Candidate Spotlight No. 3: IR School President
Julian Valladeres shares his goals for the School of International Relations.
the current state of the IR Department
Julian has nothing but enthusiasm for current president Mira Boneva’s work in improving the school. He describes the IR department as being “probably the most organised, structured one in St Andrews,” and hopes to carry on the positive changes that have been made this past year.
Mira has encouraged vertical, horizontal, and diagonal networking, terms given to networking between students, alumni, faculty, and outside employers. Supporting this initiative, Julian will continue the popular Wednesday IR lunches and work with the Foreign Affairs Office to host visits from their representatives.
“I’m not offering radical change,” he says. “If you’re ranked number one in the country, there’s no need for radical change. There’s need to keep a steady path.”
Julian has condensed his manifesto to four points that reflect his desire to build off the already successful school.
- Induction to Honours
Sub-honours is meant to prepare students for the jump from second to third year, something that Julian feels it manages to a certain extent: tough final exams, weekly readings, two essays per semester, and engaging tutorials all demand organisation and dedication from first and second year students.
“One of the basic things they omit,” he continues, “is that in honours level you are expected to write 5000 word essays or two 3000 word essays. And structuring a 5000 word essay is much different than structuring a 2000 word one.”
He proposes an optional induction course given in week two, before the stress of deadlines has fully set in. The workshop will focus entirely on honours prep, coaching the third years through longer essays, tutorial presentations, and general study tips.
2. PhD Teaching Scheme
Julian’s manifesto can be summed up with the word “dialogue.” With the goal of establishing an open dialogue between every member of the school of IR, from undergrads to postgrads to exchange students, he intends to provide more opportunities for students to interact with each other.
The PhD Teaching Scheme would be aimed at PhD students who often find themselves teaching tutorials in subjects that have little to do with their area of expertise. The scheme will provide an avenue for willing PhD students to present their personal projects to undergraduates, to the benefit of both themselves and the undergrads.
PhDs would be able to teach in their specialised subjects, and undergrads would be given the chance to see firsthand the nature of a PhD study.
3. Fourth Year Teaching Scheme
Similar to the PhD teaching scheme, the Fourth year teaching scheme would allow fourth year students to present their dissertations. Once again, both parties would benefit: Fourth years would be given constructive feedback on their projects, while undergrads (particularly third years) could begin the process of preparing for their own dissertations.
These two schemes exemplify Julian’s intent to unify the School of IR. “My campaign is not based on one set of students, but on everyone.” From postgrads to freshers, he wants all IR students to be part of a school-wide dialogue.
To this end, he will also collaborate with the DOSDA to train the next set of class reps during Week 3, at the beginning of their terms. This would create a stronger bond within the group and ensure that the school is represented by qualified, committed individuals.
4. Support for Faculty and Student-led Initiatives
Thanks to the school’s weekly emails, any IR-related events are given some amount of publicity by the department. Improvement can be made, Julian feels, on the amount of direct support given by the school to faculty and students as they organise events.
“If any organisations contact me in the future, I would make sure that they get all the support possible in their events – make sure that faculty members attend, incentivise tutors to tell their students to go, when possible provide financial support, and help them track bigger speakers. If we are the number one IR school in the country, I’m sure we could attract huge names. But we need to collaborate with all these societies to make it happen, and the school can be there to provide support.”
Simple yet effective, Julian’s manifesto seeks to provide avenues for positive developments that can be undertaken over the course of a year. Having spent this past year as SVS Convenor, a member of the Central American Initiative, and a member of the Entrepreneurs Society, he is aware of the need for gradual, rather than sudden, change. From offering more support to IR students studying abroad or providing more avenues for students to give module feedback, Julian wishes to make small alterations to the smooth-running school.
His sensible objectives are indicative of his past experience as a mediator. Being SVS Convenor, he actively liaises between volunteers and charities, charities and the university, the community and the SSC, in addition to keeping his own community informed of his position on various motions within the SSC.
Julian describes himself as being energetic, friendly, and always open to helping anyone in need of advice or a chat. As president, he hopes to establish a weekly “surgery” hour available to students who wish to share any thoughts or concerns that they have, once again promoting the open dialogue that he values. He also plans on working with the heads of other schools to organise networking events, reminding students of an IR degree’s flexible nature.
Student opinion being an important part of improving the school, Julian has considered an institutionalised feedback method that would prove more beneficial than the current module evaluation forms. Tutors could select two of their students at random to comment on their experience with the module, ideally capturing the general opinion of the class. The results could then be distributed to the rest of the students.
post st andrews
Currently, Julian is doing an internship with Dr Roddy Brett, an IR lecturer who spent time in Guatemala as scholar-practitioner.
“Optimistically, I want to go back to Latin America and possibly do some research. I’ve taken two classes on Latin American this year – which sounds ridiculous, I came all the way to St Andrews to study my own region. But it’s really changed my perspective, and I would really like to understand my own culture before understanding anything else. I’d like to work with an NGO in Guatemala.”