Course Reviews by Students

Human Security and Human Rights

The course explores the concept of human security and how it complements the discourses on human rights.  Content is contemporary as the framework of security and rights can be applied to current challenges like the Covid 19 pandemic and climate change to understand how they are exasperating inequalities in society and threatening not just right to life but also social economic and cultural freedoms. Other interesting aspects of the course are universalism and cultural relativity of human rights, understanding inequality and equality through the lens of human capability, issues related to economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security and their interconnectedness.   
Professor, Vesselin Popovski is an eminent scholar in the field of International Relations and Human Rights. He has contributed a number of books and articles to the field. He has a rich experience of serving as a diplomat and head of several organizations.  He often draws from his experiences and help students understand the practical nuances of the concepts. The course is taught through a variety of teaching methods such as lectures, presentations, academic writings, documentaries and podcasts. Class environment is enriching where students are encouraged to think critically, ask questions and share opinions. Performance and class participation are evaluated through writing assignments, quiz and presentations.  Professor Popovski has an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. He draws ideas from various fields like law and science and connect them with human security and rights. This particularly fascinated me about the course.
Being from a legal background and having worked on access to justice and empowerment issues in India, I felt that the course exposed me to different thoughts on human rights and justice. I also feel the diversity of content and its applicability to development and peace integrates very well with other courses of the SIPS program.

(Student writer: Geetanjali, Entering Class of 2020) 

Region and Institution Building in the Asia Pacific

The course focuses on analyzing the regional institution-building process in the Asia Pacific using international relation (IR) theories such as regional integration theory, interdependence/regime theory, multiculturalism, and constructivism.

The course was discussion-based, and we shared our opinions regarding topics related to assigned readings. We wrote three papers in total and gave a presentation regarding the content of the final paper.

I learned how IR theories have been developed in response to historical movements such as the end of World War, the European integration, the oil crisis, the development of multilateral institutions, and globalization. While I learned a basis of international relation theories in the first semester, I studied each IR theory in more depth in this course (I took in the second semester).

Also, I explored the regional institution-building process in the Asia Pacific. I learned why the Asia Pacific has fewer multilateral institutions compared to the European Union and studied why bilateral institutions are predominant in the Asia Pacific. Moreover, I analyzed the regional institution-building process from the perspective of constructivism underscoring collective identity development as well as liberal institutionalists focusing on institutional development.

Furthermore, from the realists' and constructivists’ perspectives, I examined the US-China relation and how the rise of China influenced the Asia Pacific order. Viewing the rise of China from these different theoretical frameworks assisted me in understanding that the rise of China not only can cause conflicts but also can promote cooperation in the world as well as in the Asia Pacific.

In short, I studied the institution-building process in the world and the Asian Pacific along with deepening my understanding of IR theories. Moreover, the course aided me in viewing historical movements and current world affairs from multiple perspectives.

Although the topics were difficult, professor was very approachable and kindly explained difficult topics in detail until I understand. Also, I studied together with classmates to understand the course topics. Supports from professor and classmates aided me in making clear challenging topics in the course.

(Student writer: Seiko Moriyama, Entering Class of 2020)

International Political Economy

The course International Political Economy (IPE) focuses on historical shifts in political-economic thoughts, ideas, and beliefs from the late-19th century to the present, covering prewar globalization, the Bretton Woods system and its institutions, the largest economic crisis in the world, current issues and more. The studies are based on a selection of readings and material presented by Professor Jonathan Luckhurst, and also on class discussions. By the end of the course, the students are able to have a better comprehension of the origins and development of current trends in political-economic policies.

Throughout the semester, the students have to prepare a few presentations on relevant readings about topics that are being taught. There are no exams, but students have to submit two essays around 2,000 words each about complex questions carefully elaborated by the professor. The essay writing demands more than writing skills, it also develops our research abilities and our critical thinking about political-economic events related to the period covered by the course content. The professor’s correction is thorough and points to areas where students can improve their writing and their understanding on the theme.

