How one Global Studies’ MA uses his degree in his diplomatic career

Elnor Gasanov came to Brandeis’ Global Studies MA program on a Fulbright scholarship from Norway.  In 2012 he wrote a Master’s thesis on human rights and Norway’s global oil industry.  He is now a Norwegian diplomat to Israel.  Here’s how he’s used his degree.
“AfterGasanovTV finishing my MA program, I went back to Norway…after an extensive application process with seven rounds of interviews and tests, I was admitted to the Norwegian Foreign Service in the summer 2013. My first two years, before coming to Tel Aviv in the summer 2015, I worked at the Section for Multilateral Development Finance and Global Economy and then in the Communication Unit.
“My MA program and experience at Brandeis was an important contribution to my overall understanding of global issues and international relations, and  therefore undoubtedly made me a more interesting and relevant candidate. My thesis’ comparison of Norwegian national distinctiveness with other countries’ approaches was also helpful, I think, as it showed my ability to present the Norwegian perspective in an international context. After all, this is partly what diplomats do.”
“I did not talk much about my thesis while interviewing, but I mentioned how the Global Studies program has helped me to better understand the importance of the human, anthropological and cultural aspects of international relations. It is a little too early to say if my degree has helped me in my current post, but some of my responsibilities include trade, economy and commerce, which in the Norwegian case often include the oil sector and oil policy. Having dealt with that during my studies makes me more confident now.”

Want to learn more about the program?  Read about it here.  Applications for 2016-2017 will be reviewed on a rolling basis beginning in mid-January.

Four new IGS classes with limited enrollment: don’t miss these!

IGS has about 44 classes cross-listed this semester, but a few are completely new and have limited seats. Don’t let these fill up before you get a spot!

This year we’re offering the first ever Comp Lit/IGS collaboration, a literary voyage across the Mediterranean. COML/IGS 125B: The “Sea-Between-Lands,” looks at the cultures along the sea’s shores and all interplay, back and forth, between Europe, the Middle East and Africa. You’ll study literature and film from the Francophone world (in translation) including some classics but also plenty of the sharpest writers from Greece, Lebanon, Morocco and, of course, France’s south coast.

Pardon my bias toward the humanities, but this is a great way to get a sense of a place — and what a place to understand! The “sea of monotheisms,” the waters that people have been navigating from Homer to today’s Syrian refugees.  And what a professor!  If you’ve met Clementine Faure-Bellaiche, you probably already have a sense how warm and bright she is.  But you might not yet have seen just how incredibly knowledgeable and interesting she is too.  She’s a graduate of the very top of the French academic world and is just amazing to talk to.  If I could take one IGS class this spring, this would be it.

COML/IGS 125B meets in Block K: M,W 2:00 PM–3:20 PM.  There are only 18 slots, so sign up quick if you’re interested!

The Mediterranean always interests me simply because for some societies, its shores were the whole world. But of course today the international is truly global, which makes this pairing of new courses especially relevant.

On the one hand you have POL 163A: Creating World Order, to be taught by Politics professor Kerry Chase. This is a course that takes you right into the minds of the people who built the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank — all born from the wreckage of World War II and created in search of a safer, more prosperous and just world. In a time when those institutions are often called outdated or even destructive, it’s worth seeing how they were built in the first place.

POL 163A: Creating World Order meets in block S2: T 2:00 PM–4:50 PM. Again, it’s limited — just 20 seats — so if you’re interested, get it quick!

At the other end of that you’ve got my own class, SOC 146B Nationalism and Globalization, which is a look at how that global order might now be coming apart. I have been struck that, while we live in a global age, nationalism also seems to be resurgent — from Russia to China, India to Europe and yes, even here, with Donald Trump.

Is there something about globalization that sparks nationalism? Are these opposites, or two sides of the same coin?  We’ll also look at these cases but also places with other identities, whether the “post-national” European Union or cosmopolitan Hong Kong.

This class is for juniors, seniors and grad students and only has 15 seats! It meets in Block H: T,F 11:00 AM–12:20 PM.

