Todd Sechser / Politics

One of the unique features of International Relations as a discipline is that its source material is continuously changing. The landscape of world politics is constantly being reshaped by new conflicts and bargains among nations. Yet traditional university courses have difficulty keeping up with this rapid pace of change. Most international relations courses, including my own, emphasize broad theoretical frameworks and historical episodes at the expense of current foreign policy issues. Readings and discussion topics are planned weeks or months in advance, and rarely adapt to day-to-day world events.

This project aims to tackle this gap by establishing a Foreign Policy Dinner Series for a select group of outstanding undergraduate students. The series will involve eight to ten dinner conversations about various foreign policy issues that happen to dominate international headlines at the time. The aims of these meetings are twofold: first, to provide a structured environment for students to think critically about contemporary foreign policy issues that do not typically appear on course syllabi; and second, to help students build relationships that would not be possible in a traditional classroom setting.

Each dinner meeting will address a different foreign policy question, and one or two brief articles will be “assigned” as background reading prior to each dinner discussion. I will suggest discussion topics, but the students will have the final choice of topic for each meeting. As appropriate, I will invite additional faculty or visiting speakers if their area of expertise overlaps with the evening’s discussion topic.

Examples of potential discussion topics include:

  • Should the United States intervene in the Syrian civil war?
  • How can disease outbreaks like Ebola be prevented?
  • Is China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea a threat to the United States?
  • How should Islamic militancy in Iraq be addressed?
  • What is Russia’s next move in Ukraine?
  • What can be done to prevent the next war in Gaza?
  • Does the United States have too many nuclear weapons?

Dinner Series meetings will commence in the late fall or early spring semester, and will be held at a different local restaurant each time.

Costs: $300 per dinner meeting × 10 meetings = $3,000.