The International Relations Program at Bucknell celebrated its 25th anniversary last fall with a special coming-of-age announcement: The program is now a full-fledged academic department.
The International Relations major, in existence officially since 1984 and as an interdepartmental major since 1973, already had set Bucknell University apart from its frame-of-reference and aspirant schools, few of which offer such a major. “We were very fortunate to have people like Professors Tom Travis, Richard Peterec, John Peeler and Robert Beard [all now retired] with the commitment, charisma and foresight to begin building this program back then,” says Emek Uçarer, chair of the department.
“In an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, it is critically important for us to be informed about world events, to understand how the international system works, and to explain and interpret world affairs. IR offerings seek to offer such opportunities.”
Already, 1,200 Bucknellians have graduated with an IR degree, and another 45-50 join their ranks each year, along with a dozen or so minors. The IR curriculum at Bucknell has always had a multidisciplinary approach, with courses drawn from economics, history, geography, international relations, political science and foreign languages. Students have a geographic area concentration as well as an advanced foreign-language requirement. Most study abroad in the region of their specialization.
Beginning with the Class of 2014, the major also requires students to take three courses from a thematic track of their choice: Foreign Policy and Diplomacy, Sustainability and Development or Global Governance and Conflict Resolution.
IR alumni have taken a broad array of career paths, most of which have some international connections, Uçarer says. They have gone on to graduate school and law school, to volunteer commitments like Teach for America and the Peace Corps, and to jobs with the government, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofits and the private sector.
The department also benefits non-majors with courses, programming and outreach designed to get students excited about and engaged in international affairs, including programs sponsored this year in conjunction with the University’s new MacArthur Chair in East Asian Politics. — Theresa Gawlas Medoff
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