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Geneva Study Group

Director Spring 2018: Associate Professor Bruce Rutherford, Department of Political Science

History of the Geneva Study Group

In 1979, the Geneva Study Group was offered to students in all concentrations to engage in advanced study of international and European governmental organizations; European politics, cultural and history; and international and pan-European law and courts. It was directed by Professor Roland Blum.


Colgate University’s Geneva Study Group is a spring-semester program in Geneva, Switzerland that the University has offered continuously since 1978. It enables a highly select group of students from all concentrations to engage in advanced study of international and European governmental and non-governmental organizations; European politics, culture and history; and international and pan-European law and courts.   

Students will take an intensive French language course at the Université Catholique de l'Ouest at Angers, in the heart of France's Loire Valley; will complete two semester-long courses taught (in English) by the Director and by faculty at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies; and will serve a fifteen-week part-time internship in a Geneva-based international governmental or non-governmental organization (IGO or INGO). Lastly, they will travel extensively as a group for briefings and meetings with the senior staff of a variety of international and humanitarian agencies in Western and Central Europe including the European Parliament, NATO, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  The intensive French course will begin in early January and coursework and internships in Geneva will begin in mid-February. The program will conclude in early/mid-June.

Each of the two seminar-style courses meets one day per week with the internships taking place in either the morning or afternoon.  One of the courses will be held at Angers and the Cité Universitaire de Genève and the other at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies.  Students will be housed in single rooms at the Cité Universitaire.  While in Geneva, the group will visit international organizations in and around the city throughout the semester.  

Students participating in this study group may be eligible to satisfy the Core Global Engagements requirement.


  1. FREN 122Y, FREN 200, OR FREN 300 (Université Catholique de l'Ouest, Angers)
    In January, each student will take part in an intensive French program, with a heavy emphasis on the conversational use of the language, offered by the Centre international d'etudes françaises.  Students will be housed, in single or double accommodation, in home-stays with French families.  This intensive program enables students to improve their French language skills, meet other European students, and immerse themselves in French culture as they come to understand the rhythms and norms of their host French family.  Students will be enrolled, graded, and given credit for a course in keeping with their level of competence in French: FREN 122Y, FREN 200, or FREN 300.

  2. POSC 357Y: International Institutions (Prof. Rutherford)
    In this course, we will explore the theoretical and historical literature on international governmental and non-governmental organizations before taking advantage of being in Geneva to study and visit some of the world’s premier IOs and INGOs including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, Médecins sans frontières, the World Trade Organization, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the UN Human Rights Council. A central component of the course is two long group trips to visit and tour prominent international institutions in Western and Central Europe and to visit sites that help students to understand the rise of the European Union and the transition from communism in Central Europe.
    Approved for GE credit

  3. Elective course (POSC/IR) offered by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (300-level)

  4. 4. POSC 409: Study Group Sponsored Internship (arranged by our Geneva internship coordinator)
    In mid-February, students will be placed in semester-long part-time internships in international governmental and non-governmental organizations in Geneva. These internships, to the degree possible, will be chosen based on each student’s interests and will be arranged in advance of his/her arrival in Geneva. Work in these organizations complements coursework in POSC 357Y and group travel undertaken during the semester. Discussion of the internship experience, two short writing assignments, and a substantial research paper will be required for completion of this course.  The course will be graded and will count toward the political science and international relations majors (as an elective).  It will not fulfill the seminar requirement in either major. 

Field Trips

Group photo by the seaTwo long group trips will complement and build upon the coursework and internships undertaken in Geneva. The first of the trips (7-8 days approx.) focuses on Western Europe with visits to Luxembourg, The Hague, and Brussels. We will visit the major international and European institutions in each of these cities. For example, in Brussels we will visit the European Parliament, the European Commission, and NATO. Our second trip (10-11 days approx.) will be to Central Europe with visits to Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, and, time permitting, Salzburg. During this trip, we will seek to understand the major international organizations housed in these cities and to gain a sense of the development of “Westernization,” economic liberalization, and democratization after the fall of communism in Central Europe. We will also take a weekend trip to the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.  Students will take part on each trip in educational tours, occasional lectures, and institutional presentations.  There will also be some free time to explore cultural landmarks and enjoy recreational activities. In addition, Geneva’s location in the heart of Europe facilitates individual travel and exploration.  Students will have an 8-day break for personal travel and may also travel on some weekends. 

Library Facilities

Students will have access and borrowing privileges at the library of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and other universities in Geneva. Access can also be arranged to the libraries housed in Geneva’s international organizations including the United Nations Library collection which contains nearly two million volumes.

Selection Criteria and Prerequisites

Students with their baggage posing by a statueIt is expected that most applicants will be sophomores in the fall semester of 2016. Juniors are also invited to apply, but the Group’s schedule will interfere with their participation in graduation ceremonies in May 2018. First-year students will also be considered, but only under exceptional circumstances will they be selected. The Geneva Study Group is open to members of any major or concentration.  All accepted students are required to complete POSC 232 and FREN 121 or its equivalent before they leave for Switzerland. These courses may be taken during the fall 2017 semester by a student provisionally accepted to the study group. Courses on the European Union and on modern European politics and history are highly recommended, and ECON 151 or 249 might also prove useful. 

Non-Colgate students must be able to demonstrate competence in the prerequisite courses through courses taken at another institution that are specifically approved by the Director of the Geneva Study Group. As well, they must have achieved a grade point average of at least 3.5 and must enroll as visiting students at Colgate while abroad with the Geneva Study Group.


For details of student expenses on this study group, please see Student Cost Estimate Sheets.

Calendar and Deadlines

All students interested in applying should attend one of the informational sessions described below.  The deadline for applications is Friday, November 4, 2016. Applications are on the Colgate University Off-Campus Study/International Programs’ website and are submitted online. After an initial screening of applications, a pool of finalists will be selected.  These finalists will be invited for an interview.  Acceptance decisions will be sent by mid-December 2016. 

Passports and Visas

Your passport must be valid through December 2018. All students participating in the Geneva Study Group are required to obtain a Swiss student visa. Students are expected to understand and comply with Swiss government visa requirements. If you will not be traveling on a U.S. passport it is imperative that you contact an adviser in Off-Campus Study/International Programs, 101 McGregory, and International Student Services, 103C Lathrop Hall, to learn about the relevant regulations. For some students, there are significant additional visa requirements that take time, advance planning, and extra costs.

Program Dates

Anticipated Geneva Study Group program dates: early January — early to mid-June, 2018

Informational Sessions

  • Tuesday, October 18, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 25, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
All informational sessions will be held in 101 McGregory Hall (Center for International Programs)

More Information

Student group photo in white jacketsFor more information, contact Bruce Rutherford, 121 Persson Hall 315-228-7754 or brutherford@colgate.edu

Helpful Links

General Information