Finally, we’re opening up GS 202B, Critical Global Issues, to a few select seniors this fall.  This is a rare chance to take a graduate class, taught by Dr. Kristen Lucken, the director of our MA program, that offers hands-on training in how to build and evaluate an NGO, how professionals are handling the migration crisis — you’ll have exposure to real methods and real people from the field.  We don’t usually let this class get bigger than 10, so add it quickly if you want it.  GS 202B meets in BlockS3: W 2:00 PM–4:50 PM.

If you have other suggestions, please add them in the comments below.  And happy hunting!

What classes should you take this fall?

As enrollment for the fall semester opens up again, you may well be scrolling up and down through the Registrar’s list of IGS classes like it was a Buzzfeed listicle. Fear not: your UDRs and I have put together a list of recommended classes in each elective category. UDR comments are in italics: course descriptions are in quotations.
Needless to say, all IGS classes are wonderful and enlightening, but here are a few top choices. Enjoy!

 In Global Governance, Conflict, and Responsibility

POL 164A: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East
Shai Feldman
M 2:00 PM–4:50 PM

“Provides students with historical and analytic mastery of the Arab- Israeli conflict in a novel way. Through immersion in three competing narratives – Israeli, Palestinan, and pan-Arab – students will gain proficiency in the history of the conflict as well as analytic leverage on the possibility of its resolution. The course is organized as a seminar and is premised on active student participation.”

POL 134b Immigration, State, and Nation
Jytte Klausen
Mon-Wed. 2 to 3:20

“This course examines patterns of global migration and immigration policy in Europe and the US. Immigration poses a dilemma for Western democracies. Anti-immigrant sentiments are rising but immigrants are, at the same time, regarded as needed for their skills and willingness to take jobs not wanted by others. Anti-immigrant backlash fuels the electoral success of far-right parties, yet employer interests and human rights norms limit what governments can do to control immigration, both legal and illegal.”

“Students will become familiar with the facts of migration, the core concepts and theories informing scholarly debates and disagreements, and the conflicting views and interests of policy-makers, migrants, and communities affected by immigration.”

“for students who are interested in the intersection of politics and Islam.”

In Culture, Media, and the Arts:

SAS 100A — India and Pakistan: Understanding South Asia
Prof. Harleen Singh
T,F 11:00 AM–12:20 PM

“An exploration of the history, societies, cultures, religions, and literature of South Asia–India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Uses perspectives from history, anthropology, literature, and film to examine past and contemporary life in South Asia.”

“A great introduction to one of the world’s most interesting regions, one that’s more and more important economically and politically. And Prof. Singh is amazing.”

NEW COURSE! LALS 170A — Sports, Games, and Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean
Dr. Laura Brown
M,W,Th 1:00 PM–1:50 PM

“Sports are one of Latin America’s biggest exports and imports. This course, engaging with cultural studies theory and interdisciplinary readings, examines the politics and social forces behind sports such as soccer, cricket, baseball, wrestling, and bullfighting.”

In Economics, Health, and the Environment:

ECON 122b: Economics of the Middle East
Nader Habibi
T,Th 3:30 PM–4:50 PM

“Examines the Middle East economies – past experiences, present situation, and future challenges – drawing on theories, policy formulations and empirical studies of economic growth, trade, poverty, income distribution, labor markets, finance and banking, government reforms, globalization, and Arab-Israeli political economy.”

“for students who are interested in the relationship between economics and international relations.”

HS 110A — Wealth and Poverty
Thomas Shapiro
T,F 12:30 PM–1:50 PM

“Examines why the gap between richer and poorer citizens appears to be widening in the United States and elsewhere, what could be done to reverse this trend, and how the widening disparity affects major issues of public policy.”

 “I would recommend it to the students who are Business and IGS double major/minor.”

