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International

Spotlight on the Comparative and Regional Studies Program

By Antoaneta Tileva

SIS CRS Students

The Comparative and Regional Studies (CRS) program at the School of International Service bridges comparative analysis and regional specializations. By exploring the frontiers of comparison across regions, this program represents a distinctive form of professional education, at once scholarly and practical.

We asked Associate Professor Randolph Persaud, director of the CRS program, to tell us more.

What is the mission/vision of the CRS program?

Our goal is to provide a strong research foundation that bridges the gap between research and policy, through connecting our academic work in the classroom with real world problems and issues, and taking advantage of our location in Washington, D.C. to learn about issues ranging from trade policy to defense budgeting. The Comparative and Regional Studies program bridges concepts and understanding of one or more world regions. The curriculum offers analytical tools for examining locales of students' choice as well as choices with a thematic focus. Regional expertise involves grounding in specific historical and cultural settings. It enables one to grasp changing coalitions' policies for addressing political and economic challenges. It also makes broad shifts in international relations concrete, identifies similarities and differences among parts of the world, and explores changing dynamics of global power relations.

How is the program unique?

CRS offers an innovative approach to local, national, and transnational questions in international affairs by bridging comparative analysis and regional specialization. Unlike conventional approaches to comparative politics, our program promotes interdisciplinary understandings of themes and theories, situating emerging topics and classic problems of international affairs in studies that draw upon sociology, geography, political science, and other fields. The CRS program is thus innovative in its modalities of comparative inquiry, enabling students to gain knowledge of specific countries while engaged in cross-regional analysis. By pioneering the frontiers of comparison across regions, this program represents a distinctive form of professional education that is both scholarly and eminently practical.

While SIS is a policy-oriented school, our goal is to foster strong research skills and an ability to reflect on the broader perceptions and policies outside of the United States, so that our students are well prepared to seek careers in the government, nonprofit, and private sector. Students can work with different professors who serve as mentors, attend high-profile events, lectures, and roundtables, extend their classroom experiences in ways that foster engagement and policy learning, and be able to write for different audiences, collaborate with peers, and deal with complex issues.

What are some things your program does to further your students professionally?

Through the combination of both theoretical rigor and applied knowledge, CRS helps place many students in internships and jobs overseas and in Washington D.C. With a population drawn from all world regions, the capital itself is a vast campus, offering extensive resources, including international organizations, embassies, U.S. government offices, major libraries, a university consortium, numerous museums, and other cultural and educational venues. Professors often integrate these intellectual resources into their courses. Through a recently developed "practica" option, students have conducted research for the U.S. State Department, the American Bar Association, and other "clients." Such innovative approaches to learning ensure that our curriculum reflects shifting demands in the international affairs job market.

Our students graduate equipped with a competitive skill set complemented by regional expertise that prepares them for jobs in government, the nonprofit sector, internationally-oriented businesses, or further academic study. We work on connecting students with former alumni through a variety of measures, whether via personal connections, professional events, or assistance with letters of recommendations, security clearance interviews, and merit awards for further language or field work.

Describe the students in CRS.

Students in CRS come from all across the United States, and from practically every continent. Our students bring a rich diversity of cultural, scholarly, and professional experiences to the classrooms. CRS graduates have pursued careers in government, nongovernmental agencies, international organizations, business, and academe.

Learn more about the CRS program here: http://www.american.edu/sis/crs/