WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, 37 International Relations students traded the dreary skies of Philadelphia for the cherry blossoms of Washington.
Students visited the Department of Homeland Security, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace through a trip organized by the IR Department and the International Relations Undergraduate Student Association.
One of the purposes of the annual trip is to give IR majors a broader sense of the job opportunities available for them after graduation, said James McGann, assistant director of the IR program.
“There’s such a pre-professional orientation [in the College] — towards law school and business school,” McGann said.
While “they’re noble professions ... this program is designed to show there’s a lot of really exciting, rewarding jobs that you can pursue that are not in law, nor in business,” McGann continued.
The organizations featured on the trip — a government institute, a nonprofit and a think tank — were chosen to illustrate the breadth of opportunities for IR majors.
At an alumni dinner held at the end of the night, IR graduates ranging from the class of 1963 to 2010 shared their experiences with working in the nation’s capital.
The trend of globalization has furthered interest in the IR program, a change that was first visible after the fall of the Berlin Wall, IR Department Co-Director Frank Plantan said.
In 1987, two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, 32 students were enrolled in the International Relations program. By 1991, the program had ballooned to 320 students, a number that has remained relatively high throughout the years.
“We clearly rode the wave of change in world affairs,” Plantan said.
The inter-connectedness of today’s world underscores the importance of an IR education.
“Recent events have shown Americans that the world is a small place — what happens overseas affects us here,” said Christopher Boucek, an associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program who was one of the speakers during the trip.
Especially in light of the recent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, it has become clear that “no one lives in a bubble anymore,” Boucek said.
Fields such as national security have vastly changed due to globalization and advances in technology since “the black and white days of 1993,” Joshua Himes, a 1993 College graduate, quipped.
“Now, in something like national security, you can’t succeed without a foundation in an international perspective,” Himes said.
1987 Wharton graduate Steve Alloy, who also studied IR while at Penn, thinks that the “broad IR experience is one of the best things you can do as an undergraduate,” he said.
Being an IR major has “given me a much better conception of the world and how things work,” College junior and IRUSA President Chloe Summers said.Comments powered by Disqus
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