Regional and Comparative Studies Major

Erick Langer, Field Chair
Toshihiro Higuchi, Department of History

Lisa Gordinier, Curricular Dean

The study of a particular region or two regions is a vital enterprise that provides the student with insights into different societies that cannot be gained otherwise. Understanding regions through intense study of its languages and cultures makes it possible to gain expertise that is invaluable in a globalizing world. It is this focus that makes it possible to see crucial differences and similarities within and between regions. Students, through the study of a region(s) of the world, become informed world citizens able to interpret the actions and policies of the areas they study.

The major in Regional and Comparative Studies allows students to focus on the detailed study of one (“Regional Studies”) or two (“Comparative Studies”) world regions:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Western Europe
  • Latin America
  • the Middle East
  • the region comprising Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe
  • the United States (comparative studies only)
  • the region comprising Australia, New Zealand & the Pacific (comparative studies only)

Students majoring in Regional and Comparative Studies report that the major allows you to:

  •  Specialize on a region(s) of the world
  •  Develop a specific topic of interest to study
  •  Design your own course of study with relevant classes across multiple disciplines
  •  Learn and use a language(s) in your chosen region(s)
  •  Study abroad as an integral part of your studies and receive major credit for courses
  •  Complement your regional interests with a topical certificate program
  •  Join a small community of like-minded students and participate in workshops and alumni events

 

Goals of the Major

Regional and Comparative Studies students develop the insight, knowledge and skills needed to deal effectively with far-reaching challenges of the contemporary world. Given the largely self-defined nature of the major, students become responsible for their own education through grounding in core theory and methods courses and region-specific courses selected to explore a topic in greater depth. The theoretical component and rigorous curriculum provide students with tools that serve virtually any profession, whether in the region(s) studied, or elsewhere. The literacy in language(s) and the understanding of political, economic, social and cultural realities permits them to do specialized work. Graduates are prepared to enter careers in law, education, government, non-governmental organizations and business to meet the needs of a broadening global vision.

The Regional and Comparative Studies major is designed to provide students with deep knowledge of one or two regions of the world so that they understand issues that occur on the world stage. In Regional Studies students pursue a study of one region: Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Western Europe or the region comprising Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe. For Comparative Studies students pursue any two of these regions with the addition of the United States and the region comprising Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Students receive training in methods and theories, typically from two different disciplines, to gain analytical tools for a detailed study of the region(s). Drawing from the disciplines of anthropology, economics, government, history, international affairs, linguistics, sociology and theology, students build a comprehensive grounding in a self-identified theme within a region(s). Students also acquire necessary language skills appropriate to the region(s) by taking a minimum of four semesters of language or by passing proficiency.

In the Regional and Comparative Studies major students design their own curriculum with the support of the curricular dean and a faculty mentor. RCST students identify and explain a major theme in a region or regions and justify the value of its study. Students construct an intellectual argument and propose a course list to enable a comprehensive multi-disciplinary study of the selected theme. Through the mentoring of the curricular dean, the Faculty Field Chair and faculty, students receive guidance to undertake a meaningful study within a region(s).

Objectives of the Major

Through a diverse combination of courses centered on a theme, the RCST major prepares students to investigate and comprehend a topic of importance in a region(s). RCST students gain intellectual independence as they are responsible for selecting their own theme and for designing a curriculum to achieve an in-depth exploration of a key issue. The Regional and Comparative major enables students to:

  • Understand on a theoretical and practical level different societies and their histories.
  • Develop analytical tools to understand and interpret a theme in a region or regions.
  • Analyze different aspects of societies outside of the United States.
  • Use the comparative method to assess the complexities of different regions of the world.
  • Identify, explore and evaluate an important theme through a comprehensive study across multiple disciplines.
  • Gain proficiency in a language(s) specific to a region(s).

 

Writing in the Major

Students in Regional and Comparative Studies (RCST) develop writing skills throughout the major.

In the declaration process, students write a significant essay identifying and explaining a theme to be explored within a region(s) of the world.  This essay becomes the basis of the students’ path in RCST as they formulate questions to answer within their theme and select individual countries on which to focus their study.  Students are also asked to provide a course list drawing from at least three disciplines to demonstrate how they will achieve the plan of study proposed. Students revise this essay multiple times until the field chair and curricular dean are persuaded of the value to the study proposed.

