B.U. Bridge is published by the Boston University Office of University Relations.
Consolidation first step for IR's curricular expansion
By Eric McHenry
A month ago, if you had run into Andrew Bacevich at the corner of Deerfield Street and Bay State Road and asked him how to get to the CAS department of international relations, he might have pointed east with one arm and west with the other.
For many years, the department's offices and facilities were strewn along Bay State Road, at 67, 152, and 156 -- an arrangement that promoted fresh air and exercise, but not departmental cohesion. On April 5, however, students and faculty gathered in a newly renovated 154 Bay State to celebrate the physical coming together, and the curricular expansion, of international relations at Boston University. The department now occupies three adjacent buildings, a first step toward its transformation into a professional school of international relations.
"We hope to transform the department into a school of international relations for graduate education," says Bacevich, director of the Center for International Relations and an IR professor. "We have, at the provost's request, prepared a five-year plan for international relations at Boston University, and the heart of the plan is the creation of this school."
Currently, students can earn a bachelor's degree and a variety of master's degrees in international relations. Some of these, such as the M.A. in international relations and international communications, are joint or dual degrees offered in conjunction with other University schools, and all are conferred through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Although the specifics are still under discussion, the new graduate school will offer additional advanced degrees. "BU has an unusually strong mix of academics and practitioners in international relations," says Erik Goldstein, chairman of the department, "which makes it competitive not only with leading U.S. schools but with the best internationally. This building project gives us facilities to rival the best of our competitors and the basis for creating a great school of international relations."
Dennis Berkey, University provost and dean of arts and sciences, told the group gathered at the April 5 event that the three linked buildings are symbolic of international relations itself -- a field that unites several disciplines.
"Remember," Berkey said, "that international relations started as an interdisciplinary program in the college, the project of [CAS Professors of History] Bill Keylor and John Gagliardo and a number of other individuals who came from the disciplines -- from history, from economics, from political science, from geography -- from all the fields that ought to inform the core education and training of our future diplomats and leaders on the international stage. And I hope you will remember, as you move forward to create a school for international relations at Boston University, those roots in the disciplines of the liberal arts, and the important interdisciplinary character of the work that you do here with our students."
The retrofitted building at 154 Bay State features three state-of-the-art seminar rooms, each with a large projection screen for power-point presentations, an Ethernet connection, and a podium. In the interest of versatility, the rooms have been outfitted with multiple stacking chairs and folding tables.
"We tried not to create anything that wasn't multifunctional," says Michael Soucy, an architect for Stubbins Associates, Inc., and the renovation's project director. "Rather than putting something that's too big and heavy in the middle of a room and calling it a conference room, we put in practical, less expensive, knockdown-type furnishings that can be easily stacked and moved so that the room can be used for other functions."
The renovation, under the guidance of the University and with input from the Back Bay West Historical Commission, was largely a restoration, Soucy says. It involved the preservation and remounting of much of the building's original ornamentation, including a number of attractive crystal chandeliers. The project also entailed the creation of several large, airy offices, a graduate student lounge with a full kitchen, and a garden on the building's south side. And next door, at 156, Soucy and his colleagues redeveloped the first floor to create an advising space for the department's 750-plus undergraduate majors.
"This will inevitably foster an even stronger sense of community," says Goldstein. "The students have already remarked to me how great it is to have everybody together. They've particularly appreciated the development of a graduate student facility in the new building."
"When you're together, you can bump into people," adds Bacevich. "There are more opportunities to talk, to exchange ideas, to get to know one another, and to interact with students. I think there's just a host of benefits that derive from this coming together. It provides a jumping-off point for this next idea of what international relations at Boston University can be. And the fact that it's such a beautiful building obviously makes the prospect even more attractive."