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Signature Experiences

We offer students a multi-faceted exposure to American politics, comparative politics, international relations, public policy and political philosophy and theory. We see thousands of students in our introductory classes. Many fulfill their requirements and move on. For others the introductory classes whet their appetites, and they return for more. We have more than 600 majors and minors. It is our goal in the department to provide students with a broadly based, critical examination of politics near and far. Of course, the bulk of that instruction comes in the classroom in the traditional fashion.

Our goal, though, is to extend the classroom or more precisely step out of it. We want to create Signature Experiences for as many students as we can. We hope they have memorable experiences in the classroom and become inspired. But we want to extend their education.

Sadly, the Covid 19 pandemic interrupted our activities over the last two years.

We have study abroad programs in Florence, Italy, and London. The former was cancelled. The latter had to be modified. We hope to resume the normal programs in May. And we are planning other programs when life becomes normal.

For most of the groups we sponsor, it was business as unusual. All of our programs were resilient. They went on the road when they could and used technologies like Zoom, when they could not.

For groups like the Model United Nations, Speech and Debate Team, and Mock Trial, the spring brought a moving target of restrictions. Through Zoom and on campus in an intramural structure, the groups made do and honed their skills for the day when they can resume travel and normal activities.

London Calling

A few students were able to undertake the London Program in summer 2021. Covid restrictions severely limited the number of participants and posed a host of challenges. But there were a few positives for those able to travel. In particular, with no tourist hordes, the site visits to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Windsor Castle and elsewhere were serene, peaceful and positively otherworldly. Meetings with many of the politicians had to be held over Zoom but a few speakers were able to meet in-person. 

For example, James White (Deacon and Assistant Curate – Church of England) came to talk about the state-church relationship in the UK.

The only students able to attend this year were those also undertaking five-week internships at the end of the five-week academic program. Meredith interned with Gillian Keegan, MP, a government minister. Meredith is seen here, with Gillian, holding Gillian’s ministerial “red box.”

Isabelle (second from the left) interned with the 2-3 Degrees Foundation, a non-profit aimed at inspiring and empowering young people to realize their full potential. Isabelle is seen here with the 2-3 Degrees team.

Jackson (on the left) interned with the Council on Geostrategy, an independent non-profit focused on shaping Britain’s strategic engagement with the world. Here Jackson is seen with James Rogers, director of research and one of the Council’s co-founders.

Impossible Italy (with apologies to Wilco)

The initial pandemic hit Italy as hard as any country in the world. The Italians took strong measures, limiting the ability to travel and drove the rates down. But Italy had trouble getting enough vaccines to cover the population. As a result, the Italy Program in Florence was on hiatus for summer 2021. Plans are proceeding with hopes of returning to Florence in June 2022. We have planned trips to Siena, Pisa, and Orvieto. Stay tuned.

Under African Skies

William Jennings has received university funding to conduct a site visit in January 2022 to Guyana and Suriname to develop a winter-mini (the university's new January term) study abroad offering for 2023. The course, Political Identity: Decolonization and Sustainable Development in Guyana and Suriname,  will look at issues associated with the countries' modern political histories as states that are among the most ethnically diverse in the Americas with a dynamic mix of citizens from the South Asian, African, and Southeast Asian Diasporas and a strong Amerindian minority. Students will analyze the unique challenges associated with Guyana and Suriname's histories as former British and Dutch colonial possessions, respectively. Both countries are shaped by ongoing tensions between bauxite mining and eco-tourism as directing their economic destinies as well as the effects of climate change, since both of their capital cities are dependent on dikes to drain their below sea-level topography. Future program participants will evaluate the role of Guyana as a center for regional integration in the Americas by visiting the headquarters for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and seek to understand Suriname's unique role in the Jewish history of the Americas as the first center for large scale Jewish settlement in the Americas starting in 1639. Watch for future details.

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