Jan. 18, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 8

current issue
archive / search

    Committee on International Relations educates students who will consult, teach, lead in a growing global economy

    The globalization of information and expanding employment opportunities in the worldwide economy have led to an increase in enrollment in the Committee on International Relations.

    Students in the Committee on International Relations masters program pose with Dali Yang, (seated at right and resting hand on globe) Associate Professor in Political Science and Chairman of the Committee on International Relations. The students pictured here are (left to right) Sarah Park, Tracy Carruth, Anne Harrington, Joyce Park, Dominik Meier, Andy Johnson and Jennifer Dowler.

    The program prepares graduate students for careers with the State Department, the United Nations or as consultants and analysts for private industry. Many students also continue their education in doctoral programs and pursue teaching positions as university faculty members.

    “We have more international students now, partly because foreign students can easily find out about the program on the Internet and then decide to apply,” said Dali Yang, Associate Professor in Political Science and Chairman of the Committee on International Relations.

    One of the oldest U.S. graduate programs in foreign affairs, the Committee on International Relations reflects the University’s strengths in international relations as well as Chicago’s position as an international city, Yang said.

    “Chicago is certainly a major cosmopolitan city and a global financial center,” Yang said. “And being away from a political center such as Washington has its advantages. Generally, faculty and students are not fixated on events of the day but can focus on fundamental developments in international relations and comparative politics.”

    Each year, the committee enrolls about 40 students who follow either a one-year degree program or a two-year program with specialization.

    Wen Chi Yu came to the program this year from Taiwan. She did her undergraduate work in political science at National Taiwan University, where she became interested in international relations. She said she was drawn to the University’s program because of its emphasis on theory.

    “Instead of policymaking, the University concentrates more on the thinking that goes into developments. For instance, in our Global Justice course, most people might assume it to be focused on current human rights policies, but in fact, we discuss the origins of the ideas of human rights and justice. We have to read a lot more philosophical readings than actual policies. In the end, however, we still try to get back to real life.”

    Yu is considering a career with a non-governmental organization with an international focus or the government of Taiwan or possibly in a position as a researcher.

    “Although we have a substantial number of international policy courses, CIR is much more driven by theory than other schools that tend to emphasize diplomacy,” Yang said. “Not surprisingly, more of our students go on to graduate programs in the social sciences, particularly political science,” he added.

    Student Rob Davis said, “My primary reason for accepting the offer to come here is the reputation of excellence the school has in the field of international relations. It not only has a rich history of great scholars, but it is nationally recognized as an elite program,” added Davis, who is interested in pursuing a career in international relations and possibly a Ph.D.

    Students draw on a rich heritage that goes back to the founding of the program in 1931, said Charles Lipson, Associate Professor in Political Science, who has taught the Introduction to International Relations course, which is taken by all CIR students.

    “The mission of international relations as a scholarly discipline has been to come up with explanations for the relationships between states and to give advice to policymakers. A common theme for teaching international relations at Chicago is guided by the work of the late Hans Morgenthau (the Albert A. Michelson Distinguished Service Professor in Political Science), who believed that American policy should be guided by our interests and not by our hopes and aspirations,” Lipson said.

    According to this view, nations that try to set an international agenda based on their ideals about the world order are likely to get involved in too many conflicts. That position became a critique of both the liberal activism of Woodrow Wilson and the strong anti-Communist position taken by some leaders in the 1950s.

    The Committee on International Relations program also depends on the heritage of Morton Kaplan, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Political Science, who was a leader, during his generation, of creating a powerful, scientific theory of international relations, Lipson said. That emphasis on theory helps guide the program, Lipson said.

    “We ask our students to engage in the most serious debate about the root issues involved in international relations rather than day-to-day events, which change,” he said. “Students discuss, for instance, the use of the military, economic forces and transnational social movements.”

    The program requires a thesis, which is built on course work and previous professional experience. This provides students with an opportunity to pursue a topic of special interest and is often the basis for their future work.

    Some of the recent topics students have written on include “Competing Understandings of Contract in Russian and Common Law,” “Foreign Investments and Telecommunications Services in the People’s Republic of China,” “Price of Morality in International Trade: Toward a Just Trade Theory,” and “War in an Information-Rich Environment.” Yang said topics related to economic globalization are becoming more popular.

    Currently about half of the students enrolled in the Committee on International Relations program are from overseas.

    “To a large extent, they come to Chicago for the same reason that U.S. students come here,” Yang said.

    The diversified student body, which results in many lasting friendships, helps give the program additional strength, as students have an opportunity to learn about international issues from students from a wide variety of cultures.