International & Comparative Policy Studies

Majoring in ICPS

How do I become an ICPS major?

The ICPS Program demands careful planning and much independent study with a minimal amount of faculty supervision; it is intended for students who have acquired a solid and strong academic background and who are definite as to their future goals.

First, choose a home department and arrange for an academic advisor there. This department will be your home base as you reach out to learn about other issues in other disciplines. You will take your Junior Qual in this department whether you are an ICPS major or not. In conjunction with your adviser, you should discuss your options.

Freshman and Sophomore Year

Sometimes it does make more sense to choose a regular major rather than ICPS; students find they can do everything they want to do by pursuing a regular program in sociology, political science, economics or history. It is important early on to picture the different possibilities available in your final two years at Reed and decide what is best for you. By choosing a traditional major, you will have regular supervision. You will also be required to take a broad range of courses in a particular discipline. By electing to be an ICPS major, you potentially sacrifice breadth in a particular discipline for more depth in departments outside your major. This often means that your path through your home department major will be constricted, with fewer course choices in that major. It also means a greater burden falls to you to synthesize the variety of courses you plan to take outside your department. And whereas students writing a thesis in a department can take a lot for granted in terms of literature and problems, ICPS students need to think about how and why their thesis is interdisciplinary.

That is why, when you become an ICPS major, we require an explicit petition including a justification for your proposed course of study. On your petition form, list your reasons for becoming an ICPS major and the courses you plan to take to satisfy the ICPS requirements. Once you have a proper petition, propose it to the ICPS Committee. You should know, however, that the ICPS Committee might advise you that your interests are best served by continuing your major in your home department. We highly recommend submitting a draft of your petition to the faculty member in your proposed home discipline on the ICPS committee.

Your petition must be submitted to the ICPS Committee no later than the first semester of your junior year (typically the semester immediately preceding the semester in which you would attempt the junior qualifying examination) prior to the Committee's deadline for considering new proposals. However, you may petition earlier if you feel ready. Members of the Committee may then interview you briefly to clarify your goals and the means you have chosen to achieve them. Acceptance is not automatic. The Committee may feel that your goals might be better served through a regular major and may strongly advise you to pursue that course of action. This point reinforces the importance of carefully thinking through your proposal.

For juniors in their first semester, the petition must be submitted by noon of the Friday of week 1 of instruction. For sophomores in their second semester, the petition must be submitted by noon of the Monday of week 12 (week 11 of instruction). They should be submitted electronically to Julie Shannon and the chair of ICPS. The deadline for petitioning first-semester juniors in Spring 2019 is February 1, 2019. The deadline for petitioning second-semester sophomores in Spring 2019 is April 15, 2019Please make sure to fill out the petition form in full.

Junior and Senior Year

The ICPS Junior Qualifying Examination is a thesis proposal for the ICPS Committee. It is normally eight to ten pages (2000–2500 words). In the proposal, the student defines the thesis topic, discusses its significance, proposes a methodology to be used in researching the topic, and presents a short bibliography of relevant secondary works and/or primary resources. The ICPS Committee will read the thesis proposal and may meet with the student for a half-hour oral discussion of the topic’s scope, viability and significance.

Any student wishing to take the ICPS Qualifying Examination in a semester should contact the ICPS Chair by Friday of the first week of instruction. Normally, students take the ICPS Qualifying Examination in the same semester as they take the Junior Qualifying Examination in their home department. If the candidate successfully completes the home department examination and the ICPS thesis proposal, then ICPS Committee admits the student to the senior year and ICPS 470 (the thesis course).

It is important to take both Qualifying Examinations seriously. If you do not pass the Qual in your home department, you cannot be admitted into the ICPS major. This is true even if the ICPS Committee accepts your thesis proposal. In this case, you must retake the Qual in your home department in order to become an ICPS major. Likewise, you may might not pass the ICPS Qual itself. The Committee may might feel it might be more appropriate for a student to complete the thesis in the home department, and the student will become a regular major (anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, history, as the case may be). The Committee might consider the proposed thesis topic not sufficiently located in the area of international or comparative policy studies. This is why it is wise to speak well in advance with ICPS faculty as to what constitutes a viable thesis topic.The qual involves three steps:

Noon of Monday of Week 3

Proposal Due

Noon of Monday of Week 7

Draft Research Designs Due

Noon of Monday of Week 12

(Week 11 of instruction)

Final Papers Due


All of the steps will be turned in to Moodle.