Leading global change

@IE University
2:00 min

A degree in International Relations opens up the whole world, in which the private sector can be as influential as the diplomatic sphere.

Traditionally, it was thought that people studied International Relations because they wanted to work in NGOs or in diplomacy. But at IE University, our students tend to be people who want to have personal success and may work in a variety of sectors, but they care a lot about the consequences of what they are doing. They are curious, and want to live in different countries. These are the new leaders.

Jose Piquer, Executive Director of Undergraduate Studies in International Relations at IE University, analyzes the student intake on a course which in the summer of 2016 culminated in the first batch of graduates. So where did the first diverse group of young global leaders head off to start the good work? Basically, everywhere. Some have headed into diplomatic circles; others naturally, into NGOs.

“Our students want to have personal success but they care a lot about the consequences of what they are doing. These are the new leaders.”

Jose Piquer, Executive Director of Undergraduate Studies in International Relations

But there are other, perhaps more surprising destinations for International Relations (IR) graduates, such as Interpol and the Spanish construction giant, Acciona. María Ortiz de Mendivil Schwartz is doing a paid internship in Acciona’s sustainability department at the company’s Madrid headquarters, a symbol of both the flexibility of IR in terms of application and a changing world, in which the private sector is held accountable for its actions in a way previously reserved for the public sector.

“From human rights to managing the impact we cause in the places in which we operate, there are so many aspects arising from Acciona’s work in construction and renewable energies,” María explains.

“Plus someone has to oversee the communications with the many organizations with which we operate, including the UN and NGOs or other associations promoting carbon neutral activities. Companies have to be more responsible now. It’s no longer just about making a profit, but improving people’s lives.”

IEU’s degree offers specific skills to help students flourish as global leaders of change, but María has found something beyond mere training that helps her to deal with new situations on a daily basis. “I find I am able to synthesize points of view and make good presentations. But more than that, the IR degree gives you a way of thinking about things; soft skills.”

“Companies have to be more responsible now. It’s no longer just about making a profit, but improving people’s lives”

María Ortiz de Mendivil Schwartz, 2016 graduate from IEU

Whether graduates head for think-tanks, NGOs, development banks, governments, diplomatic corps or consulting firms and multinationals, they will have been well-prepared by IE University’s focus on hands-on activities and contact with the sheer diversity of the student body and faculty.

International Relations IE University

As someone who has fond memories of studying a master’s degree at the IE School of International Relations, in which the 35 students represented 22 nationalities, Jose Piquer says that such diversity brings a whole new dimension to the subject matter. “The discussion is completely different when you have so many nationalities. We were talking about the situation in Ukraine the other day and there was a student from Donetsk, who had a distinct outlook from the others. Sometimes debates can even get a little heated, but students have to learn tolerance and that different individuals debate in a different way.”

And IEU students do not need to fly the university nest before gaining real-world experience of international relations. Thanks to the commitment to hands-on learning and an entrepreneurial approach, even first-year undergraduates can learn and apply skills in the innovative system of IEU Labs, in which students form professional units in collaboration with project partners from the private, non-profit and public sectors.

The Policy Lab describes itself as a “do-tank” whose projects have included providing country risk assessments to real-world companies such as Spanish auto parts manufacturer Gestamp, developing an institutional relations strategy for a multinational company and an analysis of Open Government and E-Government policies in Spain, the United States, the UK, China, Brazil and the European Union.

But make no mistake. Diplomacy is still very much on the table as a career option for IEU graduates. Four out of the 10 interns Spain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry selected to assist the permanent mission after Spain was elected to occupy a seat on the UN Security Council for the 2015-16 term were plucked from the Bachelor in International Relations at IE University.

“The course gives you a lot of opportunities. It doesn’t close your future, but rather makes it a big and open space,” concludes María.