International Political Economy

About the Program

Using tools and methods from political science, economics, and sociology, International Political Economy (IPE) examines global issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Students in the program (1) gain an appreciation for competing theoretical perspectives; (2) study the economic, political, and social linkages between global actors and issues; (3) deepen critical thinking skills; (4) communicate holistic analysis through rigorous writing and oral presentations; and (5) develop expertise in IPE through senior thesis research.

About the International Political Economy Major

The major consists of a thoughtfully integrated set of courses in the social sciences leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy. The goal of this major is to prepare students for an increasingly interdependent world through the study of international and global issues.

After taking required courses in the departments of International Political Economy, Politics & Government, Economics, Sociology & Anthropology, and Mathematics, students choose additional elective courses based on their individual educational goals. With encouragement from the IPE Program, two-thirds of majors choose to pursue study abroad opportunities as part of their undergraduate education. The IPE major clearly embodies the spirit of liberal education as we understand it at the University of Puget Sound.

Structure of the IPE Major

The IPE major consists of eleven courses:

  • Four foundational courses introduce students to the academic disciplines that IPE draws upon. These courses are: comparative politics; statistics; micro and macro economics; and sociology and anthropology.
  • IPE 201: Introduction to International Political Economy surveys the international problems and perspectives that are at the heart of IPE. This course is a valuable element of the liberal education for majors and non-majors alike. The textbook used in the course is written by the IPE professors.
  • IPE 300: The Political Economy of Trade and Finance trains students in the modern IPE analysis of the battle between the winners and losers during the process of economic globalization.
  • IPE 301: Theories of IPE features a rigorous analysis of the main theories of IPE. Students write a final paper that establishes a theoretical foundation for their senior thesis research.
  • IPE 401: Senior Thesis Seminar is a capstone course in which IPE majors share ideas, engage in critical discussions, and write and defend their senior theses. Ideally, the more that a thesis is able to build upon past work, the more it can be expected to achieve.
  • Three upper-level IPE electives are chosen in consultation with an IPE advisor. They are designed to: strengthen the student's understanding of IPE theory; provide necessary context for analysis of important IPE issues; develop expertise that will inform senior thesis research; and deepen the student's knowledge of a particular country or region.

Other Important Issues

IPE majors should consider foreign study options when they are freshmen or sophomores. Although some study abroad programs have no formal foreign language requirement, other programs require as many as two years of prior language study. Proficiency in a foreign language can also be important for senior thesis research and career preparation.

Almost all IPE majors earn a minor in another department. The IPE program is also flexible enough to make double majoring quite feasible. Since the start of the IPE program in 1996, half of all IPE students have gone on to earn a graduate degree. It is wise, therefore, to consider what undergraduate courses might be most useful as preparation for law or graduate schools in addition to the coursework required for the IPE major.

For example, additional coursework to prepare for a Masters program in the social sciences might include quantitative methods and research methodology. Students considering an MBA degree should supplement the IPE requirements with core business classes such as accounting and finance. Students interested in entering graduate programs in area studies--such as as Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, or Middle Eastern Studies--should consider additional coursework in foreign language and literature, comparative politics, and cultural studies.

Peter Bittner ('12) in Mongolia

IPE Alumni

After graduating in 2012, Peter Bittner received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Scholarship to teach English in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. He traveled extensively throughout the vast steppes, deserts, and mountains, and he had opportunities to stay with nomadic Mongol and Kazakh herders. He's currently writing a travelogue about his experiences. His blog about Mongolia is at

Ali Hoover (IPE '13) working for PSI in Vietnam

IPE Alumni

Ali Hoover (IPE '13) comments on her post-graduate work with Population Services International/Vietnam: "I'm the only international staff member besides the country director, so I am responsible for all major English-language communications. I write donor reports, compile presentations, and do a lot of copy editing. Working in a primarily Vietnamese office with language barriers keeps things interesting. I think the best two lessons I've learned thus far are flexibility and creative communication. I know how tired you are of hearing it, but network like crazy. It gets you far!"

Shawn Crump (IPE '15) studied abroad in Brazil through a Social Justice and Sustainable Development program and received GDS credit!

Global Development Studies Emphasis

Interested in making global development a focus of your studies? Check out this interdisciplinary emphasis!