Getting to meet actual policy makers would give USC's School of IR a boost:
The University of Southern California is a powerful academic institution. Its schools are internationally known, well funded and have produced a robust alumni network. However part and parcel of being a powerful institution is to constantly seek to improve upon whatever weaknesses may exist in the system. It is always necessary to ensure that programs remain robust, inspiring and relevant to contemporary needs. One such way that USC encourages this kind of improvement is through the Deans prize, which offers students the chance to make recommendations on how to better their undergraduate education at the college. While I do not expect to compete for the prize myself, I would like to make a suggestion on how to augment the fine work already being done by the School of International Relations (abbreviated SIR, who’s main facilities are pictured on the right). I suggest that the university focus on bringing more current foreign policy experts into our classrooms.
An article was recently published in Foreign Policy magazine listing the top twenty universities nationwide for IR in three categories, PH.D., masters and undergraduate programs. Sadly USC made only one appearance, in the bottom position for masters’ studies. The article notes that proximity to Washington D.C. is important for those scholars who are interested in foreign policy careers, with schools in D.C. filling four of the top ten spots. Clearly this is where improvement is needed. For while USC will never move so much as an inch closer to Washington, in no way is it impossible to garner some of the benefits that location provides. To be clear, it is my view that having so many practitioners of foreign policy close at hand allows schools like Georgetown and Columbia to draw on their expertise, by both sending students to them to study, and by bringing in experts to the classroom. Therefore I suggest that USC, using its immense financial resources, extensive alumni networks, beautiful surroundings and other various strengths, seek to bring foreign policy professionals to our campus. If the SIC could establish a system like the of the Cinematic Arts School, where high profile industry leaders were frequent visitors to many classrooms, they would be augmenting several aspects of their program. Each IR course should incorporate into its schedule at least one class per semester for a guest speaker of high regard to the subject matter. The benefits of these high profile visits would be quickly identifiable and increasingly fruitful for all parties involved as time progressed. For example, students would be given the opportunity to see how their academic pursuits translate into practical implementation, as well as receiving inspiration as to the direction of their studies. Furthermore frequent visits from policy makers would enhance the renown and prestige of the school, which at the least would allow the school to raise the bar academically for its students and faculty. Finally these visits would establish links between students and the leaders in their fields, at the least allowing students to gain access to ideas and insight they might never otherwise encounter, and at best establishing robust working relationships for future endeavors.As the second oldest school for International Relations in the nation, USC has a strong history of preparing scholars for global thinking. Indeed the highest point on campus, and a powerful symbol of the school is the von KleinSmid Center, whose foundation is the International Relations library, and peak is the golden globe that can be seen for miles in all directions. This is also fitting considering the university’s 2004 strategic plan recognizes that contemporary situations “will require leading educational institutions to become truly international in presence, focus, and scope […] and if USC is to cement her status as a great university she must expand her global presence.” It seems logical to me that the SIR through its studies, faculty, students and alumni networks, and focus should be perfectly situated to facilitate this goal. And brining field professionals into the classroom would be a great step towards this goal. SIR students are well prepared for, and would doubtlessly make the best of such opportunities, which in turn would make the future of such a program even brighter. It is high time for USC and the SIR to embolden their academic methods, and allowing students to move from merely studying texts, available at any library, to engaging with trendsetters face to face is an excellent place to start.