BY BERKIN SAFAK SENER
SAIS launched a brand new Master of Arts program in International Political Economy (IPE) in the Fall Semester this year. The new program seeks to provide MA students with the widest possible set of skills and competencies to comprehend the dynamics of the international political economy and to address global problems. Three factors put the SAIS program in international political economy ahead of its global counterparts, says Professor Erik Jones: the strong emphasis on training in international economics, the wide array of excellent courses offered by SAIS faculty, and the deep commitment to helping students transition from the classroom to the workplace.
Could you please tell us about the general requirements and objectives of this program?
The program builds on a restricted set of core courses and wider set of allied courses. Students have to complete a minimum number of courses from the core cluster but can choose to round out their IPE course selections from the wider range cross-listed offerings. That way we can allow students to follow their own interests but we are also sure that they are able to build on the same concepts and methods. The program also provides opportunities for students to participate in internships or to undertake extended independent research. This model is similar to that used in other parts of the wider program in international relations. What is distinctive about IPE is the extent to which we place emphasis on integrating the economics, international relations, and regional studies elements in the SAIS curriculum.
What sort of intellectual gap that this program intends to fill within domain of international relations?
The goal of the IPE program is not to ‘fill a gap’ in what SAIS offers so much as it is to take advantage of the great strengths of a SAIS education. When we proposed to create the new degree concentration, we did not seek to lay on new courses. Instead, we showed how we could repackage existing course offerings and take advantage of new appointments that were already under way. The result is better packaging and signaling both for students and for potential employers.
What is the difference of SAIS IPE from IPE programs in other universities?
SAIS students know international economics. They study international economics with professional economists who are deeply engaged both in academia and with the policy community. Not many other graduate institutions require that their students to do that. SAIS students also have broad exposure to regional expertise. This way they can take what they learn about theoretical economics and then study how it works both across regions and countries and within them.
Does SAIS IPE pursue a particular school of thought?
That is an interesting question. SAIS is famous for having pioneered certain areas of study. Professor Charles Doran’s work on power cycle theory is one example; Professor David Calleo’s work on American hegemony is another. It is possible to imagine ‘schools of thought’ developing around these contributions. But the goal of most SAIS faculty is more narrowly focused on solving real-world problems. This kind of ‘problem-centered research’ may lead to a great theoretical discovery – and the two examples I gave are good illustrations – but it may also simply lead to better policy. That is really what we want to achieve with this program.
What are the three crucial problems of the world today will and should be addressed by SAIS IPE graduates?
Obviously, the answer of this question depends on the circumstances, but I have three that are important for me. I am interested in stabilizing financial market integration. This is not about financial market performance or smoothing the business cycles. Instead, this is about making sure that when we integrate savings and investments across regulatory jurisdictions, cross-border exposures do not come suddenly fly apart again. This ‘flying apart’ is called a ‘sudden stop’ in development economics; but it is not a problem limited to developing countries. The recent crisis in Europe is a good illustration. The second problem I find interesting is associated with the stability of systemically important market infrastructures. These market infrastructures constitute systemic risks. For example, shutting down telecommunication channels between among banks would obviously be bad, because it would disrupt the normal flow of business. . The third problem has to do with migration and refugees. This is a major issue both in Europe and globally.
What would be your suggestions for the potential students?
The most important thing I would recommend is that they follow their interests. If that bring them to SAIS, then they should prepare by reading voraciously. I am less interested in what they read than that they read. That said, I hope they will read a lot of different things – both about their home countries and written by people who live there about the outside world. This kind of reading will equip them to contribute to conversations in the classrooms, hallways, and other places that constitute the SAIS experience.
Erik Jones is Director of European and Eurasian Studies and Professor of European Studies and International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University. He is also Senior Research Fellow at Nuffield College in Oxford, United Kingdom. Jones is author of The Politics of Economic and Monetary Union (2002), Economic Adjustment and Political Transformation in Small States (2008), and, together with Dana Allin, Weary Policeman: American Power in an Age of Austerity (2012). His most recent book is a collection of short essays called The Year the European Crisis Ended (2014). He is editor or co-editor of more than twenty books or special issues of journals on topics related to European politics and political economy including The Oxford Handbook of the European Union (2012) and The Oxford Handbook of Italian Politics (2015). Professor Jones teaches on topics in international and comparative political economy with a particular focus on Europe and the transatlantic relationship.