Dr. Rand Blimes, associate professor in the School of Business and Government, said the international experience students gain at BYU-Hawaii is what sets them apart in the job market.
“Especially as countries become more and more economically and socially integrated, this [international experience] becomes a real and valuable skill. BYUH students have an advantage for any type of international work.
Blimes said he has been pushing for international relations and international development to become a minor ever since he started teaching at BYUH 10 years ago because when he arrived here he was not a minor. or a specific major. “I thought it was a little weird, given how international the school is.”
Jarek Buss, a BYUH alumnus and US State Department Foreign Service Officer currently stationed in North Macedonia, said BYUH has done everything for his international career and provided him with fantastic opportunities for experience. abroad and internationally.
Buss explained that he chose BYUH over BYU in Provo because he realized BYUH was where he would be immersed in an international environment. “I had to think about the courses of the political science program that I could take to draw together a major with an international vocation. But now the new miners can actually provide a structure and a blueprint for interested students to know what they can do.
Recognize the gap
In his early days as a teacher, Blimes shared that he had the opportunity to visit Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji. During his visit to these countries, he asked BYUH alumni, especially those who had studied political science, what they would have liked to learn but did not.
“Almost everyone I spoke to raised issues related to economic development. So, I realized there was kind of a gap there. From there, Blimes explained that he began advocating for the creation of minors in international relations and international development by gradually adding courses to the political science curriculum.
“The miners really align with BYUH’s goals in terms of helping to develop leaders internationally. There are so many students at BYUH where when you sit down and talk to [them] about what they want to do in the future, it’s not something they can accomplish without thinking about how countries interact with each other.
The Minor in International Relations
Blimes said it’s important for everyone to understand how countries interact and what’s going on behind the scenes, even if they don’t think about working in international trade or becoming a diplomat. International relations is a broad subject and covers many different topics, he shared, and for some students, that’s fine.
Students can easily pair their international relations minor with their major, even if it doesn’t look like it at first glance, Blimes explained.
For example, in the field of public health and the prevention of viral epidemics, he said that the minor in international relations can help students understand other components. “You may be studying science to understand the virus side, but then you back it up with a [international relations] minor, to better understand how countries can cooperate on issues like this, or understand how international law works, could be very helpful.
Blimes explained that sometimes it’s hard to jump in, read the papers and immediately understand how and why the world works the way it does. Common questions such as “Why did this country do this?” or “Why is this happening?” are addressed in the minor novella.
“[Students] learn to think about life from a different point of view. For me, it’s super fascinating. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t want to understand how the world works.
The Minor in International Development
For students who are more interested in issues in countries that stem from poverty, the minor in international development allows them to focus specifically on developing countries, Blimes explained.
Many BYUH students come from developing countries, he said, stressing that his goal is to try to help students find effective ways to help their country.
He said this minor is even useful for those in good positions as they can reflect on how they can help those who are less fortunate. “Having good intentions is good, but it’s not enough. [People need] have enough knowledge [they] can turn [their] good intentions into real useful policies.
Blimes shared that it is great to see Pacific Island students come to BYUH and gain knowledge and tools to take back to their home countries. He added that students from the Pacific are sandwiched between the “two biggest economies that have ever existed”, China and the United States.
“It’s an interesting position to say the least,” he added.
Studying those relationships and the impact of Kiribati, the Cook Islands or Fiji is something the new miner is focusing on, Blimes explained. “There is a real meaning [people’s] well-being in, [for example]Fiji is not only determined by [them]. It’s determined by the other actors and how they treat each other.
He explained that people should want to understand what is going on and where they belong, no matter where they come from. “The best thing is to study it in an organized way, which is what we do in political science. We’re trying to make sense of all the craziness that’s going on.
Blimes said being around Pacific Island students has impacted his own process as an international relations scholar, as he now thinks more about how small states interact with large economies.
Qudaela Taleni, a second-year student from Samoa majoring in political science, said her goal was to give back to her community by tackling human rights and poverty in her home country. She said political science gives her the tools she needs to achieve her goal.
“The courses of these two minors really help me better understand global issues, the effects of building relationships with other countries, and some of the resolutions that can be made to resolve international conflicts.” She added that the courses also taught her how she can contribute to solving problems in her country such as poverty.
A teacher support system
Buss said the new miners could attract people planning to study international relations or international development and draw attention to BYUH’s real strengths.
” There are many things [people] can do, and [they] get what [they] to put. Buss explained that all of the hands-on experience BYUH has provided has been incredibly helpful in his life, as other universities with larger numbers of students don’t provide the same opportunities.
“That’s the amazing thing about BYUH. There are a lot of opportunities, and when [people] make efforts, [they] can do a lot,” he said.
There are a lot of different directions one can take with international relations or international development, Buss explained. Whether working in a non-governmental organization, as a diplomat, implementing projects or managing projects themselves, there are many options, he explained.
Buss said he enjoys his job as a diplomat because he can live in different countries, learn new cultures and languages, and attend meetings with world leaders. Then other times, he said his job could take him places he didn’t think he would go. For example, in 2020 he said he was put on a COVID-19 task force with the State Department that focused on evacuating a cruise ship in Japan.
Working as a diplomat, Buss explained that he always considered his professors some of his greatest friends and mentors and always asked them about their opinions on different parts of foreign policy relations.
“They are really, really good people who really care about their students, and that has made a huge difference in my life. The political science department truly has some of the best professors I have ever encountered. •