Skidmore College/Spring 2003

International Affairs 101/LS2

MW 6:30 - 7:50pm in Ladd 307

Christopher Whann, Ph.D.
Tel: (518) 580-5453   
Mary-Beth O'Brien, Ph.D
Tel: (518) 580-5216


Catalogue Description:
“An introductory, multidisciplinary course, taught by a coordinator(s) and guest professors. Students will be expected to (1) know the kinds of questions that the study of international affairs raises, (2) recognize the shortcomings of a single disciplinary approach and the virtues of an interdisciplinary approach to answering these questions, (3) understand concepts such as traditionalism vs. modernization, cultural diffusion, integration vs. disintegration, nationalism vs. globalism, (4) engage actively in classroom discussions, case studies, small group exercises, and other problem-solving activities, and (5) follow, research, analyze and interpret a current international issue in a way that demonstrates the understanding and application of these concepts.”

Course Objectives:
This is the introductory “core course” for the International Affairs Minor student. It introduces the fundamental questions and concepts necessary for the student to understand, analyze, and apply basic multidisciplinary solutions to the current international issues to be studied in the other elective IA courses. The course will provide a common experience for all International Affairs Minors and other interested students regardless of previous courses completed. Specific objectives are to:

  • Introduce International Affairs as a field of inquiry
  • Explore the relationships among the International Affairs disciplines
  • Examine key concepts that describe and explain international relationships and issues
  • Explore the diversity of perceptions of international issues across national and cultural borders
  • Engage in in-class global problem-solving activities and discussions
  • Serve as a basis for further study in international affairs

Required Textbooks:

  • John L. Allen, Student Atlas of World Politics, 5th ed. McGraw Hill, 2002.
  • Karen Mingst, Essentials of International Relations, 2n. ed. W.W.Norton, 2003.
  • Patrick O'Meara, et al, Globalization and the Challenges of a New Century, Indiana University Press, 2000.

Evaluation Methods:

  • 2 think pieces: 30% (15% each)
  • 3 quizzes 40% (first 2: 10% each; last: 20%)
  • Round tables and/or debates: 10%
  • Class participation (includes attending 3 public events): 10%
  • Homework (including Mapping exercises) 10%

Geographic "Mapping" Exercises:
During the term each student will be required to complete and submit four (4) international maps representing the major areas of the world (Asia & Australia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas). Blank maps will be provided. Each student will identify each country and its capital (properly located within the country). Any map that is not acceptable (incomplete, inaccurate, or not legible) will be given a zero grade. Each quiz will include a mapping exercise. Please bring your STUDENT ATLAS OF WORLD POLITICS to every class.

Classroom Participation

Your final grade may be adjusted up or down based on your participation. Leaning, for all of us, is not a solitary endeavor. Therefore, active participation in classroom discussions is important. This implies two things: regular class attendance and adequate preparation. You are expected to be in class on time and to have read and studied the material assigned for the scheduled class session. Late arrivals not only disrupt the flow of important class activities but also suggest a lack of respect for other students and the learning process. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of the hour and any late-comers will receive zero credit for attendance. Another frequent disruption of a class consists of students getting up to "go to the bathroom." Although uncontrollable hygienic events do occur, please make sure to limit them to a minimum. Also, turn off cell phones before entering class.

In addition to classes, students are to attend 3 lectures by guest speakers invited by the college during the semester. After each lecture of his/her choice, the students must WRITE a summary of two pages consisting of : page 1) cogent description of the main points made by the lecturer; page 2) well-argued statement of the student's main points.

The Role of Seniors in IA 101

Seniors play an important role in IA 101. Many seniors are IA minors and have studied or worked abroad. Due to their broader academic experience, they will function as point persons for fellow underclassmen and women. Seniors are expected to meet with the faculty within the first week of classes to outline their duties and map out their own plan for senior-level participation in this course.

Homework and Written Assignments

Late work is not acceptable. Homework and written assignments (such as think-pieces) are due in class. Any homework assignment handed in late will receive a zero grade. Any larger written assignment will lose 10% of the grade for every day it is late.

