Our Bachelor in International Relations is an international relations degree like no other, in that it guarantees a world-class, experiential educational journey with a focus on the 5Ps of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In doing so, it draws on the extensive experience of the UNSSC to immerse students in the heart of the international relations sphere. And that’s what the UNSSC Summer Research Program is all about.
A joint initiative between IE University and the United Nations System Staff College, the Summer Research Program is specifically designed to provide students of the Bachelor in International Relations with practical skills such as teamwork, research and data analysis, and provide in-depth, firsthand knowledge about the innovative activities going on within the UN system.
The task before our students is different every year, but in line with the bachelor’s objectives, it focuses on the work of the UN around the globe.
A deep dive into Voluntary National Reviews
The latest Summer Research Program centered on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of 44 countries’ own progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda. Working on teams of no more than four students, each group was overseen by a member of IE University’s highly experienced faculty. Students were challenged to research and analyze the engagement of academia, the private sector, local government, civil society, data/statistical agencies and specific vulnerable groups in countries large and small, at different developmental stages, and in all parts of the world.
The brief presented to the teams was as broad as it was deep. They were asked to dive deeply not only into the roles played by each of the different groups mentioned as actors in the 2030 agenda, but also to highlight best practices that may be shared among other countries. Meanwhile, they were tasked with providing comparative analysis of the challenges emerging to face these stakeholders, and come up with other aspects of the field that are worthy of research. So it was quite a challenge!
The challenge ran from May to September. The teams were given a week to plan the scope and methodology of their research and write any questions. They then collected and analyzed data over the course of three months, and research outcomes were submitted in written form before a final presentation in September.
Teamwork, guidance and valuable learnings
As always, the latest group of students to complete the Summer Research Program threw themselves wholeheartedly into the endeavor. Our participants’ backgrounds are as diverse as the countries they were tasked with examining, but one thing they share in common is their overwhelmingly positive experience of what was by no means an easy undertaking.
Pablo Iñiguez, studying the Dual Degree in Laws & International Relations, learned a lot about teamwork in particular. For Pablo, who’s from Madrid, it was an “invaluable chance at acquiring not only research skills, but also in management, whether it’s coordinating between or within the different teams.” He concluded from the research that achieving the SDGs will require a collective effort from a multitude of stakeholders, all of whom need to endorse the idea of “leaving no one behind.”
Ecuadorian Miguel Eduardo Pesantes, who is studying our Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations, admitted that such initiatives can be challenging at a time when many people are enjoying their vacation, but he was “grateful to share this opportunity with such clever and hard-working teammates.” He sees great value in what he learned, “I will be applying these insights in my remaining years at IE University and look forward to applying them in my professional future as well!”
Juan Enrique Pendavis, from Peru, was studying the Bachelor in International Relations at the time of the Summer Research Program, and has stayed at IE University to pursue a Master in International Development. He praised the guidance provided by IE University’s faculty members over the course of the challenge. “Supervisors were a huge help in defining and implementing the expectations and standards of the UNSSC in our research and writing. They were paramount in helping us clarify and define our scope of research while actively encouraging us to produce the best work possible,” he told us.
Enduring relevance and lasting impact
María José Jaramillo Holguin was another Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations student to participate in the program. She explains that there was a lot of data to get through. “It was challenging to identify ways or factors to base ourselves from, to organize and classify the information in order to find patterns, emerging challenges and best practices, and then be able to develop a comprehensive and coherent analysis.” But she praised the initiative’s “enduring relevance” and took a lot from a “highly relevant and enriching project, from which one can gain valuable insights, knowledge and skills, as well as guidance from experts in the field.”
For Vazha Peradze from Tbilisi, Georgia, the chance to take on some enriching collaborative research was as important as the opportunity to immerse himself in the inner workings of the UNSSC. Currently pursuing the Master in International Development, he was sure of the value of the program post his IE University bachelor’s degree. “This program is not just an academic endeavor, but a practical insight into real-world international relations and policy-making,” he told us. “Your participation could significantly impact both your personal growth and the global community’s progress towards these crucial goals. Be prepared for hard work, but also for an incredibly rewarding experience.”
A priceless opportunity
Miguel Panadero, senior manager at UNSSC, is in no doubt as to the Summer Research Program’s value. According to Miguel, IE University students have contributed significantly to meeting the expectations of their mission as the main learning institution for UN staff: “The new perspectives of youth is something that has been missing, and it’s great to have contributed to fill this gap.”
But we’ll leave the final word to participant Ines Montero, a Dual Degree in Business Administration and International Relations student from Argentina. “I take many wins: a great visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A remarkable team that turned into friends. Knowledge about realities far from mine, and the acquired skills of producing a report for the UN. Priceless.”