International Relations Week breaks community out of ‘the bubble’

Elizabeth Worthington, News Co-Editor

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In an effort to highlight student, faculty, and alumni international experiences and to stimulate discussion about global issues, the international relations department and the national honors society Sigma Iota Rho (SIR) sponsored International Relations (IR) Week from Saturday, Sept. 23 to Friday Sept. 29.

Events included a student-panel discussion about study-abroad experiences, an alumni panel about careers in international relations, a professor panel discussion of interdisciplinary research in the field, and a lecture from Judith Carney, a professor of geography at UCLA Carney specializes in the African agricultural influence in the Americas. Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS, was scheduled to give a lecture on current relations between the U.S. and North Korea, but had to cancel last minute due to an injury.

The IR department covered topics such as international political economy, security, environment and sustainability, and culture. The timing of IR Week was chosen to encourage potential IR majors to learn more about the field before making a decision, according to SIR chapter president Mikaela Schaller ’18.

SIR was established in 1989, with the purpose being to “promote and reward scholarship and service among students and practitioners of international studies, international affairs, and global studies and to foster integrity and creative performance in the conduct of world affairs,”​ according to the organization’s national website. It is a student-led organization, and these students planned IR Week over the summer with the help of IR faculty. This is not an annual event, and has only happened two or three times before.

IR Week comes this year at an interesting moment in history, one that is fueled by a turbulent political climate, havoc wreaked by natural disasters, and tense diplomatic relations.

“Developments both inside and outside the US such as the DACA controversy, the new travel ban, hurricanes, and North Korea make the IR Week an extremely timely moment for us to learn about the world outside the so-called Bucknell Bubble and reflect upon how our lives can be so delicate and difficult and how we can work together to build a better world,” International relations department co-chair Zhiqun Zhu said.

Both Zhu and Schaller reiterated that the responsibility to engage with the international community in some capacity falls on all members of the University community, not just IR majors.

“We must see that while yes we are American citizens, we are also global citizens and have the responsibility to pay attention to world affairs outside of our bubble,” Schaller said.

“As citizens of the 21st century, everyone, including non-IR majors, must be informed of world affairs and be aware of the risks and opportunities around us,” Zhu said.

Student panelist and IR major Katie Sidlowski ’18 echoed this sentiment, stating, “ In our increasingly globalized world, its become so important to understand and be able to think critically about international issues.

With these [IR Week’s] events, the IR department is trying to start a dialogue around these issues, while incorporating a diversity of perspectives and opinions.”

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