Paige Pepitone ’19
The most pressing issues facing the world today are incredibly nuanced, and I was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of international relations because it equips you with the theory necessary to think through potential solutions. I also really value the global perspective international relations encourages its students to take, and am very excited about the direction the program is moving as it increasingly places its emphasis on research methods and anthropology courses so we can acknowledge the different power dynamics and privileges that are embedded in studying international relations in a U.S. institution.
I love the community of the international relations program: my cohort is so incredibly supportive and we've made great memories struggling through the major requirement courses together. The professors are also extremely passionate about the material, doing brilliant research, and dedicated to their students, and I want to give them credit for inspiring a love for the program in me.
This summer, I'm conducting research in Barcelona, Spain, for my thesis on how community organizations facilitate the social integration of migrants, specifically looking at what services these entities provide to meet the needs of Muslim female migrants who have recently arrived in Barcelona. I've really enjoyed engaging with these organizations and speaking to people about their experiences. My IR theory has also played a critical role in informing how I think about immigration issues and steps that can be taken within communities to support migrants as they transition to living in a new country.
Nina Zhou ’19
I truly believe that the IR program at Pomona is the epitome of a liberal arts experience. The major is designed to push students to learn and think from different perspectives—politics, history, economics, anthropology—and broaden their view of the world by studying abroad or learning another language. The professors are genuinely nice and interested in mentoring students both inside and outside of the classroom. But what’s most amazing about the IR program is its cohort of scholars. I am constantly amazed by my peers who hail from all parts of the world, their academic brilliance and dedication to challenging convention and exploring uncharted waters.
As a “third culture” kid who grew up in Canada, China and the United States, international relations felt like a natural choice. Coming to Pomona, I was interested in East Asian history and politics, intercultural exchange, and the relationship between the East and the West. I wanted to learn Japanese and study abroad in Tokyo. IR allowed me to pursue all of these interests, and its interdisciplinary focus meant that I could synthesize what I learn from each discipline together. The intro class I took with Professor Tom Le my freshman spring—an absolutely intellectually stimulating journey—sealed the deal. I have found great mentors and close friends in the IR program. My professors consistently work to introduce a variety of perspectives and scholarship in classes, and encourage students to explain and defend their opinions. Because of IR, I’ve had to rethink some of my most fundamental assumptions of society, countries, and our world, and it has made me much more confident in my beliefs today. The IR program has helped me become a well-rounded scholar, and I encourage all incoming students to consider majoring in IR!
Niles Brooks ’20
I am very passionate about politics. The language and study abroad requirement along with the curriculum’s global focus added an extra incentive to challenge myself and choose this major. In a society that is becoming more interconnected than it has ever been, I found it important to be knowledgeable about the world and how it works.
The IR major offered at Pomona College is intense but I have learned over time to appreciate the challenge. The overarching nature of the major has prepared me well. I have become well-versed in subjects spanning outside the realm of international relations, being able to clearly articulate my opinion and trace it back to some theory or concept I’ve previously learned in one of my IR classes. The IR courses at Pomona have also made me more attentive to my place in society. On many occasions, I have caught myself subconsciously deconstructing the world in which I live in, always asking “why” and trying to make sense of what doesn’t.
The IR courses that I have taken at Pomona have given me the opportunity to make connections in fields that I once thought were completely unrelated. This summer, I will be working on research in Bahia, Brazil. Fusing public policy analysis, politics, sociology and psychology, I will be studying the inner-workings of the Steve Biko Institute, one of the world’s most successful organizations in combating education inequality. The goal of my project is to shed light on some of the factors that contribute to Afro-Brasileiros’ low performance rates in school. Having an adequate understanding of these factors would give me a better sense of finding solutions to the educational inequality that plagues Brazil. I am hoping that my findings will tie into a more general concept of Pan-Africanism, specifically focusing on the notion that Afros across the African diaspora share similar educational inequalities (inequalities in general) which can be remedied with the same or similar methods of action.
Rena May Childers ’20
Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I always imagined working in international affairs. This has manifested into a number of career ambitions, including being a senator, a lawyer, a representative to the U.N., an advocacy consultant, etc. After investigating possible paths to these careers, it became clear that international relations best suits all of these occupations. Meeting the wide variety of professors teaching courses within the major solidified my decision to pursue international affairs.
After taking classes in many different disciplines, including history, politics, anthropology, sociology and economics, I came to appreciate the incredible opportunity that the international relations major offers to students like myself with wide-ranging interests. A few professors made an especially large impact on my academic pursuits: Professor Heather Williams, Professor Tom Le and Professor Stephen Marks, in particular. The courses they taught were thoroughly engaging but did not fall into my former understanding of exciting academia. Following the competition of their courses, however, I was astounded by my own level of curiosity in the subjects. Professor Williams brought to light the political underpinnings of agronomy in her course entitled Global Politics of Food & Agriculture, Professor Le illustrated how exciting international theory can be in his International Relations Seminar, and Professor Marks instilled an interest in International Economic Relations that I never would have anticipated before taking his class.
