular theme area.
  3. (Regional (studies) grounding) understanding the social, political, economic and cultural forces and conditions that have given rise to the unity and diversity of a specific region of the world today.
  4. (Language knowledge) mastering at the undergraduate generalist level a particular facet of life in one or more region of the world by studying a foreign language to at least the advanced (5th semester) level.
  5. (Analytical skills) demonstrating the ability to think critically and analytically, the capacity to write clearly and effectively, and the ability to identify and evaluate research methods and outcomes.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

INTL ST 1014ECON 1014
COUN PSY 1251Foreign Language4
Foreign Language4Communication B4
Communication A3Physical Science Breadth3
Quantitative Reasoning A3 
 15 15
Declare the IS Major (before 86 credits)Issues in IS Major3
ECON 1023Issues in IS Major3
Foreign Language4Foreign Language Language4
Area Studies in IS Major3Ethnic Studies3
Biological Science Breadth3Literature Breadth3
 Apply for Summer Internship
 13 16
Recommend Study AbroadRecommend Study Abroad
Issues in IS Major3Issues in IS Major3
Issues in IS Major3Elective in IS Major4
5th Semester Language3L&S Breadth3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
L&S Breadth3Free Elective (or I/A level Math, Comp Sci, or Stats for BS)3
 Apply for Summer Internship
 15 16
Track Core in IS Major3Track Core in IS Major3
Elective in IS Major3Elective in IS Major3
L&S Breadth3Elective in IS Major3
L&S Breadth3L&S Breadth3
Free Elective (or IA level Math, Comp Sci, or Stats for BS)3Free Elective3
 15 15
Total Credits 120

Advising and Careers

Advising Staff

International studies majors have a wide variety of academic advising and career resources and support. Academic advising is essential to a successful undergraduate experience. For this reason, the international studies major has a professional advisor, a peer advisor, and a career advisor. We recommend that you meet with your advisor at least once per semester to track progress toward your degree, explore study abroad options, and begin the career exploration process. The IS major offers walk-in advising, advising workshops, and scheduled appointments. Students exploring the IS major should plan to attend an Intro to the IS Major workshop, watch the Intro to the IS Major video, or meet with a peer advisor. To learn more about academic advising information, please visit the IS Major website.

Students should also begin the career advising process early. The international studies major offers a one-credit career class designed for sophomores or juniors. Students are strongly encouraged to meet with both the IS career advisor and SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science, and to apply for internship opportunities — both domestically and via International Internship Programs or the Washington, D.C. Internship Program. The IS major also advertises career events across campus that will benefit undergraduate students, hosts career workshops, and has a transition checklist to help students prepare for post-undergraduate life. For more information, please visit our website.

Molly Donnellan, Academic Advisor
Csanád Siklós, PhD, Academic Advisor
Ryan Zavodnik, MA, Academic Advisor

Emmeline Prattke, Career Advisor

The program encourages our majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

L&S Career Resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


The International Studies Major is directed by Dr. Erica Simmons, Associate Professor of Political Science.

The advisors for the international studies major are Molly Donnellan, Dr. Csanád Siklós, and Ryan Zavodnik . 

The career advisor is Emmeline Prattke. 

Please visit our website for a list of faculty and instructional staff

Wisconsin Experience

Study Abroad

International studies majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad. The International Studies Major website provides information about how to plan your experience abroad.

Internship Abroad

International studies majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad. Please review information on the International Studies Major website and the International Internship Program website about opportunities. 

Undergraduate Research

The international studies major encourages students to become engaged in undergraduate research. There are numerous programs that provide research opportunities for undergraduates at UW–Madison, including:

Resources and Scholarships

For information on scholarships and awards through the IS Major, please see our website or contact our advisors. IS Majors are also strongly encouraged to contact the Awards Office at the Institute for Regional and International Studies to explore multiple international awards and scholarships.