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Winter 2021

Content Overview

From left to right, Professor Kieran Williams (Drake University, Political Science), Professor David Danaher (University of Wisconsin, German, Nordic, and Slavic Studies), and Michael Žantovský (Director of the Václav Havel Library in Prague, Czech Republic) discuss Professor William's book on Václav Havel during a December 2016 event held at the library. 

Featured Story -

Human Rights Studies Minor

"It is essential to engage students from across the university in the sustained study of human rights."               - Professor Debra DeLaet
This past fall, the Department of Political Science welcomed an exciting new addition to its curriculum: the Human Rights Studies minor. This 18-credit minor, which is open to Drake students of any major, aims to instruct students on ways in which they can support and advance global human rights movements through deep, localized engagement. Creation of the minor was spearheaded by Professor Debra DeLaet, whose inspiration for the program came from her strong commitment “to the academic study of human rights and to advocating for human rights globally.”

Professor DeLaet’s primary hope for the minor is that it will “educate students who will integrate human rights into their civic and professional lives.” Fortunately, student feedback suggests that the program has already begun to achieve this goal. Spencer Short, an International Relations major who transferred to Drake in the fall of 2020, credits the program for several of the academic and professional opportunities he has received thus far. After spending two years at a university with a relatively small political science program, Spencer “heard about the Human Rights minor, and that, matched with the fact that there is also a specific international relations track to be followed, solidified [his] decision to transfer [to Drake].”
When Spencer began telling potential employers about his new major and minor, an unexpected series of doors opened up before him, including one that led to the fulfillment of a long-held dream. As Spencer writes, “currently, I am set to work in Kosovo in the fall of 2022, the place I’ve wanted to work since I first visited in 2018. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the human rights minor.” Thus, even though the Human Rights Studies minor is very new, it is already having profound effects on Drake students. 
Psychology major Steven Kenyon had similarly enthusiastic things to say about the minor. Steven, who began attending Drake in the fall of 2020, states that he “chose the Human Rights minor as someone who is heavily interested in the interpersonal and global climates as it pertains to one’s own ability within the world.”
In addition to believing that the program will help him with his pursuit of a career in forensic psychology, Steven also feels that the minor will benefit the general Drake community. As Steven writes, “classes and avenues of study that involve the better understanding of the world and its people… [are] much needed and welcomed.”  Furthermore, through the Human Rights Studies minor, “Drake offers another portal to which one can better establish equal opportunity and representation within the world.” Therefore, Steven expects the minor to have far-reaching impacts on both the Drake community and the world beyond.
Anastazie Bukuru, who is an International Relations and Law, Politics, and Society double major, shares these expectations. Anastazie decided to take on the Human Rights minor because she believed it "would be a great opportunity to expand [her] knowledge of international human rights." Now, after having been in the program for a semester, she writes "this minor has been a great opportunity to familiarize myself with topics that I might encounter in Grad school. I would definitely recommend this [program] for anyone thinking of  pursuing a law degree, for activists, and for individuals who intend to pursue a political career for the government." This testimony directly highlights a key strength of the Human Rights Studies minor: it is both accessible to and beneficial for students of all majors, backgrounds, and interests. 
Moving forward, Professor DeLaet hopes that the Human Rights Studies minor will grow into a “vibrant program with strong enrollments that helps contribute to recruitment and retention of students and faculty representing diverse communities.” As the minor progresses into its second semester, the stories of Spencer, Steven, Anastazie, and other students like them suggest that this dream is well on its way to becoming a reality. 

Alumni Spotlight-

Young Alum Career Panels

One of the best ways to prepare for life after college is by speaking with those who have experienced it—which is why the first International Relations Young Alums Career Panel of 2021 was a rousing success. On February 18th, current International Relations majors and minors joined Drake alumni Lauren Goetze, Kate Kemper, Sheng Peng, and Daniel Van Sant in an online event moderated by Professor Mary McCarthy. Following introductions, the attendees divided into roundtable sessions centered around four different topics--business, service learning, law, and academia—where they answered student questions about applying IR studies to post-college life. They then reconvened to each provide a final piece of advice for current students. When asked about her thoughts on the panel, attendee Jazmine Guzman replied, “attending the Young Alum Career Panel greatly benefited me because I received amazing advice from alum who have achieved many of the things I personally hope to achieve here at Drake and in my future career!” For those who missed out on this excellent event, fear not—another Young Alums Career Panel is scheduled for Tuesday, March 9th at 7pm. This panel will feature Drake alumni Manisha Padel (Equity Coordinator, City of Des Moines), Cherri Cathi (Learning & Development Associate, enPower), Emma Muth (Distance Education Support Professional, Alexander Dawson School at Rainbow Mountain), and Jay Benson (Indo-Pacific Project Manager, One Earth Future Foundation) and promises to be just as beneficial as the first. If you would like to attend the event and have not yet received the link to register, please contact Professor McCarthy at Hope to see you there! 

All copy written by Abby Bethke, 2020

Faculty Spotlight- Kieran Williams

After serving as a visiting or adjunct professor at Drake for several years, Professor Kieran Williams officially joined the faculty of the Department of Political Science in Fall 2020 as a full-time instructor. He teaches courses on comparative politics, Eastern Europe, and Iran. Below, he shares with us the experiences that have driven his academic passions and what he brings to the classroom:
"I was deeply shaped by the last innings of the Cold War. I went to college already determined to become fluent in Russian and pursue a career that would use it, and when I spent the summer after my junior year in Leningrad (now St Peterburg), I realized I wanted to focus on the politics of a fast-changing part of the world. My time in grad school coincided with the end of the “Soviet bloc” and its fragmentation into 30 countries, many of them newly independent, all undergoing political and economic revolutions. So one thing I bring to the IR program is the perspective of a comparativist who looks at countries’ institutions in the context of rapid regional and global change. The Soviet experience teaches us that you may think things will be this way forever, and then suddenly they aren’t.

I also try to sensitize students to thinking about the world as consisting mostly of “small” states. Living in a superpower like the US, it’s easy to fixate on the few other major countries that seem to set the agenda, owing to their armed forces or economic clout. But most people don’t live in those countries, and those countries aren’t necessarily the best places to live. Smaller states are at the sharp end of globalization and climate change, but they are also some of the best rated when it comes to democracy, happiness and safety – as borne out by the countries that have responded most effectively to covid-19."

- Kieran Williams 


  • Professor David Skidmore and former Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson have launched a podcast titled "US-China: Searching for Common Ground”: The podcast, which can be located at and other podcast platforms, features interviews with top American and Chinese scholars, diplomats, businesspeople and journalists. Among the guests are former US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and New York Times reporter Austin Ramzy. The podcast is integrated with Skidmore’s spring 2021 course on US-China Relations.
Young Alum Career Panelists Lauren Goetze, Kate Kemper, Sheng Peng, and Daniel Van Sant
To share your own experiences or update your email address, please contact Professor Mary M. McCarthy at
This newsletter made possible through the financial support of the Nelson Institute
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