In fall 2015, Union College will begin offering a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, a program designed to prepare students for careers requiring global perspectives within government service, business and law.
“World trade, investments in other countries, international organizations and other groups with an international focus have been growing faster than the U.S. economy,” said Malcolm Russell, Union’s vice president for Academic Administration. “We are fortunate to have a doctoral student from Oxford University to lead the program.”
Christopher Banks joined the history faculty in December to develop the new program and will begin teaching U.S. history and international relations classes in August. “I love history and international relations as subjects because I love to research and analyze the connections between trends, people and events and their effect on our lives today,” Banks said. “The international relations program confirms students’ preparation in the four subject areas of international relations: political science, finance, geography and languages.”
The new program is a revamping of Union’s former international studies degree with a number of new classes developed by Banks. “The vision for this program is that Union will be the first Seventh-day Adventist College to create an international relations degree that will help prepare students to infuse Christ’s character and Christ-centered global work in church and non-church institutions,” said Banks.
Some of the new courses include The Modern Middle East: From 1800 to the Present; Global Environment; and The Political Economy of International Labor. Students will also study regional and thematic courses on Russia, India, Latin America, the Caribbean, China and the U.S. War on Terror.
“Skills that students will acquire through the courses for this degree include the ability to intelligently discuss world events and reading and understanding professional-level writing about relations between nations—more than basic business skills,” said Russell, “Also they will have an intermediate understanding of a foreign language and research skills in the social sciences.”
“Students studying international relations will gain a comprehensive understanding of how governments and non-governmental organizations work and are financed,” Banks said. He believes skills in rhetoric, critical thinking and critical analysis are necessary for jobs in government and financial industries as well as for law and graduate school.
“They will also gain a critical understanding of the ways in which government service and finance are intertwined,” said Banks. “These skills are in demand in work and government service.”
International relations has been a lifelong passion for Banks. He earned a bachelor of arts’s degree in international relations from Brown University followed by a masters in international affairs from Columbia University. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in politics at the University of Oxford.
“I was drawn toward the camaraderie of the students and the self-sacrifice and passion of the professors to the standard and progression of Seventh-day Adventist college education,” he said. “The best thing about Union is the sincere community and collegiality of the professors and students.”
For Banks, teaching allows him to engage in new theories, research and to discuss and make others aware of past and present political and historical trends. “I am looking forward to helping to prepare international relations majors who are following God’s will in their lives,” he said. “My advice for prospective students coming to Union is that they should be prepared to combine a love of a subject with the passion to do God’s will in every part of their lives.”
According to Banks, students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in international relations will be qualified to work as a researcher or analyst in U.S. government agencies, or in national and international developing organizations and agencies. Students will also be able to further their education to
By Megan Wehling, student writer