Prefrosh Preview: A guide to the School of Foreign Service

This week, Vox wanted to give the Class of 2015 a sneak peek into each of Georgetown University’s four undergraduate schools. Today, we take a look at the School of Foreign Service (SFS).

A strong core builds a strong degree, so they say

With a heavy load of core requirements, you’ll still be stuck in Comparative Political Systems while your friends in the College are taking drawing classes.

One of those required classes is the proseminar.  Freshmen SFS students takes this course—usually taught by a top professor—during their freshman fall in order to improve their writing and analytical skills.

Overall, the core consists of two government courses (international relations and comparative political systems), three history courses (one introductory course and two regional histories), and proficiency in a modern foreign language. Sincerest apologies to those who have spent countless years studying Latin—it counts for nothing in the SFS.

Perhaps to weed out the weak of constitution, the SFS also requires all of its students to take four—yes, four—economics courses, including international trade and international finance.

“I’m sorry, I have to go participate in (insert major world event)

This might not make up for those four econ classes, but the School of Foreign Service faculty does boast a number of big shots in the domestic and international policy realms.

Dean Carol Lancaster has served as deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, while her predecessor Robert Gallucci now runs the MacArthur Foundation. Other notable professors include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Council member Victor Cha, and former Special Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios.

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe served as a Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership this past year, an appointment that set off a firestorm of complaints from human rights activists. He and former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, another controversial guest lecturer, left last spring.

“You mean you don’t know where Tuvalu is?”

Even though you’ll all take pretty much the same prerequisites, you may not all have the same tyrannical CPS professor. Map of the Modern World, meanwhile, unites all SFS students.

This one-credit spring course has only one professor—James Reardon-Anderson, who taught the class at SFS-Qatar prior to his return to the Hilltop—and is typically offered in two large group lectures.

Although it is a requirement for graduation, some students are able to skip out of Map by passing an exemption test offered in the fall. Don’t be shocked if you hear complaints about the class from disgruntled seniors who took an older version of Map that had a different focus and professor.

Bottom line: SFSers come out of Map knowing more about geography than most people reasonably need to know, but it might give you a slight edge when playing trivia at the Tombs during senior year.

How to be President 101

The SFS is the school to be in if your plan is to rule the world—or at least have an impact on politics.

The most notable alumnus of the SFS (and arguably of the entire University) is Bill Clinton (Class of ’68), the 42nd President of the United States. But he’s far from Georgetown’s only executive-level graduate. Others include the President of the European Commission José Durão Barroso (Class of ’87), former President of the Philippines and Clinton classmate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Class of ’68), and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (Class of ’69).

Other famous alums include former U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Casey (Class of ’70), former CIA Director George Tenet (Class of ’76), and former Secretary of State Alexander Haig (Class of ’61).

9 Comments on “Prefrosh Preview: A guide to the School of Foreign Service

  1. The humor is appreciated, but do you really need to encourage the pre-frosh to get in on the “SFS vs. College” trash talk before they even step onto campus?

  2. Hear hear. Between this and the NHS post, it seems this week is turning into Prefrosh hate-on-the-college.

  3. Last year’s SFS preview was actually really pro-College and anti-SFS, so maybe Vox is attempting balance? Nevertheless, I definitely agree with the people above me – other than your requirements, your dean/adviser, and the fact that SFS students can’t do arts and sciences minors (insert bitching here), being in the SFS is really not that different from being a government/history/econ major in the College.

    Except for Map. Extra points for mocking people who don’t know how to pronounce Kiribati.

  4. My proseminar was a joke. I never wrote anything more than 3 or 4 pages long the whole semester.

  5. @Ali,

    Mine, too, was a joke. Longer papers, but grades were based on grammar and spelling, not content. Not sure why top tier colleges are accepting students that need a semester-long class on writing…

  6. My proseminar was one of the best classes I’ve had at Georgetown.

    @Eileen Actually they are a lot different. “Requirements” are a big deal, but so is the fact that the type of students you are surrounded with tends to be different. Not better or worse, but there certainly is a different mentality. Some people love that and some people don’t, but atleast for the first two years in the SFS most of your classmates tend to be other SFS students, so that’s pretty significant.

  7. @Sophmo Maybe in Map, PST, and your prosem, and, depending what region you pick, possibly your regional histories. But pretty much everyone at Georgetown takes IR and CPS; you choose from the same second philosophies as everyone else; MSB students and econ majors take econ classes; and the SFS certainly doesn’t dictate your theologies or choice of foreign language. Certainly you can choose a more “SFS-y” schedule, but you don’t have to, and if you have any APs whatsoever, you can take electives even freshman and sophomore year. And junior and senior year are majors classes, so there’s a LOT of overlap. I didn’t find that I spent more time with SFS students except in Map, PST, and my prosem. Now, granted, that’s probably because my concentration within my major and the electives I took outside it (early modern European history, Christian theology, music) tended to be less popular among SFS students, but I still spent all four years in the SFS.

    And since we’re sharing, my proseminar was okay. I think I learned more about “how to figure out what your professor values in a paper” than “how to write well,” but it was fun.

  8. @Eileen

    I disagree; maybe it was just me, but my IR, CPS (which not everyone at Georgetown takes, btw; maybe gov majors), and econ classes certainly felt more SFS-y than not.

    Also, there is value to writing-oriented classes first semester. I’d never written an academic paper before coming to Georgetown, but that’s just the school/academic system I was in so I had no chance to be exposed to academic writing before college. I appreciated being able to “catch up,” so to speak, with my classmates who had the benefits of prep school training and/or IB/AP curricula (and it worked; I think I generally did best in classes with papers, and rarely got under an A- for papers I wrote at Georgetown.)

    P.S. My prosem was apparently hit or miss. I enjoyed it, because it introduced me to a region of the world I had little exposure to, to US diplomacy, and to writing some fun (but generally short) papers. Others disliked it, because apparently the grading was unpredictable (I got out on the right side of that though).

  9. Yeah, I guess it really depends. An awful lot of the College majors or double-majors or minors in government, though, so since IR/CPS/USPS/Political Theory* are all required for them they’re in the intro classes, too. And it probably doesn’t hurt my “we’re all the same” perspective that I suffered through 8:50 macro sitting next to an English major and then the next year 8:50 i-finance next to an econ major.

    I mean, the SFS definitely has its own personality, and a lot of SFS-ers enjoy that, but I just wanted the newbies to know that being in the SFS doesn’t mean you can’t take non-SFS-y classes if you want to.

    But the advising is definitely better than in the College.

    *Since I didn’t have to take Elements of Political Theory, I don’t know if it has a cool acronym

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