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Rutgers Brings 21st Global Challenges to the Classroom

Written by John Chadwick | SAS Senior Writer

Whether the issue is ISIS or economics, an M.A. program focuses on the global arena

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The topic for discussion was the turbulent state of the Middle East. The Rutgers Student Center was packed. The panelists were ready with their remarks.

But as a former Iraqi ambassador took his turn at the lectern, he momentarily shifted the focus away from issues such as oil, religion, and terrorism to issue an appeal to the audience of Rutgers students. 

“We cannot have a better future without having better leaders,” declared T. Hamid Al-Bayati who served as the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations from 2006 to 2012. “And you, the young people, can be those leaders.”

His words, spoken during a panel discussion last November, were a call to action, and an apt introduction to a new graduate program in the School of Arts and Sciences.

The M.A. Program in Political Science — Concentration in United Nations and Global Policy Studies,  in which Al-Bayati served as an adjunct professor, was launched last fall and is drawing an intriguing mix of students who seek to understand the issues roiling the world and work toward solutions. 

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"We’re really unique for a liberal arts program,” says Eric Davis, a professor in the Department of Political Science who designed the program and serves as its executive director. “On one hand, we’re providing the instruction that will ground our students in the emerging trends in the global arena, and at the same time, we’re providing the data, research, and professional training that will allow them to use their knowledge to address critical global problems.”

Davis, a Rutgers professor since the 1970s, says the program’s mix of analytical knowledge and hands-on skills reflects a deep-seated desire by faculty to prepare students for engagement with 21st century issues such as terrorism, climate change, and economic inequality.  He credited Al-Bayati, a longtime colleague, with proposing the idea for the program.

“The stakes are too high for us to sit on the sidelines as academic spectators,” he said. “Those of us who are professors, analysts, or policy-makers really have to get in the mix and start coming up with creative solutions, or at least contributing to the larger dialogue on the myriad problems facing the world.”

That sense of mission appeals to students like Amanda Ackerman, who wants to study global economic inequality and work for agencies such as the United Nations Development Program or the World Food Program.

“This program gives me the intellectual depth I need to address and work through challenging global issues,” she said. “We look very closely for example, at why some countries in the developing world have been left behind, which policies have failed, and which ones might actually help them become competitive in the global economy.”

Another student, Mazhar Syed, hopes to become a policy analyst with a think tank.

“The program really challenges you to think critically about policies, to analyze them, and improve upon them,” he said.

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Both Ackerman and Syed attended Rutgers as undergraduates and were members of the Arts and Sciences Class of 2014.

Other students in the M.A. program bring very different backgrounds to the table.

Nadeje Bauzil, a native of Haiti, is a finance officer at the UN and has a daughter in college.  She joined the Rutgers program with the goal of enhancing her UN experience and advancing into other capacities, such as political affairs or peacekeeping.

“When I saw the program, I noticed right away how the classes relate to what I’m doing now, and what I intend to do in the future,” she said. “I thought, ‘let me go for it, right now!’’’

For more information on the Global and UN Studies program, visit the website

polisci.rutgers.edu/un-studies-home or contact Eric Davis at davis@polisci.rutgers.edu or 848-932-9576.

 

 

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