College of Arts and Letters launches international economics major

Author: Joanna Basile

A male student raises his diploma to the crowd

Linguistic and cultural fluency is an increasingly important asset in business. To address the growing demand for professionals who can both understand and help shape the world market, the University of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters has created a new major in international economics.

The major combines substantial coursework in the Department of Economics with advanced training in language and culture, starting with French, Italian or Spanish. It will also provide students with the potential for overseas internships and specialized research projects.

“This program will be an attractive option for ambitious, sophisticated and savvy Notre Dame undergraduates seeking to prepare themselves for successful international careers,” said Richard Jensen, Gilbert F. Schaefer Professor of Economics and chair of the Department of Economics.

These careers, he says, span the government and nonprofits as well as multinational corporations and more local entities that do business overseas or have international interests in areas such as research, law or even the arts.

“The new major’s blend of economics with foreign language and culture exemplifies the College’s liberal arts approach to nurturing the development of future global citizens,” says Theodore Cachey, professor and chair in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, who, together with Jensen, spearheaded the initiative for the new course of study.

Students in this major will take an introductory class called “Exploring International Economics,” plus a minimum of eight economics courses and seven to 10 intermediate and advanced courses in French, Italian or Spanish, including at least four that have a cultural, economic and/or historical emphasis.

Under the guidance of faculty mentors, all international economics majors will also complete a capstone research project that integrates the analytical aspects of economics with the linguistic and cultural aspects of a Romance language.

The course offerings and program initiatives in the new major, Cachey says, are designed to help students understand how aesthetic and cultural categories and value judgments are shaped by — and, in turn, influence — economic trends and political conditions, whether they go on to graduate school or immediately enter the business world.

“We will produce graduates,” he says, “who will become leaders and global citizens in a world that is increasingly interconnected from an economic point of view and requires individuals with a specialized knowledge of local languages and cultures to navigate the uneven terrain of the world’s environmental, cultural, social, economic and political geographies.”

Both Cachey and Jensen say they intend to expand the international economics major beyond their two departments, and anticipate collaborating with other foreign language and culture programs in the College, including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

“The new international economics major has tremendous potential for our majors in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures says that department’s chair, Dayle Seidenspinner-Núñez, who notes that many East Asian languages students already choose to double major in either economics or business. “We hope to offer this new option to them soon.”

The new major’s distinctive approach will not only serve students well, Jensen says, it can also make a difference in the marketplace as the College’s international economics majors move into leadership positions in their careers.

“This new major has a direct correlation to the Notre Dame’s commitment to ‘constructive and critical engagement with the whole of human culture,’” he says, quoting from the University’s mission statement.

Originally published by Joanna Basile at on June 11, 2012.