Pang Boonbaichaiyapruck ’20
I have always wanted to figure out how the world works. Growing up in Bangkok, I had a keen interest in understanding political regimes and development — all within the Thai context. Moving to the U.S. and being exposed to the academic resources here at Pomona, I’ve come to realize the global forces that move those domestic issues in my own country — or any issue really. So, I wanted to learn more. How exactly do the political and economic forces intersect? Who are making these decisions and why?
Professor Mietek Boduszynski's United States Foreign Policy class and Professor Tom Le’s Introduction to International Relations course introduced me to theories and frameworks with the field. These jigsaw puzzles have been the anchor to which I academically and personally understand what is happening around me. The International Relations Program at Pomona is designed to be interdisciplinary and it gave me the flexibility to choose classes and a study abroad program that fit my particular interest. At the moment, I’m interested in international organizations, especially international financial institutions. In Professor Heidi Haddad’s International Relations Seminar, I learned more about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in comparison with the existing development banks. It has been one of my favorite projects so far.
Last summer, I worked in asset management in emerging markets (developing economies with a low to middle income per capita). My foundation in international organizations, international economics, and IR theories were extremely helpful. I was excited to see my IR concepts come to life.
Most importantly, my IR professors and the cohort of students are extremely kind and dedicated. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity and support. It has been one of my favorite parts of my Pomona experience and would encourage any prospective majors to inquire more!
Salamata Bah ’20
I stumbled onto the IR major at Pomona during the first semester of my sophomore year after I decided that Public Policy Analysis was not the best fit for me. At the time, since I knew so little about international relations, I decided to take Intro to International Relations with Professor Tom Le. This class was challenging yet insightful and fascinating. Most importantly, it introduced me to a whole new academic world that I had no idea existed before attending Pomona. Considering my passion for learning Korean, my immense interest in the East Asian region, as well as my multi-cultural background, I quickly discovered that IR would give me the key to unlock my full potential.
The International Relations Department represents the epitome of what the ideal liberal arts education should look like. The department is both interdisciplinary and flexible. Interdisciplinary in that you will receive a well-rounded and comprehensive education. Along with gaining exposure to the economic, historical, political and even anthropological side of IR, one also has the flexibility to explore other academic interests. As an IR major, I am able to double major in Asian studies, which allowed me to cover all of my academic interests. In addition to this, I had the wonderful opportunity to study Korean at the 5Cs and to continue this study in South Korea through semester abroad, as well as a summer in a prestigious language program.
The second reason that the department represents the epitome of what the ideal liberal arts education should look like is the faculty. Whether it be Prof. Le’s Introduction to International Relations class, Professor Mietek Boduszynski’s United States Foreign Policy class, or Professor Heidi Haddad’s International Relations Seminar class, as an IR major, I have been empowered by these professors. They pushed me to pursue my curiosities, ask difficult questions and discover my passions. Their brilliance and dedication to bring the best out of their students, inspires and instills a joy for learning in me.
Through Prof. Haddad’s International Relations Seminar, I had the freedom to work on an enlightening project. Through this project, I was able to explore how the South Korean government’s conception of reunification towards North Korea has changed since President Kim Dae-Jung first initiated inter-Korean relations through the famous Sunshine Policy in 1998. This exploration of the concept of reunification in the context of the Korean Peninsula, was especially interesting considering the recent international discourses regarding the denuclearization of North Korea and the possibility for a peace treaty for the never-concluded Korean war. Having the independence to work on a project such as this not only exposed me to the expectations of thesis-work, but also enabled me to explore my curiosities about the topic. It made me excited to embark on the academic journey of working on a year-long thesis.
Lastly, I love being an IR major because of my peers! Since they have a variety of passions and interests within the IR discipline, I am able to learn immensely from them. Everyone is also extremely supportive and helpful to the point that it is heart-warming.
Sam Bither ’21
I came to Pomona with an interest in domestic politics and diplomacy, and how they work together to solve global issues. I knew that I wanted to major in a related field, but I was torn between majoring in PPE [philosophy, politics and economics], politics, or international relations. I eventually settled on IR because it perfectly blended my passion for the study of Arabic and my interests outside of the classroom.
The international relations major is definitely requirement-heavy, with its various electives, study abroad, and multiple semesters of foreign language. But this wide breadth in the curriculum has allowed me to focus both on topics I have enjoyed since coming to Pomona, like Arabic, and explore new areas I hadn’t previously thought would captivate me. Before taking Professor Stephen Marks’ International Economic Relations, I had only surface-level knowledge about international economics and how monetary systems function. But since taking his class, I’ve developed a new interest in the global economic policy, and I’m planning on conducting research during my semester abroad in Beirut into Middle Eastern monetary policy and how it has affected certain economies in the Middle East.
The international relations major, with its combination of foreign language, history, economics, and politics, take a truly interdisciplinary approach, which I believe is critical to fully understanding how our world became the way it is today. With insightful and engaging professors, and a curriculum that gives students a comprehensive background in a variety of subjects, the IR major at Pomona is an excellent choice for any prospective student who wants to participate in engaging classroom discussion and develop a well-rounded foundation in diplomacy, international economics, or another one of the many fields of international relations!