What classes should you take this spring? The UDRs recommend…

Governance, Conflict, Responsibility Course Recommendations:

1. French 111A –The Republic

Prerequisite: FREN 106b or the equivalent, or permission of the instructor.  The “Republic” analyzes how the republican ideal of the citizen devoid of religious, ethnic, or gender identity has fared in different Francophone political milieux. Course involves understanding how political institutions such as constitutions, parliaments, and court systems interact with reality of modern societies in which religious, ethnic, and gender identities play important roles.

This course has an overall rating of 4.5 on the course evaluations page. This course would be a good fit for students who want to study both French and IGS. It will fulfill the university foreign language requirement, the IGS language requirement, and the writing intensive requirement.

2. HIST 177B — Modern Germany: Rise of a Global Power

Offers a systematic examination of modern Germany from 1815 to the present, with particular attention to Germany’s role in globalization. 

This course is taught by professor Gregory Freeze and has received a 4.85 out of 5.00 by students who have taken it last semester. It is a writing intensive class, but students have said that the workload and course is manageable and interesting.

3. HIST 61A — Cultures in Conflict since 1300

Explores the ways in which cultures and civilizations have collided since 1300, and the ways in which cultural differences account for major wars and conflicts in world history since then. Usually offered every year.

The course received an overall 4.21/5.00. Students thought that the “class lectures were interesting and clearly explained”. If you want to fulfill a writing intensive requirement on top of an IGS requirement, this course will push you to develop your critical thinking and writing skills.

Culture, Media, and the Arts:

1. CHIN 136B – Chinese Modernism in International Context 

Examines the origins, recurrences, and metamorphosis of modernistic styles and movements in twentieth-century Chinese literature, film, fine art, and intellectual discourses. Usually offered every second year.

This course is taught in English and has received a rating of 4.8/5 from students in the past. Students have said that they really enjoyed the readings and found them be interesting; Professor Wang is very passionate and engaging. It also fulfills the university nonwestern requirement.

2. FA 79A — Modernism Elsewhere

Explores major architectural developments from the late 19th to the 21st century outside the West. While focused on the territories between the India Subcontinent and North Africa, it examines Western colonial politics of center-periphery in creating architectural forms, discourses, and practices in the postcolonial world. Usually offered every third year.

This is a Fine Arts course that covers both the Creative Arts and nonwestern university requirements. Students have enjoyed the lectures, student presentations, and the final project. They gave this course a 4.68/5, and noted that Professor Grigor is a wonderful lecturer with engaging topics of discussion.

1. ANTH 121a – Crossing Cultural Boundaries- Prof. Parmentier

An examination of situations where individuals, either actually or imaginatively, willingly or unwillingly, cross over the boundaries separating their own culture and other cultural traditions. The understandings and misunderstandings that result from these encounters are examined in primary texts and images and in scholarly reconstructions. Transient experiences are compared with sites that develop over a long period of time (colonial settlements, plantations, frontiers). Potentials for reflexive self-understanding and meaningful dialogue are sought in fictional and nonfictional representations of boundary crossings.

Students gave this course a 4.5 out of 5 and said that his lectures are interesting and “conceptually challenging”. UDR Jessie Miller writes: “Even though I had never taken an anthropology class, I really enjoyed Crossing Cultural Boundaries because it taught me how different cultures interact and the importance of cross-cultural understanding. This is incredible relevant if you want to work internationally because you’ll work with people from different cultures. The course also made use of historical information, so it was a great alternative to a traditional history course.”

4. AMST 156b – Transatlantic Crossings

Examines how the United States has interacted with the rest of the world, especially Europe, as a promise, as a dream, as a cultural projection. Focuses less on the flow of people than on the flow of ideas, less on the instruments of foreign policy than on the institutions that have promoted visions of democracy, individual autonomy, power, and abundance.

Prof. Whitfield is known for his engaging, animated, and intellectual lectures and his classes usually attract a full crowd. He’s the type of professor who has an answer for every question you ask. Even if you aren’t majoring or minoring in American Studies, Whitfield’s classes are a great addition to your schedule and he loves teaching students. Received an overall rating of 4.62/5.00; students really enjoyed the course and thought lectures and readings were interesting and stimulating.

