Big World shines a spotlight on complex ideas and issues that matter. Each episode features an expert from the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC, breaking down a big, important topic into small bite sizes.
What Do We Owe Veterans?
Since the US military transtioned from a draft to an all-volunteer force in 1973, most Americans can go their entire lives without thinking too much about their fellow citizens who sign up to serve in uniform. In this episode of Big World, Kayla M. Williams, SIS/MA ‘08, the assistant secretary of the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the US Department of Veterans Affairs, joins us to discuss veterans affairs and advocacy.
Williams describes the work she did as an Arabic linguist in the US Army from 2000 to 2005 (2:08), where she deployed to in Iraq (3:05), and how her time in the military impacted her decision to pursue veterans advocacy (5:14). She also explains what veterans advocacy work entails (7:26) and how her master’s degree from SIS impacted her career path (9:56).
What kinds of unique hurdles do women in the military and women veterans face (16:17)? What are Williams’ duties in her current, politically appointed role, and what does she hope to accomplish as assistant secretary (21:01)? Williams answers these questions and gives her advice to SIS students hoping to pursue veterans advocacy and become leaders in that endeavor (24:28).
During our “Take Five” segment, Williams tells us five military policies that she thinks could benefit the rest of American society (13:09).
International Education Isn’t Optional Anymore
The world’s most pressing problems—including climate change, pandemics, and cybersecurity—cross borders. And to solve these problems, our students need international experience, believes Fanta Aw, vice president for undergraduate enrollment, campus life, and inclusive excellence at American University and Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer at SIS. In this episode of Big World, Aw joins us to discuss the importance of international education.
She shares how she became interested in international education (2:16), defines international education and cultural exchange and their differences (3:48), and discusses how international education and cultural exchanges impact our world (5:34). Aw also explains the role that international education plays in fulfilling the mission of American University’s Office of Campus Life: to integrate students into a diverse learning community; promote their intellectual, social, and spiritual development; and prepare them for lifelong learning and global citizenship (7:06).
Why should undergraduate and graduate students consider studying internationally (9:01)? Why do international students want to study at AU (13:21)? What are the opportunities for students to engage in international education and cultural exchange while they're at AU (14:42)? Aw answers these questions and explains why she believes international education is a sufficiently durable concept and practice to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic (18:44).
During our “Take Five” segment, Aw shares five ways students can develop a sense of global citizenship (11:01).
The National Security Legacy of 9/11
At 8:46 a.m. ET on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center—the first of four plane crashes that morning—and nothing was ever the same again. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and in this episode of Big World, SIS professor Josh Rovner joins us to discuss the national security legacy of 9/11.
Professor Rovner shares where he was when the first plane hit the north tower (2:03), explains what then-president George W. Bush called the “War on Terror” in response to the attacks (3:00), and discusses some of the immediate impacts of 9/11 on national security (5:58). He also describes the long-term changes to national security measures after 9/11 that continue to impact Americans today (8:41) and how the legacy of 9/11 and the War on Terror impacted the overall US defense apparatus (11:10).
What was achieved during the 20-year mission in Afghanistan, which was America's longest running war (17:56)? How does the US approach counterterrorism now that troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan and the Taliban is in control (21:48)? Professor Rovner answers these questions and explains how the priorities of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security have been affected by 9/11 (25:07); he also shares an unforeseen legacy of the attacks that might surprise people (27:57).
During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Rovner details the advice he would give to the current secretary of state, secretary of defense, and director of national intelligence as the Biden administration implements its approach to counterterrorism (13:38).
Star Trek and Global IR
The original Star Trek television series, which aired from 1966 to 1969, spawned movies, sequels, and an entire pop culture universe. Along the way, the show and its successors have used their futuristic settings to animate a universe that both reflects and challenges the attitudes of their viewers. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Patrick Thaddeus Jackson joins us to discuss Star Trek, popular culture, and international relations.
Professor Jackson tells us why Star Trek appeals to him as an international affairs scholar (2:36) and some of the metaphors the original Star Trek contained that related to multilateral agreements or organizations (5:56). He also discusses in what ways he thinks Star Trek, either the original show or its successors, anticipated the movement within international relations known as Global IR (10:57).
Why did a show that tried so hard to show humanity at its best seem to sometimes rely on offensive stereotypes (20:52)? Is there a case to be made that Deep Space Nine was essentially an indictment of American exceptionalism (26:14)? Professor Jackson answers these questions and explains why he thinks this show and this world, originally created by Gene Roddenberry, still resonates with so many people (29:49).
During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Jackson tells us the the five politically relevant Star Trek episodes everyone should watch, and why (14:59).
How to Get a Fellowship in International Affairs
Fellowships can help students and recent graduates gain hands-on experience in international affairs and bolster their résumés for their desired career paths. In this episode of Big World, Chris Swanson, associate director of the Office of Merit Awards at American University, shares his expertise about landing a top fellowship in international affairs.
Swanson discusses the landscape of major international fellowships and scholarships available to students as well as the benefits of applying for them (1:13). He shares when undergraduate and graduate students should start looking into applying for such programs (5:13), and he explains what kinds of experiences students should pursue to stand out from the rest of the applicant pool (8:19).
Are there any skills that students can acquire through their coursework at SIS that can help them prepare a competitive application (14:43)? What are the common mistakes students make when applying for fellowships (18:05)? Swanson answers these questions and shares his personal experience of applying for—and receiving—a Fulbright grant as a graduate student (20:04).
During our “Take Five” segment, Swanson gives five insights into applying for fellowships in international affairs that would surprise most students (10:45).
Farming's Racist Roots
Agriculture in America is older than the United States itself. But agriculture policy and the politics that drive it have always been, like so much of our world's history, unequal at best. In this episode of Big World, SIS professor Garrett Graddy-Lovelace joins us to discuss agricultural policy, racial inequities, and the need for a new way of thinking about land both in the US and around the world.
Graddy-Lovelace explains what political ecology and decolonial studies are (1:55) and how these two concepts play directly into her research on agricultural policy and agrarian politics (3:12). She also discusses how lending and land ownership policies have historically disenfranchised Black farmers (5:41), the long history of Black agrarian resistance and excellence (7:36), and what the latest COVID-19 relief bill accomplishes for Black farmers (10:01).
What needs to be done to right the historical mistreatment of non-white farmers by the US government (11:55)? What are the global impacts of US agricultural policies that disenfranchise farmers of color (18:58)? Professor Graddy-Lovelace answers these questions and explains why discrimination in agriculture is a global phenomenon (21:59). She also examines the significance of the ongoing farmers’ protests in India (23:59). Finally, she discusses transnational agrarian justice movements (25:40) and shares how she is inspired by Black and Indigenous-led agrarian resistance movements within the US (27:57).
During our “Take Five” segment, Professor Graddy-Lovelace tells us the top five barriers to achieving food justice that she would eliminate if she could (17:01).
Great information, educational
I appreciate how this podcast focuses on a variety of topics from national to international leveled issues. I also enjoy the structure of the interviews and that they are not super long. It is a great, easy way to gain information and become more aware of situations. As a future SIS student, I am excited to meet these individuals in person to ask more on these issues. Great podcast.
This podcast does a great job of distilling some of the more complex issues in international affairs ((e.g. the defense budget, human migration) through one on one interviews-not an easy task! Lol forward to more episodes.
Tried it for a few months but can’t keep going
Very good topics which should intrigue foreign policy followers or expats (like me). But the guests are insanely biased and liberal. I tried to keep listening but after 4-5 episodes, sadly I am done. I guess everyone involved in this podcast is drinking from the same koolaid but without any diversity of thought, what’s the point?