With the grounding of Academic Travel for the COVID-19 pandemic, students in Professor Bucher's course met with the OSCE via videoconference.
It’s been an intense month here at FUS, watching this global crisis evolve and adapting to keep our community safe. Last week was the first time since our inception 50 years ago that we’ve had to suspend the “travel” component of our academic travel week, an integral part of each semester here at FUS. Our participating professors had to quickly adjust plans, which had taken months to establish, to fulfill the informational aspects of each course.
One professor who saw it coming is Bernd Bucher, Associate Professor of Political Science. Each year, Professor Bucher takes students who sign up for his Introduction to International Relations travel course to Vienna (POL 101T). There, students visit three of the most influential organizations in the world; the OSCE, United Nations, and OPEC. They meet with top-level professionals who contribute to global policy-making every day and get answers to questions on fundamental concepts, such as how national powers interact, foreign policy creation, conflict negotiation, political economy, and international trade.
Professor Bucher believes that the experience is an invaluable opportunity. “While academics provide theoretical tools to analyze and understand how international organizations function, diplomats and actors involved in the day to day [functions] of diplomacy provide a particular and intriguing perspective.” He adds that speaking directly with these diplomats and actors gets students “in touch with the complexities of actual decision-making at a global level,” and that it “gives them a sense of a whole range of jobs and opportunities that are out there to discover through internships and professional networks.” To provide an example and sense of scale, consider that the work done by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) actually encompasses three continents - North America, Europe and Asia - and more than a billion people.
This year, because of Professor Bucher’s quick action and the cooperation of the wonderful staff at the OSCE, students were still able to meet with the U.S. Mission to the OSCE Public Affairs Counselor, Mike Snyder via video-conference. He spoke with FUS about the U.S. Mission’s work and how they promote U.S. interests within the region. Students were curious about how the organization functions and how its financing works. They asked about changes in US positions on multilateralism. Some inquired about pathways to becoming a diplomat.
In a Facebook post referencing the event, Counselor Snyder stated, “We appreciate the students' interest, thoughtful questions, and wish them luck as future foreign policy experts.”
Professor Bucher plans to return to Vienna with FUS students next year, to visit the OSCE, UN, and OPEC as he has done in previous years. Before that happens, he hopes to bring in academic speakers like Dr. Julian Eckl, who recently spoke on Global Health Governance, and Prof. James W. Davis, who spoke about the Future of War last year. He and his department also plan to have speakers from the world of diplomacy, business, and NGOs.
“We have a few things scheduled, but given the current situation, I will wait with announcing anything at this point.“
It’s a smart move given the restrictions on universities being enforced by nations across the globe. In the meantime, our educators and staff are switching to virtual classrooms so that students can continue to learn from the comfort of their personal spaces. FUS is committed to doing everything we can to keep our community safe.