Japanese students and IGSers compare notes

Here’s a shot from the October 8th visit of about a dozen students from Chou University in Tokyo, Japan.  This pictures shows me two things: getting a crowd of students from different countries together is a lot of fun and, much to my surprise, a selfie stick is actually useful!


The students are this year’s members of the Takeishi seminar, a class that comes to Boston every year to speak — usually hilariously — about some aspect of Japanese life.  Every year IGS and the Japanese program collaborate to welcome the students, so do look out for this in years to come if you’re interested in Japan.







Why Are Right-Wing Parties Winning Votes Abroad?

By Juliette Martin and Chandler Rosenberger

The IGS Conversations series is back!

Last Tuesday, four students with recent experience abroad came together to discuss a common theme in the unique countries of their specialty: the rise of extreme right-wing nationalism.

The event featured Viktoria Bedo on Jobbik in Hungary, Nick Kodama on Abe’s Japan, Jill Martin on India’s Narenda Modi, and Michael Pizziferri on France’s National Front — four different nationalisms across greatly differing cultures.

Kodama, Martin, Pizziferri, and Bedo.
Kodama, Martin, Pizziferri, and Bedo.

In Hungary, Viktoria explained, the Jobbik party has crafted a language of victimization that revises history in a way that is appealing to Hungarians, often to the detriment of other groups within the country, including Jews and Romanies. They also reject the EU, blaming the West, whom Hungary has often felt excluded from, for modern woes.

Michael, it turned out, had seen something similar during his semester in France.  There the National Front glorifies French-ness by speaking to a history of victimization (in this case, France’s lost colonial power and recent economic woes) and by blaming and excluding minority groups. The Front is also deeply anti-EU, though,ironically, the party now holds a great deal of France’s seats in the EU parliament.

Nationalism in Asia seemed more mainstream and less disgrunted.  Returning from Japan, Nick described the social issues that had brought Shinzo Abe to power.  Japan, Nick noted, is nervous: it faces an aging population, falling birthrates, and the decline of an electronics industry that had earned Japan’s wealth after World War II.

In Japan, Nick noted, nationalism was not rising: it had never really left. But Japan’s nationalist movements, Nick stressed, are mostly reserved and pragmatic — a far cry from the extremism of the movements in Hungary and France.

Finally, Jill Martin spoke on Prime Minister Modi in India, who is supported—like the Jobbik party—primarily by the youth. In this case, the National Congress Party took a stand against the rampant corruption in India for their rise. They also promise to create jobs for regions suffering from high unemployment.

Jill recalled one young Indian man who voted for Modi, and, when asked why he supported him given Modi’s now well-publicized miss-handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots. His answer was that Modi promised a better future.

Despite her friend’s optimism, Jill worried about the overt Hindu character of Modi’s political party, the BJP.  India, she noted is a deeply religious country of many faiths that has thrived under secular governments.  The BJP, Jill worried, might upset India’s delicate balance between belief and tolerance.

Conversation then turned to the many forms nationalism can take, especially the striking difference between optimistic patriotism and darker visions.

Thanks to Viki, Michael, Nick, and Jill — and the audience — for a great conversation! And look forward to seeing you all for more as the year unfolds.

And the winners are…everyone who came and heard Rohan?

Tuesday’s “Meet the Majors/Welcome Back, Seniors” was a lot of fun: great to have the Class of 2015 back on campus, telling stories and sharing tips on getting the most out of IGS. And how great to see so many first-years and sophomores interested in the major!

IGS3My thanks to everyone who spoke, but especially to Rohan Narayanan for his spoken-word poem about his time in Ghana: what a gripping, frenetic trip down memory lane…or maybe memory highway?

Speaking of recording one’s time abroad…we have some winners for the photo and blog competitions! The UDRs picked the best pics.  They were:

Ally Eller’s powerful shot at the gates of Auschwitz:

eller5As Ally writes:

“As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, this generation needs to be able to tell their stories, and part of that is facing the horror they went through. To me, this picture shows that, though 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, we aren’t gone, we’re thriving, and remembering this piece of our history so nothing so horrible happens again.”

