In our College, the impetus behind creating our new School of Politics and International Affairs (SPIA) was to recognize the importance of our political environment at home and abroad.
The scholarship, teaching, and service activities embraced by colleagues in SPIA allow students to better understand politics in the United States and a comparative context. Our long-standing commitment to global affairs as a curriculum and a disciplinary imperative has been a hallmark of our academic programs. Several Global Studies graduates lead meaningful careers in international organizations and agencies.
The next step for the School may soon lead to other degrees in international affairs. The degrees and attention to international affairs, even here in Springfield, could not come at a better time. And our Global Studies bachelor’s degree will soon launch online nationwide and be one of the few degrees of its kind offered entirely online.
In many respects, this Public Affairs Minute is a call to students in college (here at UIS or elsewhere), those thinking about college, those perhaps who haven’t completed college, or those who care about what happens on the other side of the globe because it directly impacts them and their futures. The call is to enroll in our Global Studies Program!
Like it or not, our world gets smaller every day. As it does, understanding our neighbors’ politics, government, economy, and social and cultural structure becomes relevant in how we interact with nations near and far. If we can better understand global relations through courses, study, research and programming, maybe we can avoid what is happening in Ukraine today.
Russia has invaded Ukraine and is threatening the sovereignty and independence of the country. The war in Europe has only just started, and where and how it will end is uncertain. A possible World War III risk may even hang in the balance. The explanation about how and why this Russian aggression has happened involves an understanding of several fields but is best captured by education in Global Studies. This essay doesn’t have time to explore that history, political and diplomatic dynamics, and other factors. Indeed, that’s why you should study global affairs.
A better understanding of our world and the interrelationships gained could improve your focus and view of the realities and context surrounding the events in the Ukraine. Russia invaded a sovereign nation based on false or misleading information. The falsehoods exaggerating or misinforming about notions of Ukraine always being part of Russia are equally being manipulated. Erroneous reports on retaliation against ethnic Russians in the invaded areas are inaccurate. Of course, Russia has some vested interest as Ukraine was poised to join NATO, and ethnic Russian interests in the Eastern regions of Ukraine were also legitimate concerns. A degree in Global Studies from UIS would allow you to separate facts from fiction.
But more importantly, a grounding in global affairs not only allows U.S. citizens the ability to discern the truth, but to better understand diplomacy, the imperative and complexity of world peace, and perhaps even offer a refresher on the importance of democracy at home. Alarmingly, several politicians, prominent elected officials, media celebrities and other constituencies have sided with the Russians on their incursion into the Ukraine. Their support has primarily been based on misleading information, political agendas, fear or even adoration of a totalitarian nation, ignorance, or maybe a lack of commitment to freedom. Before citizens jump on that bandwagon, some grounding in global affairs would help separate fact from fiction and provide a better understanding that balancing democracy in a fractured world political environment is no easy task.
My point here is not to selectively criticize certain observers of the Ukraine crisis, deflect some of the actual diplomatic controversies between Ukraine (and the U.S.) and Russia, or dispute popular or other news coverage to minimize any world threat to democracy. Instead, my observation is that knowledge is power (and truth) in our fractious world. One fundamental way to achieve that is to study global and international affairs. Career connections equally flow from degrees like this. But more importantly, a degree in Global Studies from UIS empowers you to understand our global setting and the role the U.S. plays in the world. It would also help us know what is going on in Ukraine, why the stakes are so high and why it matters.
For more information on the online Global Studies degree, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert W. Smith, PhD, is a full professor in the Department of Public Administration and currently serves as the Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration. He holds a PhD and an MPA in Public Administration from the University at Albany (SUNY) and a BA in History/Political Science from the College of Saint Rose.