Frequently Asked Questions

For All PoliSci and IR Majors

Where can I obtain help planning the completion of the Poli Sci or IR major?

The best place to start is the Academic Programs section of the website. On each program page, you'll also find samples of year-by-year plans for the major.

What is the difference between the Poli Sci major and the IR major?

The Poli Sci major focuses on the single discipline of Political Science, therefore the courses that complete the Poli Sci major are Political Science courses, including some that relate to international politics (for example, U.S. foreign policy, International Law, and Terrorism and National Security). 

The IR major is an interdisciplinary major.  Therefore, courses that complete the IR major are drawn from multiple disciplines including Political Science, but also Anthropology, Geography, History, Languages and Literatures, Sociology, and more.  This is reflected in the core requirements as well as in the upper-division courses required for the majors.

Can courses that are taken for the Poli Sci & IR degrees count towards the General Education requirements?

Yes. However, to fulfill the Social Science section of the General Education requirements, students must apply courses from two different departments, so only one may come from Political Science.

What is the "Writing Requirement" and how do I know whether I have completed it?

One of the college requirements for the Baccalaureate degree is "completion of the writing requirement." Students automatically satisfy this requirement by earning a grade of "C" or higher on the paper you submit to any 400 level PLSC course they take in satisfaction of the major requirements. As long as you earn a "C" or higher on the paper for one PLSC 400 level course, you need not do anything additional in this regard, as the department will complete the necessary paperwork.

I wish to pursue a double major in Poli Sci, IR, and/or another discipline, how many credits can I cross-count?

Those who are considering a double major should keep in mind the college regulation regarding the number of credits which may be double counted: “At least 24 credits of each major must be distinct (i.e., not overlap with Major Requirements of the first major).” In addition, "Students completing two majors must satisfy the writing requirement of their first major" (p. 32, Bulletin).

Political science is a 33-credit hour major; thus only six credit hours may be double-counted in both majors if you wish to pursue a PLSC/IR double major. In practical terms for students in the IR major, this means that PLSC 120 and PLSC 140 and one other course may be double-counted, but after that all other Political Science courses taken for the IR major (such as PLSC 382, the capstone course PLSC 490/491/492/494, or any of the electives in the Thematic Cluster Track) may NOT be used for the PLSC major.

Can courses in my second major satisfy the General Education requirements?

Yes. Courses in the discipline on record as your second (or third, or fourth, etc.) major may be counted toward General Education.

I need a letter of recommendation for study abroad, graduate school, job applications etc. Who should I ask and how?

When seeking letters of recommendation, it's best to ask faculty who know you well so that they can write a detailed letter.  It's also a good idea to ask faculty whose courses you've done well in.  When you ask faculty for a recommendation, give them plenty of advance notice: a month is best, but you should ask as soon as you know you'll need the letter. Be prepared to discuss your past performance in their classes, the position you're applying for, and why you're interested in it, among other things.

About the Political Science Major

For the Poli Sci Field Requirement, how do I know that I have completed “one in each of the three subfields studied"?

PLSC course numbers indicate which subfield the course satisfies. If you look carefully at the numbers, you will note that at the 100 level: 110 = American; 120 = Comparative; and 140 = International. Additionally, PLSC 230 = Theory.

The same second digit notation holds true at the 200 and 300 level. Thus, a course with the number 31_ = American, 32_ = Comparative, 33_ = Political Theory. To satisfy the field requirement, you must complete at least three of the following four: 31_; 32_; 33_; and 34_.

There are, on occasion, courses that may count toward more than one subfield (for example, PLSC 313 may count toward either American Politics or Political Theory) as well as a few courses that don't follow the number system (for example, PLSC 351, "Failed States," counts toward the IR subfield). If you have questions about whether a specific course counts toward a specific subfield, feel free to check with the course instructor or your advisor. 

The basic requirements for the Poli Sci major include “two additional courses at the 200 or 300 level.” Are there any restrictions on these?