The IPE course was particularly important for me to better understand in a chronological way the global political-economic events and how they impacted my own country. It is valuable to understand how these events do influence diverse areas beyond the political-economic scope, affecting, directly or indirectly, social phenomena and personal life. I am particularly interested in the changing of gender roles in police-making and the course helped me to have a wider view on the matter, providing some specific readings and discussions on the theme. Thinking about SIPS purposes, it is not possible to propose means for peace without a general understanding of the political-economic structure that we live in.

(Student writer: Ana Maria Bori, Entering Class of 2021)

Civil War and Peace Processes

The post-Cold War period has been witnessing to a number of brutal civil wars. The course Civil War and Peace Processes (CW&PP) is important to understand nature and causes of such conflicts and ways to build sustainable peace. For this purpose, the course content is divided into four modules: Civil Wars, Phases of War, Ending War and Building Peace. Significantly, besides elucidating key theoretical arguments, the articles in each module also elaborate on and analyse diverse case studies; like El Salvador, Burundi, Rwanda, Afghanistan etc. This facilitates in recognising: a) the gaps between theoretical formulations and reality; and b) the differences and/or similarities between cases.

The systematic structure of the course and the professor’s teaching approach together make the course an intensive, informative, thought-provoking, yet a pleasant, learning experience. It is conducted in the form of lectures, students’ presentations and discussions. For each of the modules, the professor first introduces the key definitions and other important aspects of a particular topic. Following which, students’ present and discuss key articles on it.  The entire course includes two exams; each scheduled after the completion of two modules. The exam requires students to respond to any one of the two or three questions based on the topics discussed in the two modules. The choice provides a good opportunity to develop deeper understanding of the topic of their respective interest.

The course is absolutely in rhythm with overall conceptualisation of SIPS, and that is student centric learning. The structure of the course CW&PP encourages the students to proactively participate in the learning experience. Owing to this, they are able to develop a comprehensive understanding of different aspects of civil war and peace processes. Active engagement also empowers them to raise critical questions about similar conflicts happening in contemporary world, rather than unquestioningly accepting the mainstream narrative. The course is, therefore, contributing significantly in the creation of informed global citizens.

(Student writer: Mahima Natrajan, Entering Class of 2020)

Peace Education

The Peace Education course was a great opportunity to deepen our knowledge in peace theories and how they relate to education. Even though it was all online due to the pandemic, we were able to get the best of the readings and class discussions, and Professor Edwards made everything very light and easy to understand. We have read theoretical and substantial articles and had interesting class discussions, and students were able to do their own research on a specific topic of interest within peace education and present to the class, so we also gained a lot of knowledge on several case studies.

Weekly, we had one reading and a short reflective question to be answered on Google Classroom. The questions asked by the professor were always helpful to acquire a deeper understanding of the readings and to prepare for class discussions, which would happen during and after her short presentation on the studied topic, when students were encouraged to ask questions and share their thoughts.

One of the first reflection questions we had to answer was about our personal interest in the field of peace education. Professor Edwards then prepared us for the second phase of the course by assigning two specific case studies related to each student’s interest. Later on, we had to make a short presentation for each case study and share with the class what we have learned.

In addition, we were required to write a final paper based on a chosen topic related to peace education. This paper was developed throughout the course: the first step was to present the topic. Secondly, develop the essay. Then, finally, include our learnings, conclusions and related peace theories. After every step, Professor Edwards gave consistent feedback, which was very helpful to achieve the best final paper we could write.

Personally, I feel like this course should be mandatory: I learned a lot from it and it was very interesting to see Professor Edwards’ interest-based approach, which demonstrated her strong knowledge of the field and kept us curious and committed. The classes were relaxed and fun, and the professor is really kind and approachable.

(Student writer: Ramos Da Silva Juliana Platero, Entering Class of 2020)