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Grappling With International Relations

The seventh annual High School Leadership Conference unites USC students with preps eager to learn about the Middle East.

By Craig Nelson
June 1, 2007

Grappling With International Relations

In April, 56 students from the USC Teaching International Relations Program (TIRP) woke up early to spend a Saturday leading discussions on Iran and how to build stability in the Middle East.

Nearly 200 high school students from 11 schools woke up even earlier and visited USC to decide what the global community would do to respond to the current tensions surrounding Iran and nuclear power.

Along with high school teachers and Steven Lamy, a professor of international relations in USC College and founder of TIRP, the students were divided into 12 groups representing various participants at the seventh annual High School Leadership Conference.

Participants gained a new appreciation regarding the importance of including international issues in education.

“I don't know if I can stress enough how inspiring the conference was for me,” said TIRP volunteer Melissa Jen, a USC senior majoring in international relations and East Asian languages and cultures.

The conference opened and closed with a discussion led by Lamy, who impressed the students with his analysis of why it is difficult to reach a compromise in international relations.

TIRP is run by the Center for Active Learning in International Studies, the outreach arm of the School of International Relations at USC College. The program each year trains and dispatches scores of USC student volunteers to local high schools. The student volunteers introduce international relations concepts to their junior peers through interactive exercises and mini-case studies over a number of weeks.

The goal on this day was for the visiting high school students to address various issues in Iran, including nuclear power and human rights, as well as ethnic and sectarian divisions in negotiations among the participants.

“International relations is about expanding knowledge, reaching out to others and most of all, it's about spreading awareness,” said Gaurav Goel, a sophomore majoring in international relations and economics who participated in the conference.

While the conference was valuable for USC students, the high school students benefited as well by developing analytical skills that will be useful in whatever career or major they pursue.

“The USC students … always live up to the high expectations of my students, and they represent the best of the USC Trojans,” said Jennie Linder, a teacher from City Honors High School.