Students launch new institute focused on world issues
Students in the School of International Relations helped launch the Global Policy Institute this semester after a year of planning the center, which researches and plans events to inform the USC community on global issues.
Steven Lamy, a professor of international relations who helped create GPI, imagined the institute would be similar to the Center for the Political Future, which hosts events and programming and sponsors research but focused on international relations issues.
While Lamy serves as the faculty lead for the institute, he wants the 14 undergraduate fellows who work there to find ideas for programming and events based on what topics students want to learn more about.
The fellows are split into five groups that each research and plan events around a specific area, including the global economy, climate change and sustainable development, human rights, poverty and human security and global security. GPI plans to add other programs, like a monthly book club to discuss issues.
GPI has hosted various events this semester, including a crisis briefing on Turkish intervention in Syria, a discussion on Brexit featuring a former member of Parliament Charles Clarke and a roundtable discussion on internship opportunities in international relations and political science. Each week, all of the fellows and Lamy meet to discuss their progress and ideas for future programs and events.
Katie Abrams, one of the lead fellows at GPI, said the fellows try to inform students on global issues that don’t receive as much attention in mainstream media coverage through events, programs, newsletters and articles posted on its website.
“We’re not trying to look at the top 10 articles on The New York Times and repost them and spread that same information,” said Abrams, a junior majoring in NGOs and social change. “We’re trying to look at … the things that we know about because it’s what we study, but that the common individual that doesn’t pay attention to international relations might not know.”
The institute has also done events on issues like Brexit that are more commonly reported in American media because Abrams said students may have heard the term but don’t understand the issue fully.
Natalia Smith, another lead fellow, said fellows decide to focus their programming on certain issues based on what issues stand out to them during class or on the news. The events help show how theories and ideas taught in her classes can be applied to solve real-world issues, Smith said.
“Everything I learned in the classroom seems relevant and important to solving these global issues,” said Smith, a senior majoring in international relations and NGOs and social change. “I like that I can be with like-minded individuals who care about these issues, and who also have the intellectual knowledge on these issues to have these debates and conversation surrounding topics that are not only relevant in the U.S. but in the world.”
“It’s not about collecting data for a professor’s research … these are kids that are creating their own entity that they can proudly say ‘I created the Global Policy Institute,’” Lamy said. “And next year’s group can say, ‘We didn’t create it, but we helped it grow in this direction.’”
As the institute grows, Lamy said he hopes to attract more high-profile speakers and see more students from across majors attending the events to learn about global issues.
Ashley Abadeer, a fellow who leads the poverty and human security team, said she hopes GPI will continue to establish itself on campus and create more concrete goals for its purpose on campus while she is there. By the time she graduates, Abadeer, a sophomore majoring in international relations, said she hopes the institute will get more students from all majors interested in learning about and discussing global issues.
“I would want to see that we contributed to changing the culture a little bit at USC and get people out of this bubble and look to care about things that aren’t right in front of their face all the time and to pursue those intellectual conversations about things that are affecting people’s lives outside of their own,” Abadeer said.