Bard Globalization and International Affairs Programs Has Students Study the World in the Heart of the City

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“Classes are small, engaging, and feed off the unfailing enthusiasm of the professors,” says Eli Weiner ’10, a Bard College at Simon’s Rock student. He’s not talking about the Simon’s Rock classroom; he’s describing his experience studying with the Bard Globalization and International Affairs (BGIA) program in New York City. In fact, Weiner likes the program so much that he decided to forgo a semester abroad, choosing instead to stay in New York with BGIA for another semester. He wasn’t the only one.

Not surprising, says Sue Lyon, director of academic and career resources. “Our students go there and they don’t want to come back,” she laughs. It’s hard to blame them. The curriculum is shaped by academics from the nation’s leading institutions: Bard, Brown, Yale, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, among others. Not to mention classes and lectures lead by practitioners from organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations, the United Nations, The New York Times, and Newsweek International. For students who have a strong interest in international affairs, it’s hard to leave.

Part of it is that BGIA students aren’t just learning interesting, important things from leaders in international affairs—they are actively shaping the world that they’re learning about through full-time internships at the United Nations, CNN, the New York City Mayor’s Office, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Human Rights Watch, and PBS, among scores of other profoundly important organizations.

Last semester, Weiner interned with Global Kids—a non-profit organization that runs academic enrichment and leadership programs in New York City high schools and middle schools. “I helped design and implement international relations workshops for high school students, and facilitated a range of Global Kids programming,” he says. And this semester he’s interning with Academic Earth, a hub for open source education (video lectures) from several American universities. For Weiner, who hopes to one day become a social entrepreneur, the experience is invaluable. “Right now I'm doing a lot of content management on the site, researching potential content partners, and designing metrics to measure the organization's social impact and Social Return on Investment.”

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill internships. “No one is licking stamps and sealing envelopes,” Lyon explains. “Our students are managing real responsibility. One of our students coordinated and constructed all of the publicity for a major event at her organization,” others, she says, have conducted research, evaluated, and implemented programs—all while taking intensive courses at night.

This semester, Weiner is taking classes he describes as highly actionable. “One course is on social entrepreneurship and strategic philanthropy, another is about analysis as it applies to international relations, and the third is a speaker series, which is phenomenal!” And while Weiner and other BGIA students rave about the teachers and speakers, they’re equally as impressed with what their peers bring to the table.

The program is highly selective and deliberatively small—admitting only 28 students. Amazingly, six spots are dedicated to Simon’s Rock students who are qualified and interested. Of those 28 students, about half are international, with several more coming from colleges other than Bard or Simon’s Rock. The application process is rigorous and students at Simon’s Rock and Bard have a distinct advantage: the director, Carter Page, visits campus at least once a semester to work closely with prospective students and evaluate whether or not it’s right for them. In the end, Simon’s Rock students share the classroom with a diverse, talented pool of highly motivated and interesting people.

All of this against the backdrop of New York City, which itself exposes students to people and cultures from around the world. BGIA students live in high-rise dormitories on the Upper East Side, with views of Manhattan’s skylines, an on-site laundry room, gym, pool, fully equipped kitchens, and 24-hour security—only a few blocks from Museum Mile and Central Park.  

As far as general experiences go, getting familiar with New York City has been immensely satisfying,” Weiner explains. “I can’t even begin to describe the difference between day-to-day living at Simon’s Rock and the life you lead at BGIA while in New York City.” 

Reflecting on his experience both on and off campus, Weiner believes that his work at Simon’s Rock helped to develop critical thinking and social skills and navigate what he hopes to do in life. Did it prepare him for the BGIA experience? “Rather than prepare me for BGIA, Simon’s Rock prepared me to get the most out of BGIA.”