Twenty-four students in a fourth-year political science course, twelve chapters in a textbook on U.S. foreign policy, and one major end-of-semester assignment added up to a significant contribution to current information on the subject of U.S. foreign policy.
Senior scholar Edelgard Mahant of Glendon’s Political Science department likes to challenge her fourth-year students with creative assignments, which take them beyond the usual classroom experience. “They have all had plenty of opportunities to write essays over the years”, says Mahant. “I wanted to provide them with a scholarly experience that might be something new.”
Professor Edelgard Mahant (centre) and her 4th-year U.S. Foreign Policy class
Ever since its publication, Mahant has been using Steven W. Hook’s “U.S. Foreign Policy: The Paradox of World Power”, published in 2005 by CQ Press (A Division of Congressional Quarterly Inc.) in her fourth-year class. It was the only text she deemed appropriate and useful on this topic. But with the massive amounts of new developments in this field, even this textbook was already two years out of date. So Mahant decided to put her students to work bringing the information up to date.
Students were assigned in teams of two to work on individual chapters and fill in the gaps in information, with an in-depth research paper due at the end of the semester. Topics included: The United States in a Turbulent World; The Expansion of U.S. Power; Presidential Power; Congress Beyond the “Water’s Edge”; Public Opinion and Mass Communications; The Strength of Intergovernmental Organizations; and National Security and Defense Policy, to name a few.
Students responded with enthusiasm to the novelty and the challenge of this assignment. When the reports were in, Mahant was amazed by the outstanding quality of academic research her class had produced. The depth, accuracy and timeliness of the information she received gave her the idea of forwarding the project’s results to Steven Hook – the author of the text – in the hope that he might find it interesting and useful. Hook’s response was beyond all expectations. He requested permission to incorporate the contents of the Glendon class assignments in the update of the original text, now in progress, and confirmed that he would give them credit in the new edition for their contribution.
Mahant’s encouragement of undergraduate research is a perfect fit with the launching in December 2006 of a brand new program: Research at York (RAY), with the objective of engaging undergraduate students in research. Developed by the Office of the Vice-President, Academic and Vice President, Students, RAY is a “strategic, collaborative initiative enhancing the university’s research culture as well as the undergraduate student experience”, as stated in the program’s official announcement.
None of this is news to Mahant. She had undertaken the text update research project well before the announcement of the new RAY initiative. Two years ago, she mounted another project in collaboration with her students, which resulted in the publication, in 2005, of a comprehensive report in book format under the title “Europe at Home: Domestic Consequences of European Integration”. This book was submitted by Mahant to the library of her alma mater, the London School of Economics, and has been accepted as part of their collection.
“Participating in such a research project provides students with enrichment on so many levels”, says Mahant. “Beyond acquiring in-depth knowledge in their field of study, they learn the tasks involved in book publication and in finding ways to get their work out to the public. The recognition resulting from their success in this project will also raise Glendon’s profile as a place of leading-edge learning and research.”
This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny