Thinking of an international studies major or minor? Read this overview of the UCLA International Institute's degree programs.

UCLA International Institute, updated October 24, 2019  — The UCLA International Institute offers rigorous academic majors in global, international development and area studies, together with undergraduate minors in global and area studies, global health, and international migration studies. It also offers master's degrees in area studies. These flexible interdisciplinary programs use a requirements framework that enables students to tailor coursework to their specific interests while exposing them to a variety of disciplinary approaches and methodologies.

The International Development Studies and Global Studies programs tend to attract students interested in cross-cutting global issues such as climate change, economic integration and inequality, international politics, development, international migration, global health, gender inequality, terrorism, religious polarization and armed conflict. The International & Area Studies Program typically attracts undergraduate and graduate students seeking to acquire broad knowledge of a specific world region.

International Development Studies Program

International Development Studies (IDS) is the largest and most popular degree program at the Institute and one of the only undergraduate programs of its kind in the United States. Coursework seeks to impart a deep understanding of the challenges, achievements and concerns of developing countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

“Every undergraduate student should study abroad. . . And for students studying international development, it is imperative that they study in a developing country because it is impossible to conceptualize the issues they face from Los Angeles.”     —Tala Spencer Ahmadi (UCLA 2017/ IDS and African and Middle Eastern Studies double major)  



Chale Wote arts and music festival celebrated by the Ga people in Jamestown, Accra.(Ghana). 
The man under the umbrella is a chief. (Photo: Tala Spencer Ahmadi.)


Curriculum. The challenging IDS program, which does not offer a minor, requires preparatory courses in both economics and statistics. Learning is balanced between applied case studies and theoretical instruction. The interdisciplinary curriculum consists of six preparatory lower-division courses, two years of language study and 11 upper-level division courses. Students are encouraged both to acquire field experience in the developing world, as well as to complete an internship in a community development organization.

“The experience of living in both India and the United States has brought me an acute awareness of the disparity between the two countries…. In the long run, the understanding of development and world affairs I have acquired here will help serve as a building block in diminishing the distance of global inequality worldwide.
—Garisma Kadakia (UCLA 2013/ IDS and history major, South Asian Studies minor) 

Global Studies Program

Created in 2005, the Global Studies Program is the International Institute’s newest undergraduate B.A. program. The program focuses on the fundamental dynamics of globalization and offers both an undergraduate major and minor. Coursework examines the ways in which people across the globe are affected every day by an unprecedented array of linkages that defy geographic and political boundaries.

“It was my understanding prior to my admittance that Global Studies was UCLA’s version of an ‘International Relations’ major. However, I quickly discovered its complex, interdisciplinary nature. For this, I am confident that I received an exceptional education, and one that will aid success in my future career.”
—Katherine Parkinson (UCLA 2013/ Global Studies major)

Curriculum. The global studies major has a more proscribed curriculum than either the IDS or International & Area Studies majors. It requires seven preparatory and 15 upper-level courses, together with two years of language study. In addition, students must write a senior thesis of 35–50 pages (in their senior year) and attend a Global Studies summer travel study program. An ideal complement to all undergraduate majors, the minor requires three lower-division preparatory courses and five upper-division courses.

“While it took a tremendous amount of time, the whole process of completing my Global Studies senior thesis was probably one of my fondest memories. While I enjoyed the social life at UCLA, writing my senior thesis will always be something that I will look back on with pride.”
—Evelynn Chun (UCLA 2017/ Global Studies major)

“The Global Studies New York Travel Study Program] was one of the best experiences of my college life. If you are interested in the United Nations and other world organizations, this program will expose you to a wide array of international issues, as well as give you opportunities to meet prominent scholars, politicians and activists in the international field.”
—Eunchong (Grace) Lee (UCLA 2010/ Global Studies major)

International & Area Studies Program/ 
Master's Degree Program

The International & Area Studies (IAS) Program offers several area studies majors at both the undergraduate and graduate level:

Undergraduate majors & minors: African and Middle Eastern, Asian, European and Latin American Studies
Undergraduate minors: African, East Asian,  South Asian and Southeast Asian Studies
M.A. programs: African, East Asian and Latin American Studies

In addition to the coursework and associated faculty, IAS students are able to draw on the considerable resources of UCLA International Institute centers devoted to the specific regions and/or countries that they study.

Curriculum. The interdisciplinary curriculum of IAS is structured to simultaneously build disciplinary and area studies knowledge. Disciplinary courses provide students the tools required to analyze the cultures, social structures, polities and histories of the world regions on which they choose to focus.

IAS majors require six preparatory courses plus two years of language study. Majors must then complete 12 upper-division courses, including a capstone senior seminar. Students pursuing the minor must complete three required preparatory courses and five upper-division courses.

"The International Institute at UCLA provided me with the greatest opportunities to further my educational goals. Through the rich resources offered by UCEAP, I studied abroad in China on two separate occasions: Fudan (Fall 2015) and Beijing Normal University (Summer 2016).

Studying abroad allowed me to physically interact with [the object of] my studies and furthered my interest in the Chinese political economy. Because I had the opportunity to complete both my B.A. and M.A. at UCLA, I feel the resources directed towards the International Institute can fulfill even the most demanding of research requirements. In addition, the counseling resources are truly commendable."
—James Drake (UCLA 2016, M.A., East Asian Studies)

"I'm so happy that I chose to attend UCLA and study Latin American Studies. The degree provided me with opportunities to examine the world from a broad range of perspectives…. Most importantly, the degree made me feel enthusiastic about continuing to learn about the world. The International Institute provided me with skills I need to function and comprehend this rapidly changing and shrinking world."
—Karla Galmadez (UCLA 2003, M.A., Latin American Studies)

The M.A. programs offer a wide range of interdisciplinary graduate courses taught by faculty in departments and professional schools across campus. Many students complete an M.A. as a prelude to international careers in government, business or the nonprofit sector. Others go on to complete Ph.D.s. Two programs (African and Latin American Studies) allow students to pursue joint graduate degrees in such fields as public health (M.P.H.), library science (M.L.I.S.), urban studies (M.U.R.P.) and business (M.B.A.). 

Students in the Institute’s M.A. programs organize an annual campus-wide conference each year that brings together graduate students from North and South campus to highlight their international research.

New minors

In the past two years, the Institute has established undergraduate minors in global health and international migration studies, respectively.

The global health minor explores the institutional, economic, logistic, legal, social and artistic challenges of global health policy. Requirements for the minor include two lower-division preparatory courses and five upper-division courses. Life sciences majors find the program attractive because they can delve into the political and socioeconomic aspects of health care policy, while humanities and social science majors enjoy the chance to take public health–oriented classes in epidemiology, environmental health, nutrition, data collection and evaluation methods.

Harveen Sekhon (UCLA 2018) at a new borehole funded by GlobeMed at UCLA and its Ugandan partner,
MCHI, in Busaale village, Uganda. (Photo courtesy of GlobeMed at UCLA.)

“You can't just go into a country and help for a little bit and leave. That will create so many more problems than you will probably help. Building the capacity from the ground up and helping community members go through education and become doctors for their own community is so much more important.
—Harveen Sekhon (UCLA 2018/ Human Biology & Society major, Global Health minor;
     member, GlobeMed at UCLA)

The international migration studies minor kicks off in fall 2017. Course requirements include seven upper-division courses and a written thesis of approximately 30 pages. Students will also have the opportunity to hear the latest research on international migration by attending the speaker series of the Center for the Study of International Migration.

Student support and resources

The UCLA International Institute has a warm, welcoming and experienced student advisory team. Academic counselors Sandy Valdivieso and Karen Quintanilla advise IDS and global studies students, while areas studies and global health students are advised by Magda Yamamoto and Katie Osterkamp, and international migration students, by Gaby Solomon-Dorian.

Faculty chairs Mike Lofchie (IDS), Dr. Michael Rodriguez (global health), Mike Thies (global studies, area studies), and Roger Waldinger (international migration studies) oversee program design and academic requirements. The chairs of the master's degree programs are Jemima Pierre (African Studies), William Marotti (East Asian Studies), and Kevin Terraciano and Bonnie Taub (Latin American Studies).

UCLA International Institute student counselors Magda Yamamoto, Erika Anjum and Sandy Valdivieso.
(Photo: Kevin Sprague/ UCLA.)

The UCLA Global Development Lab (GDL), a student association created in 2015, offers a unique complement to the academic programs of the UCLA International Institute. The Lab offers students a chance to learn about international development and then apply that knowledge to a real-world problem in the developing world. GDL is open to students from all majors on campus — North and South Campus alike. It recruits members every fall quarter, then coordinates two for-credit Institute courses during the winter and spring quarters.

June 8, 2017. Global Development Lab reception and poster session. Frank Lopez and Vanesa Martín in
front of their project for water filtration in Santa Eulalia, an immediate, short-term solution to the lack of
potable water in a small village in Guatemala, where local mining operations are reducing the water
available to villagers and contaminating it with effluents. (Photo: Peggy McInerny/ UCLA.)

“[I wanted] to engage in development work in a way that's not perpetuating the asymmetrical relationships that have been created from past projects.”
—Jessa Culver (UCLA 2017/ IDS major, public health minor; winner, 2017 IDS Activist Award: co-founder, UCLA Global Development Lab and UCLA Global Health Coalition)

Additional resources available to UCLA International Institute students include a popular career panel with institute alumni held each fall as part of International Education Week, as well as the institute's public events program.

Reflecting on past year-end events, Global Studies and International & Area Studies Chair Mike Thies remarked, “It is always enjoyable to meet students who truly take responsibility for their own educations, who do more than they necessarily have to do to earn a UCLA degree, and who seem to have enjoyed the process as well.”

Attendees of the June 7, 2017, reception for global health students. (Photo: UCLA International Institute.)


This is an updated version of an article first posted on August 4, 2014.

Organizing Partners

image for International Institute Logo