After graduating, I boarded a plane and flew over the North Pacific Ocean to the world of the Tea Ceremony and the Tokugawa Shogunate. I served as an Assistant English Teacher in Saitama, Japan, as part of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program. I had never done any teaching before JET, but I thought I might be somewhat of a natural at it, given that both of my parents are teachers. I fell in love with Japan and grew to have deep respect forJapanese culture. While on JET, I also traveled to Nepal, and I've been a globetrotter ever since. I returned to the US after one year, and went straight back to PENN GSE to get my teaching credentials. I've been a teacher and a wrestling coach at New Rochelle High School (Westchester, New York) ever since-- 12 years! My specialty is Global History and Geography, and I am currently teaching a Senior Elective called "Facing History."
-Jon Beck, Class of 1994
My experience as an IR major has shaped my career to this day. In particular, my study abroad experience in France during my junior year of the IR program inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in history. I am now working as a professional historian specializing in the history of 20th century France.
-Eric Reed, Class of 1991
I was attracted to IR at Penn because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program. I arrived at Penn already interested in learning more about the Middle East. IR provided me with the opportunity to explore a variety of different critical and disciplinary frameworks through which to engage in my study of the region. By my senior year I had discovered that I was most interested in the approaches offered by the humanities--especially literature and history. After working for a couple of years for a small international marketing firm in New York City, I eventually pursued a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan with a specialization in modern Arabic and Hebrew literature. I am presently an associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University.
-Deborah Starr, Class of 1990
After receiving my MA and PhD in IR in 1974, 1977, I went on from Penn to study at Claremont Graduate School, and then taught at the college level for three years. From 1980-1989, I served as an American diplomat in Mexico, Taiwan, China and as a foreign service officer in the US Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Office of Soviet and Eastern European Affairs, where I served as an analyst of Soviet foreign policy toward Latin America. Since 1989, I have been teaching at a college in New York, where I established and have served as the director for the political science, international relations, intercultural studies and international studies majors and minors. I was the recipient of a Rotary International Fund Ambassadorial Fellowship to teach and research in Russia in 1997. In 2004, I was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and research in the Caucasus countries: Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
-David Benedict, PhD, 1974
After Penn, I went on to get a master's degree from University of Virginia in foreign affairs (another name for IR). I went to work for Chase Manhattan Bank as an economist covering my regional specialty, Asia. My undergrad and grad degrees surely helped me get this first job, which I loved, as well as my subsequent jobs. While being at Chase I started working on my Ph. D in economics at NYU (though I never finished). After 13 years at Chase, I joined GE, in the corporate planning department, doing country risk analysis (econ and political analysis) on foreign countries where GE had business or investments. I next joined Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, where I eventually became head of the country risk assessment area, before moving into my last post there, as SVP in charge of portfolio management (analyzing risk in Mellon's loan portfolio). My corporate career entailed lots of foreign travel, which I loved. After ending my corporate career, I joined the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs as a professor, teaching Economics, International Trade and International Finance. I also taught occasional courses at the Katz Graduate School of Business at Pitt and participated in a Katz program teaching in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
I did not go into the Foreign Service though that tempted me at the time. Instead I took the duller road of studying law and, immediately after law school, teaching law at the University of Chicago. From there, after one other job I became Dean of the Law School at Santa Clara University. In the eleven years between my graduation from Penn and my assumption of the deanship, no one could have found any distinction between my career path and that of any other College graduate without an IR major. Once I became responsible for a law school, however, that changed. I started international summer programs for law students (not only those at SCU) in foreign countries I pioneered in that area by providing legal employment simultaneously with classes and shrugging off the then standard use of U.S. faculty often teaching a subject with no international content and unrelated to their foreign locale. I used professors local to the program and international topics. In both respects, I had to battle with the set ideas of the American Bar Association accrediting group. I am quite proud of the fact that our programs went from deviant status to becoming the model for the now required connection between foreign programs and content to which the location was relevant. Finally, unlike almost all other law schools at the time, I recognized the potential of Asia and did not totally rely on European countries. That gave us pick of the best places in Asia: Japan (Tokyo University), Hong Kong (University of Hong Kong), South Korea (Seoul National University), Bangkok (Chulalonghorn University) etc. We still did well in Europe, also grounding our programs at Oxford University, the International Institute of Human Rights in Strasbourg and establishing programs in places more on the cutting edge of law such as the program in Budapest established almost on the day the Russians left Hungary. After I left the deanship, I served out my time at SCU as Director of its Institute of International and Comparative Law. We now have the largest law school program in summer abroad sessions, a thriving student exchanged program with international institutions, a law masters program in International law and we allow all our students who wish to do so to have a recorded emphasis in international law. Looking back at all of that, it becomes clear to me that the foundation for my later work was clearly set in the IR program at Penn.
-George J. Alexander, Class of 1949