Students revive international relations club

After a hiatus that lasted more than a year, a group of students have revived the International Relations Undergraduate Association to improve networking within the student body and provide avenues for students to publish their views on global affairs.
The club was originally founded in the early 1990s as a representative body for undergraduates studying in the School of International Relations, offering students a weekly meeting and occasional seminars and dinners with professors. The club became dormant in 2006, when most of the senior members graduated and no one continued the club.
In May, senior Julian Leuthold and sophomores Leah Mireles and Lindsey Patin decided that USC needed an outlet for students to meet and work with each other outside of the classroom, which led to the repurposed IRUA.
“I noticed from the engineering school and the business school that there is a lot of organization and interaction,” said Leuthold, who is majoring in business, and urban planning and development. “The by-product of this is that everybody knows each other. That hadn’t been nurtured in the international relations department. We wanted to promote a tight network and friendship.”
Patin and Leuthold said they wanted to avoid the gradual disinterest that caused the original club to stop activity, and are planning to achieve that through aggressive recruiting.
“The reason the club died out is because all the officers who were seniors graduated,” Patin said. “The best way to avoid another collapse is to recruit younger students and tell them to recruit younger students so that so we can maintain a strong number of members.”
In May, the group decided to hold an informational session to gauge interest in the club which saw more than 50 attendees — they said was enough to restart the club. Leuthold said they now have more than 150 people on their mailing list and regularly hold movie screenings, speakers and other events.
The underlying shift in the club, according to Leuthold, is an added emphasis on interaction within the club, Leuthold said. The club will also be attempting to create crossover opportunities for students to meet people from other majors and gain contacts that could be valuable for the future.
“First off, we want the social environment,” Leuthold said. “We want to create a platform in which students can interact with each other and develop relationships that will hopefully outlast their time at USC.”
The club is currently exploring new activities to attract more members and provide what students want. According to Patin, it is considering co-sponsoring events with other groups such as Model United Nations, as well as taking advantage of the large international community at USC to help students better understand the issues facing the world.
“I think the IRUA is really unique because if [students] want a social experience, we have that, and if they want a learning experience, we also have that,” said Clara Hill, a sophomore majoring in international relations, who is in charge of publicity and marketing. “International relations deals with the entire world, so many other disciplines fit into it.”
The club is also exploring new modes of communication. In addition to the traditional monthly journal, it will utilize a blog to publish students’ perspectives. The club will also take advantage of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter for the first time to keep members and those interested in international relations updated on upcoming club activities as well as campus events.
Nina Rathbun, a lecturer in the School of International Relations and IRUA’s advisor, said she wants to leave the direction of the club up to the members.
“The students are the ones who are running the club,” Rathbun said. “They are doing the real leadership to get the club off the ground. My goal is that students own it and take the opportunity to further their understanding of international relations and the role they can play in it.”
Maggie Buckles, a USC alumna from the class of 2006 who served as IRUA president during the ‘05-’06 school year, said the use of social networking sites adds a different, interesting element to the club and may help generate more excitement about the major.
“We never really used electronic tools very much before. We would send people emails before meetings but weren’t really focused on connecting with them.
Students studying international relations who are members of the club said IRUA provided them an opportunity to talk to fellow students whom they would otherwise only see in class.
“Back in the 1930s in Paris, there were cafes where political scientists, philosophers and writers would meet to talk,” said Miruna Barnoschi, a freshman majoring in international relations and an active member of the club. “I feel that is what the IRUA is like. We have different opinions and can debate issues.”
Buckles said she suggested the club look to successful organizations on campus to see what people like and focus on leadership so the club doesn’t become dormant again.
“I was kind of surprised to hear that there was a decrease in participation,” she said. “It’s important to have officers who are active and organized. There have to be people to do things like plan and collect fees. If people aren’t willing to do that, then the club won’t be active.”

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