Three Years Later: Global MA in International Relations Program Bearing Fruit

When Global Thinking first covered Webster University’s Global M.A. in International Relations in 2007, the program was just a baby taking its first steps. Conceived by combining several of Webster’s unique strengths, it was nonetheless unknown just how great the program might become.

Now three years later, that baby has grown up — and grown up quite well.

An expanding applicant pool necessitated two cohorts one year, then three the next. As the program grows, its alumni are now engaging in many facets of the field around the world.

Some graduates are in the public sector, such as a Homeland Security analyst and an intelligence liaison for the U.S. Army’s Chief of Staff. Others work for non-profits, managing development aid in Africa or assisting the rescue of abducted children at home and abroad. Still others are in private business, whether editing the Romanian edition of FORBES Magazine or managing security for NGOs in Afghanistan. And some continue immersed in the academic side of the discipline, pursuing doctoral studies or working as scholars for international relations think-tanks.

That’s a sampling of where previous years’ graduates have gone. If the 2009-10 class is any indication — one student is completing the intensive Peace Corps application process with her husband, amid her studies — then the impact of the program will continue to reach far and wide.

Ranging in age from 22 to 40, this year’s class of 34 hails from across the United States, as well as Germany, Afghanistan, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago. Divided into three cohorts, they spend each term of this academic year at a different Webster international campus: London, Leiden, Geneva, Vienna, and a final term in either Beijing or Bangkok. Their backgrounds include journalism, military intelligence, private business, and teaching English abroad.

‘I had to read it again to make sure it was not a dream’

Though born in Indiana, Annie Tswaedi moved to South Africa before her first birthday. “I can’t imagine having grown up anywhere else,” she says.

A love of travel and a global sensibility led her to seek a new direction after completing an undergraduate business degree in Alabama.

Tswaedi explains: “Growing up in South Africa, I was privileged to witness one of history’s most profound moments: The end of the apartheid regime and the beginning of a new democracy. I vividly remember as a 7-year-old standing on a hill overlooking our local stadium, where literally kilometers of voters queued in the blazing sun waiting to cast their ballots.

“Even though I was young, I knew this was a great day and one that subconsciously sparked my interest in the workings and effects of politics.”

While she knew she wanted something after college, Tswaedi didn’t know how to get there until an invitation from Webster caught her eye.

“I found the [Global IR program] Web site late at night and had to read it again in the morning to make sure it was not a dream,” she recalls. “No program could match what Webster offered. A graduate degree earned traveling to five countries in a year? It all sounded too good to be true. Lo and behold it was real, and I am living the experience right now.”

Priceless Visits, Irreplaceable Friends

Trinidad and Tobago-born Rachael David was living in Miami and looking for graduate programs in International Relations when a brochure for a program she never imagined possible came to her door. With a background in travel and plenty of experience studying abroad and volunteering with her local United Nations Association chapter, David knew Webster sounded like a good fit.

David enjoys the diverse perspectives the program provides through Webster professors and the Webster students she encounters at each international campus. She also appreciates a level of international interaction that is hard to replicate.

“Our professional visits are priceless, both for the field experience and the networking,” David says. “But I have to say I love the friends we’ve made, the locals in our building from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Germany, Switzerland. I already miss them so much; we’ve had such great times together.”

As her cohort travels onward, Tswaedi too has found joy in the program’s mix of academic and cultural opportunities.

“I am still in awe at some of the places I have had a chance to visit,” Tswaedi says. “Bratislava, Prague, Auschwitz … international centers in Geneva and Vienna, where we attended a ceremony with the U.N. Secretary General as speaker.

“But the best part? I find joy in simple things,” she says. “For me it is sitting in our communal kitchen or a local restaurant with people from around the world sharing good food, good wine, and even better stories of our homes, our families, our lives. I could mention all the amazing places I have seen, but it has little substance if not explained by the people who are from there, have lived there, and know their home better than any scholar.

“That well-roundedness makes this program so unique: Not only do we get to discuss these regions; we are privileged to have real-life representatives of these places. Topics are literally brought to life by friends and classmates.”

Deadlines and Papers: It’s Still Graduate School

Part of the intensive nature of the Global M.A. in International Relations is a result of experiencing these life-altering moments while students are immersed in a full-time graduate program. While the international and cultural element of the program can be awe-inspiring, there is always work to be done, papers to be completed, deadlines to be met.

“Words truly cannot describe how awesome this experience is,” Tswaedi says. “But having eight-week graduate courses is no joke: Midnight oil should definitely be on the checklist of things to bring along!”