Interest in International Relations Rising at PA

A growing number of Phillips Academy students are finding great attraction to the study of International Relations. Instructor of History and Social Science Christopher Gurry, who teaches the International Relations course at PA, believes that the recent surge in interest for the study of International Relations and other related studies directly correlates to America’s involvement in Iraq. “American people are much more concerned,” he said, and he applied this statement to PA students as well. Mr. Gurry verified that such increased interest also occurred during other previous wars, such as the Vietnam War, while interest in international relations dwindled during the 70’s through the 90’s, when America was not involved in any major international conflicts. Courtney Fiske ’07 agrees with Mr. Gurry’s theory. “Our current policies overseas, especially in the younger generation, caused a desire to see a change and maybe a desire to change the approach to other nations,” she said. “Obviously with more communication and with people coming from different places, people just have a desire to learn more about the world.” According to Mr. Gurry, the current International Relations course at Phillips Academy is “pretty much of a skim.” The course uses a textbook called International Relations, Perspectives & Controversies by Keith Shimko to guide the sequence of its studies. Mr. Gurry also brings other related materials, including newspaper articles about current events, to his classes in order to apply the theories behind international relations to modern events. “The history department at Andover is outstanding. They take the theories that we learn in the class and give us practical applications for it,” said Prateek Kumar ’07, who took the course during Fall 2006. “I’m interested in international relations primarily because I’m interested in the interaction between various nations. Being able to interact with various nations is an important component to solving many of the world’s problems,” said Kumar. “I was interested [in international relations] prior to Andover, but Andover furthered my interest.” Kumar expressed a desire in pursuing international relations in college. Although Harvard University, where he will be enrolled in the following academic year, does not offer an IR major, he plans on taking the school’s International Relations course and other related classes. Unlike Kumar, Diana Willson ’07 signed up for the International Relations course without any particular previous interest in the subject. “I just took it because I had exhausted all the history classes…I took [it] and I really liked it,” she said. “I think the best part about [the class]—besides Mr. Gurry—was the students. The students were so committed to knowing what was going on in the world. People were able to bring in a lot of information into class,” she said. Willson plans on studying international law, a field of study closely connected to the study of international relations, after graduating from Phillips Academy. Courtney Fiske ’07, who took the International Relations course in Fall 2006, also found great interest in the subject. “I liked how we focused on current events, but at the same time balanced it with theories that helped you think about those events…After reading the theories of realism and the different perspectives that people used to look at these issues before, it helped you articulate your ideas about current issues more intelligently,” she said. She has also maintained a level of interest in the general field of study for a long time. “I’ve always just been interested [in international relations]…It’s just fascinating, the way other people perceive us and react to the things we do. I usually have an opinion about things, but I like to have some evidence and to have an intelligent debate about an issue,” said Fiske. “I just think it’s really important to be informed. If you don’t about the issue or you don’t know about other’s perspective about the issue, you’re never going to be able to form an opinion about what’s right and what’s wrong,” she said. Fiske did not have concrete plans for her academics in college, but she expressed a general interest in studying economics, international relations, and political science. Fiske, Willson and Kumar represent only a portion of the senior class demonstrating interest in global studies such as the study of international relations. According to Willson, several students in her class had been “dying to take it [the international relations course],” demonstrating great fascination about the subject among PA students. Andover provides many opportunities for students looking to further their interest in international relations and global studies. Besides the history department’s wide selection of courses, Model UN also provides a great opportunity for students interested in learning about international relations. Students experience the workings of the United Nations and practice their persuasion and negotiation skills in the process.