The value of a SPIA degree

by Elise Tanyel

“So… what are you trying to do with your International Affairs degree?” This is the dreaded question that I’m sure we all, as liberal arts students, have faced at least once in our lives. Whether it is from extended relatives, parents, or STEM-majoring peers, the hint of belittlement always stings the same. When I first joined SPIA, that question used to make me second guess the career path that I had drawn out so carefully for myself. As a current second year SPIA student, my evolution has been incredible.  

As a double major in International Affairs and Intended Management Information Systems, I can now say I have witnessed SPIA’s benefits as both a major of its own as well as a double major. As a freshman, before I made the decision to double major, I was torn between wanting to go to law school, venturing into politics, getting into nonprofit work, or some combination of the three. And those were only the top options I was considering— imagine all of the other positions and career paths I had to mentally cross out for myself. As I advanced into my education and began toying with the idea of working in the corporate world, I decided that a business degree alongside my SPIA degree would make for a complementary pair. In fact, a degree in International Affairs or Political Science, or any of the other minors or certificates that SPIA has to offer, is an amazing addition to any other major whether that is Economics (Every decision, whether made by citizens on the small scale or politicians on the large scale, has trade-offs), Journalism (What do the implications of Middle Eastern conflicts mean for us as Americans?), Public Health (What are connections that can be drawn between the spread of disease and the development of countries?), you name it.  

A SPIA major/minor/certificate is more than just a degree: it is a worldly perspective. Students can pick and choose the courses that focus on the issues they care the most about, whether this is racial injustice, human rights, ethnic conflicts, etc. In times as advanced and interconnected as the period we live in, it is crucial to have an understanding of the world around us. This not only makes us more knowledgeable as students, but also makes us better as people. Developing these new perspectives gives students a sense of empathy and understanding that they may not have the chance to obtain anywhere else. No matter what career path you choose for yourself, this special outlook into the world is a priceless skill that cannot be gained in the same ways such as computer science, mathematics, or writing can. This is what makes a SPIA degree so valuable, professionally and personally.