The University of Iowa

Former U.S. Ambassador details international careers for UI students

December 4th, 2012

By Nick Hassett, The Daily Iowan

Ronald McMullen, a visiting associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa and a former U.S. ambassador to Eritrea, offers three pieces of advice to students interested in working in international politics.

“Be a good student, a good citizen, and have international experience,” he said. “Grades do matter. And a misdemeanor won’t look good to federal employers.”

McMullen spoke at an event Monday titled “A Career in International Politics.” The University of Iowa United Nations Association hosted the event, and roughly 20 people attended the meeting, mostly UI students.

McMullen handed out a list of resources for students interested in international politics careers, including job and internship opportunities in the State Department, the U.S. Peace Corps, and the United Nations.

However, interest in international majors at the UI appears to be waning.

According to data from the UI Registrar’s Office on Monday evening, the number of students enrolled in the International Studies major has fallen steadily since 2007, from 340 students to 254 in the most recent data, from the fall 2012 semester. Some of the drop-off may be due to the new international-relations major, which has 12 students enrolled.

The number of students who major in political science has also decreased, from 501 students in 2008 to 360 today.

Though the topic of the meeting focused on getting a career in international politics, McMullen also talked about the state of international politics today, including the recent U.N. vote to elevate Palestine to an observer state, giving it increased status in the international community.

McMullen discussed his history as a U.S. ambassador and diplomat, detailing an exchange with Tulava — an island state in the Pacific — that wished to split off into further microstates.

“Ceding sovereignty opens up a Pandora’s box of pseudo-nation micro states that all claim to be states.” He said. “[The U.N.] needs to set high standards for statehood.”

Steven Mather, the president of the UI United Nations Association, said the organization started last year, and the number of members is hard to determine.

“We’ve got around 100 members on our email list, but actual attendance at meetings depends on the topic,” he said. “It changes from time to time.”

Mather said getting more students involved internationally is part of the organization’s goal.

“We want to help instill humanitarian values in people,” he said.

The organization is cosponsoring a protest on Wednesday condemning the university’s decision to close the UI Center For Human Rights.

Rajko Pucar, a UI sophomore at the event, was interested in the new international-relations major and came to the event to get more ideas.

“It was very informative,” he said. “The man knew his stuff.”

Other students came just for McMullen himself.

“I’ve seen him speak multiple times,” UI junior Adam Carlson said.

Carlson thought students should take McMullen’s advice to heart, saying the résumé-building factor of experience in international politics was very important.

McMullen said a career in international politics may not be for everyone.

“You have to have the ‘explorer gene’ that shows you have the aptitude to live in a culture that’s not your own,” he said.