If you want to read more about Ally’s trip, check out her blog post: this entry also made her a co-winner of the blogging prize for the night!

And it turns out that Rohan’s a talented photographer as well as poet: here’s one of his shots from Ghana.  As Rohan writes:

“The picture was taken right by Cape Coast Castle in the Central Region. The castle, which was used a slavers castle, is a historical site. This is a fishing village right outside the Castle. I remember being somewhat shocked by all the husrn10smalltle and bustle. It was early morning and I hadn’t yet grown accustomed to all the bargaining and commotion involved with Ghanaian trading and public life. I was so drawn in by all the colors and the incredible diversity of age and focus of each person.”

Our last winner was Joe Crook’s gorgeous shot of a beach in Vietnam.  As Joe writes:

“This picture was shot on Cham Island (Cu Lao Cham), which is located off the coast of Hoi An in central Vietnam. The small bowl-like objects scattered about are actually a style of traditional Vietnamese fishing boats known as Thung Chai. Local fishermen usecrook5small them to transfer between larger boats and land, carry supplies, and to cast and catch fishing nets…If you look closely, you can see none of them are tied up or locked down, which speaks to the Vietnamese sense of trust and community.”

Finally, the other co-winner in the blogging category was Mia Katan, currently abroad in Uganda on an SIT program in conflict resolution.  Mia’s been traveling around the region and filing sharply observed posts wherever she goes.

Looking forward to seeing more of you all as the year unfolds!

Top Five Tips for Finding a Job…from IGS alums who did!

by Juliette Martin

Last Thursday (September 18th) the IGS department hosted an alumni panel, bringing in three successful IGS grads to talk about their experiences navigating the job market and applying the skills learned in the IGS major to their jobs. The panelists (Yuli Almozlino, Nafiz Ahmed, and Scott Evans) each brought a unique perspective and shared some fantastic advice, including these top five tips:

5) Be interested and interesting: Actually be interested in the companies you apply to! Do your research in advanced and get curious about what they do and how your particular skills could be put towards their goals. Use your research think in advanced about how you’re going to present yourself so as to interest a particular employer, tailoring the way you talk about your experiences appropriately.

4) Remember, your classes count for something: You’ve learned more from your classes than just what you were tested on. Think of a small class like a project team, and your professor as your boss—that will help prepare you for the kind of teamwork that many jobs will require.

3) Don’t make an exception of yourself: In college, an extension is usually just an email away. However, when you’re working with bosses and clients, those deadlines are harder. Plan your time appropriately and deliver on your commitments in order to be a valuable employee.

2) Interviewers won’t remember facts, they’ll remember stories: After the fact, an interviewer may not actually remember much about you—but if you tell interesting stories, they might remember those. Instead of just presenting your achievements, actually talk about them. Tell a wild story about something you saw while abroad that taught you a valuable lesson, or something you did with a club that establishes your leadership ability.

1) And finally, use what IGS has taught you: The ability think analytical and critically, and to approach problem from many perspectives. The IGS major is extremely interdisciplinary, which gives IGS graduate students something other majors may not have. An IGS grad may have taken class in politics, anthropology, economics, sociology, and particular regional studies, granting the ability to look at a problem from many perspectives and present well-round solutions.

Plus, bonus tip: All of this goes hand in hand with networking! Your resume has a better chance of actually getting looked at if somebody already in the company hands it over to HR on your behalf.

Sino-Serendipity, or the Adventures in China of an IGS alum

Jake Labandby Jake Laband

Editor’s Note: Jake Laband was one of the most accomplished members of the IGS Class of 2012: cofounder of the journal Wander, fluent in Chinese, author of the one of the year’s finest honors theses, and a fine violinist to boot.  Here’s a recent account of how he surfed from job to job in Beijing after graduating — from scavenger hunts to bike tours to billion-dollar international trade — and how he’s ended up with a great fit. 

