Students Explore International Affairs at United Nations with Teaching Ambassador

AMHERST, Mass. — A group of 18 students spent Monday, March 24 interacting with diplomats, foreign officials, and professional staff at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Led by ambassador and political science Prof. Armen Baibourtian, the trip was a part of a growing series of professional development and career preparatory activities sponsored by the Department of Political Science.

“The trip was an opportunity to see the inner-workings of one of the world’s most well-known and respected global organizations,” said Brian Schaffner, chair of the Department of Political Science. “When Professor Baibourtian offered to arrange the visit, we knew it was something we could not pass up.”

Students met with staff from the Office of Human Resources Management where they were briefed about internship and employment opportunities within the organization.

“Since many students with an interest in international affairs or foreign service are curious about jobs at the UN, I felt it was important for them to hear first-hand about the requirements and expectations for working with the organization,” says Ambassador Baibourtian. “For most students, this was the first time they had been to the UN.”

With that in mind, Baibourtian made sure their first trip would be memorable.

In addition to the human resources officials, students met with senior officers in the Department of Political Affairs and the Department of Public Information where they were exposed to the breadth of the UN activities around the globe.

Baibourtian also arranged for tours of the UN Security, Economic, and Social Councils and helped students practice their networking and diplomatic skills through a luncheon at the UN Cafeteria.  “One of my goals was to demonstrate to the students how multifaceted the United Nations is,” said Baibourtian.

Political Science student Alex Schaffer ‘14 says he accomplished that goal. “I think I had a very defined vision of the UN,” says Schaffer. “[I went on the trip because] I wanted it to be verified. It turned out that I was completely off base. It is a complex, intricate power house of peace and it was eye opening to see how many layers go into making the UN a functional organization. Coming to that understanding was my favorite part, because with the Professor’s help, I think a lot of us were able to understand how important the UN really is.”

Many of the trip participants were able to continue conversations about the United Nations in Baibourtian’s classes “At the Crossroads: The Caucasus between the East and the West” and “The Caucasian Knot: The US, the EU, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Regional Perspective.” Baibourtian is able to teach both courses this semester thanks in part to generous gifts and grants from the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, and the Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation.