Student Representatives, Field I – International Relations

Oct 27 2020
Kaira Bakkestad-Legare and Rebecca Gorin

This blog was written by the current Field I representatives at SPIA—Kaira Bakkestad-Legare and Rebecca Gorin.

Field I (International Relations) attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds. Before SPIA, Rebecca worked as an Analyst at the U.S. State Department doing research and analytics to inform communications with global audiences. Kaira was Senior Policy Officer in the Nordic and Polar Relations division at Global Affairs Canada where she worked to develop a new Arctic foreign policy for Canada. In our role as the Field I representatives to PUPSG (Princeton University Policy Student Government), we organize social events and work with the administration to elevate the types of classes, workshops and speakers that Field I students are interested in. Although our social events look different this year, we’ve still been able to have some socially distant gatherings and maintain the Field I community.

All Field I students take Professor Ikenberry’s International Politics class in their first semester, which covers all of the major schools of thought in international relations. The best part of the class is hearing from other students about how the theory applies to their professional experience. Students in our class had worked in a wide range of organizations, including the U.S. government, the U.S. military, other countries’ foreign service departments, NGOs, and think tanks. When we talked about Russia, we heard from a classmate who had worked at a diplomatic mission in Moscow and when we covered non-state actors, several students who worked at international non-profits shared their experiences as we applied the theory.  Some of the most interesting insights came from classmates who were pivoting from domestic to international policy.

As MPA2s, we benefit from classes taught by practitioners. We are both taking Ambassador Kurtzer’s policy workshop about the intractable conflict in Cyprus. As the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, we have learned from Ambassador Kurtzer’s experiences working on the Israel-Palestine conflict as we develop a report on Cyprus for a client in the U.S. government. In a normal year, we would have traveled to Cyprus and conducted field work over fall break but this year we have been conducting remote field work, interviewing high-level contacts in the diplomatic community.

Another great aspect of the Field I community at SPIA is the vast alumni network. Field I-ers go on to work on Capitol Hill, in the State Department, at multilateral institutions or think tanks and NGOs around the world. This global network of Field I alumni are always eager to share lessons and advice drawn from their professional experiences with current students at SPIA.  While International Relations alumni and students represent diverse perspectives and a range of professional backgrounds, we’ve all taken Professor Ikenberry’s class and participated in similar policy workshops - shared experiences that create a tight-knit and welcoming Field I community.