The recent announcement of Middle East expert and public intellectual extraordinaire Vali Nasr being appointed as dean of The John’s Hopkin’s University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) signals the evolution of modern international relations education.
“The nature and focus of education in international affairs are changing as global challenges require innovative approaches, greater attention to technology, and addressing new demands in the job market.” said Nasr in a released statement, adding, “SAIS has a very important leadership role to play in shaping the future of education in international affairs.”
It’s important to acknowledge the emphasis Nasr assigns to finding innovative approaches to global challenges and the need for greater attention to technology. The traditional study of international relations has long been analyzing the relationships between states, the role states play, and the outcomes from decision-making processes in respect to the foreign policy of states. Despite these traditional studies of international relations, the role technology plays in shaping foreign policy and understanding world affairs will have greater significance as old methodologies continue to adapt to contemporary changes. For example, a greater emphasis will be given to the role of technology in the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when analyzing how the 40-year ruler was pressured to step down. Similarly, the role innovation played in NGOs like Invisible Children focusing worldwide attention to an issue primarily discussed within international relations circles will require new thinking and teaching in 21st Century diplomacy. I imagine that universities will need to integrate older ways of thinking and with forward-thinking courses that prepare scholars challenges that will require a comprehensive understanding of technology.
While the study of international relations will still remain grounded in the aforementioned disciplines, we simply cannot disregard when the future dean of the top school for international studies acknowledges the importance of technology and innovation in its schools’ curriculum. As global thinkers, those deciding to study international relations have the distinct advantage of being born into a digital era, harnessing inherent understandings of technology that can then be applied toward a traditional school of thought and a rapidly developing world.