You may use any two 200 or 300 level courses to fulfill this requirement, but these may not be courses that you are counting toward other parts of the major requirements (i.e. you may not double count courses).

I still have questions, what should I do?

The best place to start is with your advisor (for declared majors). You may also contact the Political Science Department Chair, Karleen West ( The Poli Sci/IR department office is in Fraser 105 and can be reached at or 245-5371.

About the International Relations Major

If I am an IR major, when/how should I declare a thematic cluster track? 

You should declare a track as soon as you have decided by filing a standard (yellow) form for declaring/changing a major.

If you do not declare a track, the default mode is Global Political Economy. If your track is incorrectly recorded, your pre-grad check and eventually your graduation will be jeopardized. Students are encouraged to submit a change of major form as soon as they know which track they will pursue.

How do I know which classes count towards my thematic cluster track?

The Bulletin is a good place to start in finding out which courses count towards your thematic cluster track. In addition, the IR Coordinator sends out an email each registration period that identifies which classes being offered count towards the IR major and the thematic tracks. Some new and experimental classes may count towards the IR major, and thus are not listed in the Bulletin, but will be included in the list compiled by the IR Coordinator. If you have any questions about whether a class counts towards your track, or if you have found a course that you think is relevant to your track, please contact the IR Coordinator.

What is the language requirement for IR?

All IR majors must complete a foreign language at the 202-level, in other words beyond the College requirement of 201-level. The bulletin indicates the means of completing this requirement.

Please note that Geneseo’s offerings of non-traditional foreign languages are limited by demand and resource constraints. Efforts are now being made, for example, to sequence the offerings of some languages, such as Russian, Chinese, or Japanese. Students who wish to take a non-traditional language for the IR requirement should consult with the chair of Foreign Languages and begin at the 101 level on a timely basis and sustain their progress until completion of the 202-level requirement well before graduation.

I am an International ESL student, what do I need to do regarding the language requirement?

International students who have completed TOEFL for admission to Geneseo are considered to have met the requirement.

Can I count language courses taken via a study abroad program to satisfy the language requirement?


What is the Study Abroad/Internship requirement?

The major requires students to study abroad or complete an internship in international affairs. The preferred option is to study abroad, so that students may fully experience cultural differences. Geneseo offers numerous programs, including some organized by Poli Sci and IR faculty as do many other SUNY campuses. The Study Abroad Office can assist you in locating programs suitable to your interests and background. The Geneseo study abroad fair offers another chance to familiarize yourself with different possibilities.

Before studying abroad students should review potential course offerings of the host institution with the IR Coordinator for the purpose of credit toward the IR major. Generally, three credits may be applied to the Thematic Cluster Track.

International relations internships are extremely limited in the Geneseo/Rochester area; students interested in international internships are advised to participate in the Washington Semester program. All internships must be pre-approved and supervised by a faculty member. Students interested in internships are encouraged to meet with Andrew Hart (, internship coordinator.

I am an international student, how does the study abroad requirement affect me?

International students are considered to have met the study abroad requirement as a result of their status at Geneseo.

Will I be able to complete the IR degree in four years?

Yes. However, transfer students, in particular, may have more challenges in completing their degree in four years, as a result of the study abroad/internship requirement, as well as the rotation of courses. In particular, the courses at the 300-level in the tracks may be offered infrequently. You should take them when they are offered and not defer them thinking you will take them in your final semester at Geneseo; some of the Basic Required Courses, on the other hand, are offered every semester. The department is under no obligation to offer a directed study in order for you to complete your major in the time period you prefer.

I still have questions, what should I do?

The best place to start is with your advisor (for declared majors). You may also contact the Political Science Department Chair, Karleen West ( or the IR Coordinator, Raslan Ibrahim ( The Poli Sci/IR department office is in Fraser 105 and can be reached at or 245-5371.