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International Relations Minor Brings the Classroom to the World

A minor long requested by students is now officially part of Buffalo State’s academic curriculum. The international relations minor, housed in the Political Science Department, focuses on the interactions and interconnectedness of nation-states and has applications for a variety of careers.

The 18-credit-hour minor comprises three required courses—International Relations, American Foreign Policy, and World Regional Geography—and three electives chosen from international relations and comparative politics tracks.

The minor includes the World Regional Geography class, taken through the Geography and Planning Department, to help students understand political, cultural, and economic geography, according to Laurie Buonanno, chair and professor of political science. She hopes the minor will serve as the basis for an eventual bachelor’s degree program that would include a track focusing on sustainable development, which would be unique among SUNY programs focused on international relations.

With the sustainable development focus, students would learn how to work with agencies to create long-term economic and political infrastructures, such as bridges and freshwater systems, supported by effective governance in developing countries.

“Besides diplomacy and conflict resolution, much of international relations is focused on building good governance, which is increasingly connected to the notion of sustainable development,” Buonanno said. “With sustainable development, students can focus on creating systems that are politically feasible, sustainable, and environmentally friendly, yet also intuitive enough to allow people to maintain them on their own.”

Buonanno said that since she joined Buffalo State in 2006, students have regularly asked her if the college planned to offer a minor in international relations. Although it is housed in Political Science, she said, the new minor can complement many majors and has far-reaching practical applications.

“If, for example, you are an evolutionary biologist and need to do fieldwork in Ecuador, you’ll need to know the larger dimensions of working in that country,” Buonanno said. “The minor can help you learn to write grants, work with nongovernmental and international organizations, understand the United Nations Law of the Sea, and gain knowledge in the areas of world trade and protectionism.”

Kyeonghi Baek, assistant professor of political science, is coordinating the minor. She will continue to identify and develop classes to enrich the academic experience. This summer, she plans to develop two courses in international conflict and international cooperation, focusing on conventional and civil wars and well as terrorism and counter-terrorism.

Buonanno said the minor draws on “deep” faculty experience, fits with existing student programs such as Model United Nations and SUNY Model European Union, and will be a great counterpart to Buffalo State’s foreign-language and study-abroad programs.

She also believes it will provide students with valuable career development skills. Buonanno said many businesses, such as banks and manufacturers, need to interact with governmental officials in a variety of countries.

“The international relations minor helps people know the ‘world system’—which is especially helpful in this day of instant communications,” she said. “You have to know other points of view to know our own impact in the world.”

Baek agrees. “International relations is everywhere in our lives,” she said. “It’s important to understand what’s happening around you.”