International Political Economy

About the Program

The International Political Economy (IPE) Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of international and global issues. International Political Economy uses tools and methods of political science, economics, and sociology as informed by an understanding of history and tempered by appreciation of cultural differences.

Students in the IPE program 1) gain an appreciation for competing theoretical perspectives; 2) study the overlapping economic, political, and social linkages between global actors and events; 3) master the application of this powerful framework to the analysis of a wide range of issues; 4) consider issues broadly and see how they are interconnected; 5) engage in critical and creative thinking; and 6) develop expertise through senior thesis research on a particular IPE problem or issue.

The program sponsors regular lectures and discussions on campus, which encourage students and faculty to consider the integrated character of global economic, political, and social issues.

About the International Political Economy Major

The International Political Economy 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. The IPE major culminates in a senior thesis in which students demonstrate their ability to analyze a complex question, bringing to bear both the depth of their knowledge and the breadth of their liberal arts education.

Students who major in IPE take required courses in International Political Economy, Politics and Government, Economics, Sociology and Anthropology, and Mathematics. They tailor their plan of study to their individual educational goals by choosing additional elective courses. IPE majors are encouraged to pursue foreign travel-study opportunities as part of their undergraduate education. Two-thirds of IPE majors typically study abroad. Many students combine foreign study with background research for the senior thesis.

Students who major in IPE thus combine broad, multidisciplinary studies of IPE, which examine global problems from a variety of perspectives, with the opportunity to study intensely a specific issue in their senior thesis. 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 core of the IPE major consists of the three required IPE classes (201, 301, and 401) and the three elective courses. The other IPE requirements-in comparative politics, economics, sociology and anthropology, and statistics-provide necessary tools and skills and encourage the breadth of knowledge and sensitivity to differing viewpoints that are hallmarks of IPE at Puget Sound.

  • IPE 201: Introduction to International Political Economy surveys the international and global problems that are at the heart of IPE. This course is designed to be a valuable element of the liberal education for majors and non-majors alike.
  • IPE 301: Theories of IPE is for IPE majors only. It features a rigorous analysis of the main theories of IPE. Students write a final paper that is intended to establish a theoretical foundation for their senior thesis. Students take IPE 301 in the junior year or in the fall of the senior year.
  • IPE 401: Senior Thesis Seminar is the 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.
  • IPE Major Electives: IPE majors take three elective classes chosen in consultation with their IPE advisor. Students who study abroad are usually able to count up to two classes as IPE electives. Elective courses must be pre-approved by the student's IPE advisor in consultation with the student. Elective classes should be chosen to: broaden or deepen the student's understanding of IPE theory; provide economic, political, social or historical context for analysis of important IPE issues; provide specific expertise necessary for a student's senior thesis research; develop IPE research tools; or deepen knowledge of a particular country or region. Please note that at least one of the three IPE Major Electives must be an upper-division IPE course taken on the Puget Sound campus.

Other Important Issues

Since most IPE majors study abroad at some point in their undergraduate careers, they are advised to consider foreign study options as soon as possible and to give special consideration to foreign language preparation. Although some study abroad programs have no formal foreign language requirement, other programs require as many as two years of prior language study. IPE students and their advisors should give serious consideration to foreign language preparation both for foreign study and with respect to senior thesis research needs and career preparation.

All Puget Sound students must take three upper-division elective classes as part of the university's graduation requirements. IPE students are encouraged to use courses taken for this requirement to broaden their understanding of IPE and contemporary global problems. Many IPE students plan eventually to pursue advanced degrees. It is wise, therefore, to consider what undergraduate courses might be most useful as preparation for law or graduate school in addition to the coursework required for the IPE major.

Students who expect to pursue Master's or Ph.D. degrees, for example, should consult with their IPE advisors regarding additional coursework that may be necessary or advisable in foreign language, quantitative methods, or research methodology. Students who want to prepare themselves for the MBA degree should supplement the IPE requirements with core business classes such as accounting and finance. Students who plan to enter graduate programs in area studies, such as Asian Studies or Latin American Studies, should consider additional coursework in foreign language and literature, comparative politics, and cultural studies.

Lizzie Cohen (IPE '11) works for Devex in Washington, DC

IPE Alumni Spotlight

Lizzie comments on her current experiences: "I’m the newest member of Devex’s Partnerships team. I work on the development and implementation of partnerships on everything from communications campaigns to survey work across the international development community. I wear every hat from project manager to graphic designer. It’s fun to work with such a young and innovative group. Don’t be afraid to speak up with creative ideas! It’s an incredible opportunity to work with organizations from every sector around the world."

On-campus Brownbags

Recent Events

This spring, faculty and students attended the quarterly Puget Sound Daedalus Talk, where Professor Nick Kontogeorgopoulos gave a lecture on "Traveling to Save the World: Volunteer Tourism as a Grassroots Development Strategy in Thailand" followed by an interactive discussion. 

Dan Thorson Researched Business in Hong Kong

IPE Student Research

In summer 2014, IPE major Dan Thorson ('15) used a summer fellowship grant to study entrepreneurship and business in Hong Kong. Learn more about summer opportunities with the IPE program here.

Peter Bittner ('12) in Mongolia

IPE Alumni Spotlight

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