For more than 25 years, United Nations-related programs at SUNY New Paltz have delivered international opportunities and awareness to students in political science, international relations, business and other fields.
Those programs were recognized in April, when New Paltz was granted membership to United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), a coalition of nearly 1,000 colleges in more than 100 countries who are committed to working with the UN to promote global consciousness in higher education.
UNAI affiliated institutions are distinguished by their commitment to globally-focused principles including peace and conflict resolution, human rights and sustainability. The College has garnered UNAI affiliation due in large part to initiatives undertaken by Ş. İlgü Özler, associate professor of political science and international relations and director of the Global Engagement Project (GEP).
“SUNY New Paltz is committed to advancing understanding of the vital role of the United Nations in working towards global cooperation,” Özler said. “Whether students are going into non-profit, government or private sector careers, global awareness is an essential part of becoming a fully educated person. Students need to understand where they stand globally in order to become fully functioning and contributing citizens who can contribute to a promising future.”
Özler teaches a six-credit United Nations seminar that includes a practical fieldwork component consisting of 10 weekly visits to the UN in New York City, where students may participate in briefings by UN officials and NGO representatives.
“We have had hundreds of New Paltz students visit the United Nations for over a thousand briefings given by UN officials, country missions and non-governmental organizations,” Özler said. “Many of these students have moved on to careers at the UN, to the foreign service or to other public or private sector positions, equipped with a full understanding of the important role that the UN plays in global affairs.
Özler developed the GEP in 2013, with support from the Center for International Programs. Each fall semester, the GEP connects students from across the SUNY system with diverse, globally engaged organizations based in New York City for internship opportunities. Students can earn credit for working a minimum of 20 hours per week, and are also expected to produce research projects and theses presentations. In the two semesters of its operation, the GEP has helped more than 20 students land intern positions.
Brian Campbell ’15 (International Relations) found a communication internship with Physicians for Human Rights through the GEP in the fall 2014 semester. The experience helped him narrow his professional focus, and he is now planning to attend law school in pursuit of a career in humanitarian law.
“My internship was the most important thing I did in college, professionally and personally,” Campbell said. “I improved my networking skills so much, and I think that’s something you can’t get in a normal class environment. I learned to speak to people in my field about what I want to do, and I’m already using my contacts there to find job opportunities.”
More information about the UNAI is available at its website.