Think-piece instructions

In a five-page (no more), double-spaced typed paper, using proper spelling, grammar, sentence structure, paragraphs, pagination, and format---and with a title page and title/subtitle---respond to the think piece questions as assigned. Prepare/organize your thoughts carefully, creatively, and persuasively. Draw on what you have learned from the readings, lectures, discussions, debates, and videos to fashion your response. Cite relevant sources (e.g. Allen: 59) in body of text. A sixth page is used to list sources cited. Refer to Appendix A/LS1 Reader for instructions on how to cite. Use evidence and dates/examples to back up what you write. Make certain the paper is cohesive: it should have clear opening and closing statements in support of the body of material and thoughts presented. Dividing the piece into sections with headings is strongly recommended to provide structure. Limit scope of response to time period covered in course. The professors are available well in advance of the due dates for assistance and have excellent sample think pieces to examine in their office. Some of the most provocative think pieces take such media as a diary entry, interview, newspaper article, letter, memoir, dialogue between historical figures, short story, or autobiography among others. Take drafts to the Writing Center for assistance. The instructors strongly recommend that once a student has selected a think piece topic she/he check with them to make sure the question is fully understood. The evaluative criteria checklist provides clear guidance to students on how their think pieces will be judged. Submit in class on time. A full grade is deducted for each day the think piece is late..

Evaluation criteria for think piece


Title/Subtitle/Cover page

Response to Query
Thought-provoking Accuracy of Content
Creative Medium Substantiation/Examples
Cohesion/Structure Introduction
Spelling/Grammar/Pagination Conclusions
Margins/Clarity of Print Out Link Between Intro/End
Use of Headings Submitted on Time
Page Length Citations as Needed

Instructions and Procedures for Debates

Students are assigned debate topics/groups after having been asked by instructor to indicate preferences. Each debate will have a moderator, three debaters on each side, a discussant, and as audience. Debates are limited in duration to 60 minutes. The moderator keeps track of time allocated to each debate group and alerts each group thirty seconds before its time is up; tosses a coin to see which group starts first and which finishes last; fields questions from the audience after the discussants have spoken if time permits; and holds a vote on the issue of the debate at the beginning and at the end of each debate to determine if the debate has changed the views of audience members (debaters, discussants, and the moderator do not vote).

The discussant makes comments and asks questions at the end of each debate. Audience members feed questions/comments to discussant during the two-minute caucuses. The debaters meet as a group at least twice before the scheduled debate to organize a division of labor and strategy for success based on sound substantive arguments. Debaters are asked not to read prepared statements but rather speak on the basis of key points they wish to make. Therefore, practice is key to making the debate a success. For every argument a debate group makes, it should anticipate the counter-arguments in order to prepare for the response. Each debate group selects its own team leader who organizes meetings and outlines strategy. She/he also ensures an even distribution of labor and an even distribution of time spent speaking at the debate itself. The professors expect each debate group to pay one of them an office visit at least one week before the scheduled debate to discuss substantive points and strategy. Additional readings germane to the debate are also provided by the professors as needed.

Each group makes a five minute opening statement followed by two rounds of responses. Each group gets five minutes for each round of responses. There are two-minute caucuses between opening remarks, the two rounds, the closing remarks, and the discussants' comments. The debate closes with a five minute summary statement. Opening and closing remarks may be made by one or more debate group members.

The moderator then turns to the discussant, who has five minutes to make constructive comments and ask questions. Each debate group has five minutes to respond when the discussant is finished. If time permits, the moderator may entertain one or two questions for each of the debate groups from audience members. Responses should take no more than one minute each. It is customary for the audience to offer a round of applause both after the end of the debate and before the discussant begins and again after the final vote is taken.


Evaluative Criteria for debate:

Preparation Team Work
Substantive Points Eye Contact
Clarity/Quality of Presentation Quality of Responses
Convincing Arguments Research/Documentation

Instructions for Roundtable Discussion

A roundtable discussion is a small group of students with a moderator. Participants speak to the assigned issue and in response to one another. Roundtables normally take 40-60 minutes. Three roundtables are scheduled. All students will sign up for either a debate or roundtable.


Send comments or suggestions to Mary-Beth O'Brien, Ph.D.

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