In the major, all students receive training in theories and methods, typically from two different disciplines, to gain analytical tools for a detailed study of the region(s).  Students must take two theories and methods classes from a pre-selected list.  These courses must correspond to the theme the student has chosen and most are upper-level courses. From this listing, students will take at least one course deemed writing intensive.  All history and government classes numbered in the 300-range will be included as they have been identified as writing intensive by the departments.  Additional courses in which students complete several writing assignment or work on a singular writing piece throughout the semester with intervals of feedback from professors/peers will be included in the listing.  We are currently in review of the listings to flag these courses; they will be tagged on the RCST course site so students can easily identify them.

In the summer between their junior and senior years, RCST students complete a reflection exercise in which they respond to a series of questions about their education, experiences outside the classroom and goals for the future.  The intention is to have students make connections – in writing – about seminal experiences and begin to build a narrative to share for post-GU opportunities.

A cohort of students writes an Honors Thesis in RCST.  Students submit a proposal in their junior year, and if accepted, complete a thesis of original research.  In the thesis students define an important question, closely examine the existing scholarly literature and relevant primary sources on that topic, and offer some argument, evidence or ideas on the topic utilizing primary sources.  Students work individually with a faculty mentor and participate in the Writer’s Workshop joining all RCST thesis participants throughout their senior year.

HONORS IN THE MAJOR

In order to graduate with honors in Regional & Comparative Studies, a student must:

  • Earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 and a grade point average of 3.67 in the major by the date of graduation.
  • Successfully complete two semesters of tutorial work and participate in the thesis workshop dedicated to preparation of the thesis.
  • Submit a senior thesis on an approved topic which is judged to be of honors quality by a faculty committee appointed for this purpose.

Students who earn honors receive a transcript notation and recognition at the Tropaia honors ceremony during commencement weekend.

Working with a Faculty Mentor

Students must secure a faculty mentor before submitting an honors proposal as he/she will read and give feedback on your proposal before submission to the RCST dean.  Your mentor provides support through all stages of the thesis project, from drafting the proposal to evaluating the final product.  You should initiate contact with a potential mentor no later than late fall/early spring of your junior year, and discuss ideas for research well in advance of the application deadline.  Mentors must be Georgetown faculty members who will be on campus full time during the writing of your thesis in your senior year. You and your mentor should meet regularly – ideally weekly – in the fall semester of your thesis writing.

Timeline/Deadlines

Junior year

Fall: Student selects a faculty mentor and selects topic
February 1: Student submits thesis proposal to faculty mentor after attending proposal writing workshop
During February: Student revises proposal per faculty advice
March 1: Student submits proposal to curricular dean
March-May: Curricular dean and field chair review proposal, and student makes revisions as necessary consulting with mentor
May 10: Student receives notice whether proposal is accepted
Summer before senior year: Student works on thesis

 

Senior year

Fall: Student enrolls in RCST 304: Thesis Workshop and in RCST 305:      Honors Thesis tutorial
Spring: Student enrolls in RCST 306: Honors Thesis tutorial
Mid March: Student submits final draft of thesis to faculty mentor
April 15: Student submits final thesis to curricular dean
During April: RCST thesis committee reads theses and determines those worthy of honors designation
Late April: Student presents thesis to faculty and peers
Prior to graduation: Curricular dean identifies students who earn honors in major

 

Basis of Evaluation

A committee of RCST field members and the curricular dean will read the thesis to determine whether the thesis has met the criteria to be deemed ‘honors quality’.  The curricular dean will also confirm that the student has met the stated cumulative (3.3) and major (3.67) grade point averages to earn the award of honors in the major.

Thesis will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Articulation of a clear, significant, and original hypothesis;
  • Presentation of evidence that supports the hypothesis;
  • Depth of analysis;
  • Creativity and rigor of interpretations;
  • Logical organization with clear introduction and conclusion; and
  • Compelling writing style.

 

Application for Honors in the Major

RCST students who wish to apply for honors in the major, must select a faculty mentor and submit a written proposal to the curricular dean by March 1 of their junior year. Students should read carefully the thesis proposal guidelines and submit the application form along with their written proposal.

Honors thesis proposal guidelines

Honors thesis proposal application form

RCST Requirements

The RCST major has several requirements. Theories and Methods courses and area specific courses must be selected from lists posted on this website each semester. Additionally, the courses must be relevant to the student’s selected theme. The complete breakdown of how many courses are required in each category is included in this section of the website.

Regional Studies Requirements

The requirements for students majoring in Regional Studies are as follows:

  • Two courses from the RCST Theories and Methods list
  • Eight region-specific courses from one of the following regions: 1) Africa, 2) Asia, 3) Western Europe, 4) Latin America, 5) the Middle East, 6) the region comprising Russia, Eurasia, and Eastern Europe. (Please note that the United States and Australia/NZ/Pacific may not constitute a free-standing region for the major.);
  • At least four semesters of study or a passing rating on the SFS proficiency examination in a modern language appropriate to the region.

