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New International Relations Club creates space for discussion, new perspectives

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In a Kohlberg classroom on Sunday, April 29th, the new international relations club had its second official meeting. A discussion that started with the Yemeni Civil War flowed into topics including current events, globalization, and citizenship. Heewon Park ’21, founder of the club, and the members hope to create a space for people who are interested in international relations to discuss with each other as well as an opportunity for people to learn more about what is going on in the world.

Park developed an interest for international relations after taking “International Politics” with associate professor of political science Dominic Tierney her first semester at the college. She also noted that since it is easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day life on campus, she wanted to create a space for people to discuss affairs around the world including places that fall out of the mainstream news cycle.

“You just get caught up with what’s happening here on campus, or here in America, and then you lose sight of the fact that the world is such a huge place,” Park said. “I.R. tries to address things that are happening in other parts of the world that usually aren’t as acknowledged.”

Sam Jacobson ’21 feels that the club opens up another avenue for him to pursue his interest in international relations.

“I read a decent amount about what’s going on in the world and have really enjoyed doing readings for my international politics class,” Jacobson said. “But before the club, the only way that I’ve interacted with international relations was mainly just academic and reading in my free time.”

Park stated that she wanted to create the international relations club to allow for people who are interested in international relations like Jacobson to have more discussions with people who also share that interest.

“I feel like there’s so many people interested in international relations, but there’s no platform for people to express those views or talk about it,” Park said. “I feel like [the college] is very fertile grounds for discussions but we didn’t have a structure in place to allow for it.”

However, the goals of the club are not limited to attracting a crowd of political science majors. Park is interested in increasing the club’s attendance from people with varying levels of knowledge.

According to Zackary Lash ’19, an honors peace and conflict studies major, the club fills in a gap for both people who want to learn more and people who want to engage in conversation. Lash expressed that the club is a really useful space especially for people who might not have the ability to take international politics classes, which are typically some of the most popular classes in the political science department.

“I was lotteried out of International Politics twice, so I couldn’t really access any other I.R. courses,” Lash said. “I think [the club is] filling in a gap in two ways. Since there is no department, the club is trying to fill the academic side of it where people want to learn more about international relations, but it’s also filling in that social aspect where people want to talk about it and engage in it in non-academic ways.”

According to Jacobson, this space allows for people with many different backgrounds and perspectives to share ideas and broaden views on issues around the world.

“I want it to be open-minded and for people to take away from the club, however they interact with it, a broad viewpoint of varying topics, to understand multiple viewpoints, and become more open to different views,” Jacobson said. “I think that clubs and people here tend to have a single-minded view of things, which is fine, but I think it’d be cool to have this club be an avenue to discuss different viewpoints.”

Park also hopes for the club to be a way to invite a diversity of opinions. One of her aims in creating the club was not only to expand the topics of conversation around campus but also to introduce a space to allow for a greater variety of perspectives.

“I think the bigger goal I have is to broaden Swarthmore’s dialogue of what we talk about every day and integrate discussions about the world instead of just America,” Park said. “I want to provide a space for people who are interested in going into international relations or just want to learn more. More importantly, I want to make a space that allows for a whole range of levels of knowledge as well as a whole range of ideological perspectives that will help foster really good conversation and be a welcoming enough environment where people can speak about their beliefs about issues without feeling like they’re going to be attacked.”

Lash expressed that he was interested in the club because it was presented as a space for people with different academic niches to gather and collaboratively learn as Park intended for the club.

“When I first heard about it, I thought it would not only be a cool space to learn about different things going on in the world, but also a place to get different perspectives, because everyone has different knowledge spaces,” Lash said.

In addition to hosting weekly meetings, campus-wide discussions and events, and inviting guest speakers, the club is also planning on launching a website to make learning about international issues more accessible to students.

“The site is supposed to serve as an online hub of really accessible news,” Park said. “My idea for it was creating a space where students could write pieces about what they think about an issue or a crisis going on and present an easy way for other people to access that.”

Jacobson stated that he is excited about the website and the ability to both publish and have access to different students’ works.
“A lot of social science and humanities classes are given essay prompts that can be taken a lot of different directions, and it would be cool to have people share what they’ve written about, because there’s a wide variety of things to read and learn about,” Jacobson said. “I think it would also be very cool to give students the opportunity to have something that they’ve written to be published somewhere.”

While the website of students’ work is set to be launched next semester, the Swarthmore International Relations Club will continue their weekly meetings on Sundays at 3 p.m. and have their first club event, a student-led discussion on the Syrian War, on Friday, May 4th at 6 p.m. in Trotter 203.

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