A Pause in Time
We start off the 2020 year with an array of courses emblematic of our diploma programs. It is worthwhile to note, however, that we are not so much commencing a new January term as continuing along with our monthly rotation of courses. At Schiller, courses last one month, meaning that students take but one course per month. This also means that their year is not scheduled in terms of Fall and Winter semesters. Rather, they pursue their studies scheduling, in general, a minimum of ten courses per year with a pause at any given point during the 12-month calendar year.
We rolled out this January the following courses: IR 221 Introduction to International Relations, EN 200 Cross-Cultural Communications, BA 437 Multinational Enterprise and, for our Masters in Diplomacy students, IR 571 Human Rights. Each of these courses present the subject-matter in its normal framework knowing that the reality of these themes entails grasping nuances. For students in the Introduction to International Relations, it is perhaps most worthwhile to remind students of the already-existing frameworks that have taken decades or centuries to build and conceptualize. This is not to say that past views take precedent, far from it. Rather, it is a useful reminder to students of the field to know that there have been many attempts to develop theoretical frameworks to understand the dynamics of an elusive phenomena such as international relations. The students’ own views and understandings are to be situated in a domain that has long preceded them and to which they may aspire to contribute.
The same may be said for Cross-Cultural Communication concerning the conceptual tools devised to teach the subject-matter and prepare students. Much of this course is a matter of practice and it is one of the hallmark courses of our program where theory and practice combine in such a way as to make the Schiller learning so special. Indeed, in a typical class for EN 200, we may expect there to be students from several different nationalities and from different continents as is the case in January. Students learn in real time not only the conceptual baggage of cross-cultural communication but they acquire practical knowledge and a deep sensitivity to the topic thanks to the broad diversity of the class’s composition. Such practical knowledge, when brought to the workplace is of great value. The upper-level business course Multinational Enterprise takes the full measure of such issues, and not just, in its comprehensive survey of the activities of MNEs. As mentioned previously, the courses present the normal framework by which these phenomena are to be understood – in this instance MNEs – knowing full well that often what takes place in practice is of a different order. Perhaps here again, the different perspectives that our students bring to the table add to the learning process and the variety of case studies that may analyzed in class.
A certain rapport between theory and practice is certainly evident with the course Human Rights, one may say that that is to be expected. There is a historical framework not just of norms but also of schools of thought that have long dealt with the matter of human rights. Of particular importance, naturally, is how they exist within the current international system making their relationship to diplomacy thus all the more pertinent.
In capping off our month of January, we wanted to provide our students a moment of study and reflection on diplomacy from those versed in the practice of diplomacy itself. It was with great pleasure to have the Ambassador of Malta to France and the Francophonie, Mr.Carmelo Inguanez, give a presentation on Maltese diplomacy and the overall relationship to diplomacy in the Mediterranean region. His talked was paired with that of our very own professor Costas Miltiades, former Ambassador of Cyprus to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) of the EU. This conference was also a moment for students to begin reflecting on their eventual research projects. Among its several purposes, such an academic conference help students hone in and focus on one given area of study, in this case, Mediterranean diplomacy and exchange with two eminent experts in the field. Such moments are key to help them block out all the rest of what may be going on in the world outside be it the coronavirus outbreak, to the political debates in France or the imminent exit of the UK from the EU. Students certainly do not lack for examples to distract them from their research projects.
Perhaps it is all the more appropriate that the conference attendees enacted, as in a Greek symposium, that pause in time when after a pleasant brunch, they could take a moment to sit and discuss politics in the Mediterranean. We’re looking forward to see how these discussions shape and influence their future thesis projects!