 

Exceptions

Please note: all courses for the major must be chosen from the list of approved courses for Regional and Comparative Studies posted on this website. Exceptions may be made only with the approval of the curricular dean.

Special Exception to the regular eight-course rule: Students may propose an alternative definition of a world region if that region’s definition has an intellectual validity and a compelling claim can be made that it cannot be studied well via one or two of the standard regions listed below. Among possible candidates might be “The Islamic World,” “The (Trans-)Atlantic World,” “Pacific Rim Studies,” and “Peoples (or Nations) of the African Diaspora,” all of which are the subjects of contemporary scholarly work. All eight courses to fulfill such a concentration must be proposed by special petition and approved by the Field Chair independently of any region-specific listings below.

Comparative Studies Requirements

The requirements for students majoring in Comparative Studies are as follows:

  • Two courses from the RCST Theories and Methods list;
  • Four region-specific courses from the first region to be compared. These courses must pertain to the specific theme of your comparison. Please note that the United States and Australia/NZ/Pacific may constitute a region for purposes of comparison;
  • Four region-specific courses from the second region to be compared. These courses must pertain to the specific theme of your comparison.
  • At least four semesters of study or a passing rating on the SFS proficiency examination in a modern language appropriate to one of the regions.

 

RCST Major Declaration

To declare a major in Regional and Comparative Studies, you must write an essay describing a theme you want to explore and complete the appropriate form (below) with a proposed course listing.

TIPS ON SELECTING A THEME:
  • Review course syllabi of classes you’ve enjoyed to identify a theme you’d like to study in more detail.
  • Read syllabi of courses on the RCST Theories and Methods listing to identify general topics and themes.
  • Choose a theme that is neither too narrow (e.g. India’s caste system) nor too broad (e.g.; development) so that you can adequately study your topic within the 10-course requirement.
  • Select a theme which is feasible to study based on course offerings.
  • Think about specific questions you hope to answer through your exploration of the theme.
  • Pick a theme that is a good fit given the region(s) of the world you plan to study.

 

MAJOR DECLARATION ESSAY:

The purpose of your major declaration essay is to identify and explain a theme you want to explore within a region or regions of the world. In addition to your essay, you will propose a list of classes you plan to take to address your theme through multiple disciplines. The purpose of charting a plan is to ensure you have thought sufficiently about your topic of exploration and that appropriate courses are offered to address it.  As this is a self-defined major, it is up to you to justify the value of your selected theme and how the specific courses will enable you to answer the intellectual questions you pose.

ORGANIZATION OF THE MAJOR ESSAY:

First section:  Identification of theme and specific subtopics

  • Clearly state the theme you wish to study
  • Explain what interests you about this theme and give a brief background of what you already know
  • Pose some specific questions you hope to answer while examining your theme

Second section:  Elaboration and plan

  • Identify the region or regions of the world you wish to study
  • Identify the countries within your region(s) you plan to research
  • Describe your interest in the specific countries and why the selections are justified
  • Explain how the theme you’ve selected applies to your countries
  • Identify and explain some theories pertinent to your theme
  • Explain how you will address your theme through multiple lenses across several disciplines
  • (For comparative majors:) Explain the relationship between the regions you are studying noting any similarities and differences you see
  • (For comparative majors:) Explain why the theme you’ve selected is worth studying across your two regions

Third section:  Skills set and study abroad

  • Describe your skills set (especially language) that enables you to undertake this study of your theme within your region(s)
  • Explain your study abroad interests and how they fit within your region(s) and theme

 

MAJOR DECLARATION FORM:

Complete the form listing the courses you plan to take in your region(s) relevant to your theme.

 

RCST Affiliated Faculty

Michael David-Fox
Professor

Yvonne Y Haddad
Professor

Toshihiro Higuchi
Professor

Erick Langer, Field Chair
Professor

David S Painter
Associate Professor

Lahra Smith
Assistant Professor

Howard R Spendelow
Associate Professor


 

RCST Courses

For a full list of RCST Courses, please go to MyAccess and select the SFS/RCST attribute.

Fall 2017
Spring 2017 

Fall 2016

Past Semester Course Lists:
Spring 2016
Fall 2015
Spring 2015
Fall 2014
Spring 2014
Fall 2013
Spring 2013
Fall 2012
Spring 2012
Fall 2011
Spring 2011
Fall 2010
Spring 2010
Fall 2009