I hope job-seekers in the Class of 2014 get some inspiration from Jake’s tales…

I remember at the 2012 IGS commencement ceremony, Prof. Rosenberger said something along the lines of “you guys have no idea where this degree, or life, will take you.” I’d say that’s held true so far.

After graduation in May, I headed home without a job offer in hand. Eventually I decided to take the leap and bought a one-way ticket to Beijing. Having spent time there during my time at Brandeis, I figured I knew enough people that I could find some way to pay rent.

After a number of job interviews ranging from promising to skeezy to downright weird, I settled on a small cultural exchange center called The Hutong.  I’ve been able to witness and participate in some incredibly interesting entrepreneurial adventures. When I joined The Hutong, we had only 8 full time employees (including myself). In the past year and a half, we’ve grown to over 30 full time employees, along with a solid group of freelancers and other groupies who help out with projects.

My job has been developing experiential travel programs for international schools and multinational companies based in Asia. The company runs a variety of culinary events, as well as scavenger hunts that take participants to different neighborhoods in Beijing. It’s been great to grow the business, and I managed a small team of up to ten people to plan and execute these events.

The largest department of the company, however, is our Educational department, which runs experiential curricula around China for a number of International Schools based in Asia. During the third and fourth quarters of this year, we took over 1,400 students to nearly a dozen locations around China. I was lucky enough to return to Xishuangbanna (the area in southwestern China where most of my thesis research was based) and lead a series of bicycle trips throughout small villages and tea mountains. Riding bikes, I’ve found, is the perfect way to see and get to understand an area of the world. Speaking the language helps, too.

I’ve also become fairly involved with the expat Jewish community here in Beijing, and do a fair bit of community organization and event planning for them. Not only does it help pay the rent, but it’s also a great opportunity to meet diplomats and businesspeople working on fascinating projects across Asia.

The jobs I’ve taken over the past couple years have been completely unlike anything I imagined I’d be doing when I was a senior at Brandeis, though I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the acumen I have for entrepreneurialism.

Recently, however, I’ve transitioned into something more like what I imagined I would be doing after graduation. I’ve begun a position at US-China Business Council, a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that provides advisory and advocacy services for its roughly 220 American companies that do business with China. I’m charged mainly with conducting policy research and analysis of Chinese government regulations that affect US Business interests in China, as well as organizing roundtable events with business executives and government officials. Even though I’m just starting out, I’ve already met with officials from both the Chinese and American government, as well as executives from some of the world’s largest companies.

I’m still learning, of course, but I’d say Brandeis, and IGS, prepared me well. The research I did while abroad, my thesis projects, my ability to combine a wide range of resources, and any other number of skills I’d say are in part attributable to classes I took at Brandeis, and landed me a job that I feel would usually go to someone with a grad-school degree and much much more professional experience. I’m not the only one, either. There are a number of Brandeis grads here in Beijing, China, and greater Asia who are doing amazing things right out of undergraduate.

Immigration, Jobs, and Welfare: How Do The U.S. and Europe differ?

Should wealthy countries give recent immigrants welfare or jobs?

Europe and the United States have long had almost exactly opposing policies on work and welfare for immigrants.  The United States has let immigrants work but tried to deny them welfare benefits; IngressbildeEuropeans, on the other hand, have distributed benefits but kept jobs for their native populations.

Even within Europe, Scandinavian countries have been unusually generous with benefits.  But is this model now under strain?  Have Europe’s generous benefits led to a backlash against immigration, even to mass attacks of neo-Nazis such as the 2011 killings in Norway?

In its last cosponsored event of the spring semester, IGS welcomes the perfect person to discuss these issues: Grete Brochmann, chair of the Department of Sociology and Human Geography at the University of Oslo and former chair of the Norwegian Welfare and Migration Committee.

“Immigration and Integration in the Nordic Countries”
A talk by Grete Brochmann
Friday, April 25
2 pm
Mandel Center Reading Room (3rd floor)