A monthly report from The Carter Center

Collaboration of Carter Center and University helps students understand NGOs

Emory students seeking to expand their knowledge of world affairs found a welcome addition to the political science curriculum this semester, thanks to a collaboration between The Carter Center and University faculty. The new course, "Public Policy and Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)," is designed to teach students how international and domestic NGOs help transform ideas into public policy and how an effective combination of theory and analysis can solve challenging social problems.

Cross-listed under sociology, the class meets once a week and is led by Robert Pastor, professor of political science at Emory and director of The Carter Center's Latin America and Caribbean Program (LACP), and Steven Hochman, the Center's associate director of programs.

The 60 juniors and seniors taking the course will benefit not only from the expertise of Pastor and Hochman, but from lectures given by more than 20 Emory faculty and Carter Center fellows and directors addressing topics ranging from religion and global health to issues of conflict resolution in Africa and the Middle East. The class will also feature former President Jimmy Carter lecturing in mid-spring.

For junior Nicole O'Reilly, an international relations major and an intern at The Carter Center, the great appeal of the class is that "it helps us view current events in a questioning way as opposed to a judgmental one. We're not just examining governmental structures; we're looking beyond power plays and learning to consider events as they happen instead of after the fact."

To Hochman, what makes the class distinctive is "the collaboration between Emory and The Carter Center, and because it brings a focus on the application of knowledge into the classroom." That focus includes dividing the class each week into groups of about six and presenting each group with a current world problem. The groups' assignment is to analyze the situation for a half hour via discussion and role play and present a solution to it. "This class may be the first of its kind," Hochman said, "in that we know of no other course that focuses on NGOs and the impact they have on implementing public policy."

Pastor concurred. "The premise of the course is that ideas are the basis of actions," he explained. "You cannot make good policy with an obsolete vision of the world's problems. NGOs with an accurate picture of the post-Cold War can make a difference." And, according to Nicole O'Reilly, the class itself is making a difference in the way students approach world affairs. "Now when I read the newspaper, I can tie in what I'm reading not only to this class, but to others I'm taking as well. Having an impressive list of experts to learn from, including President Carter, is a tremendous benefit also. All of the students in the class feel lucky to have gotten in."

Although this is the first semester that the course has been offered, both Hochman and Pastor hope to make it a regular part of the Emory curriculum. "I know a lot of students who would jump at the chance to take it," said O'Reilly. "There's a lot of enthusiasm for the class, but also a great need for it as well."

Ann Carney is assistant communications coordinator for The Carter Center.

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