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Learning politics of great powers through first-hand sources

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Alyssa Teach, political affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, pinpoints the swing states that are strategic for winning U.S. elections.

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Dr. Imad Salamey (1st row, 5th from right) and his students with Hans-Helge Sander (1st row, 4th from right), German Embassy's head of Public Affairs.

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Sander explains Germany's key political institutions.

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Michael Miller (head of the Politics, Trade, Economy, Press and Information Section at European Commission's Delegation in Lebanon) gives an overview of EU.

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Mohammad Hussein Rayess Zadah, Iranian cultural and education consul in Lebanon, talking about his country's political system, as Salamey looks on.

Click on any photo above to view all five images

February 27, 2009—

Last semester, the students in Dr. Imad Salamey’s Comparative Governments of Great Powers course got a real taste of world powers by meeting with officers from various foreign delegations.

The different guest speakers discussed the history, political institutions, foreign relations, key policies, and challenges facing the countries they represented.

According to Salamey, “students were on an international tour.” He said this experience allowed them to “put the different countries they studied into perspective and, through this comparison, to think about themselves within their own society, environment and region.” Students learned about their course materials in an active and critical way, he added.

The lecture by German Embassy’s head of Public Affairs, Hans-Helge Sander, “was very useful for us since it was detailed and made the German political system clearer,” said a student in an anonymous email, adding that “what was also interesting was the parallel made between the Lebanese situation and that of Germany.”

Commenting on the meeting with Michael Miller from European Commission’s Delegation in Lebanon, another student said, “It was a very interesting presentation where he gave us an idea concerning EU’s history, machinery, key policies and the relation between EU and Lebanon.” Miller is the head of the Politics, Trade, Economy, Press and Information Section at the delegation.

Salamey said it was important to invite people from various political systems and with diverse perspectives to expose students to a wide array of topics.

For example, Alyssa Teach, political affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, visited the class during the race of Obama and McCain for the White House. She gave an overview of the election process, the voting system and the two candidates’ campaign strategies.

Another guest speaker was the Iranian cultural and education consul in Lebanon, Mohammad Hussein Rayess Zadah, who talked about the shah system and the key institutions in the Islamic republic.

According to Salamey, the visits provided students with a platform to get an insider view of the material in hand. They also triggered open discussions during which the students could ask questions that the representatives could respond to much more effectively, he added.  
 
The students were particularly interested, for example, in learning about the role of the media during the U.S. elections, the importance of minorities in Iran, as well as new political movements and gender equality in Germany.

Upon the professor’s demand, the students provided their anonymous feedback after each visit. They also raised further questions such as the feasibility of adopting Germany’s key institutional characteristics in Lebanon, the procedures through which a country could join the European Union, and the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.

Salamey said his experience in the fall class was successful because, having been well informed about local and international political affairs, his students didn’t have trouble communicating with foreign officers. He said he wants to use this teaching method in other political science courses too.
 


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