The brevity of the graduate program at the Patterson School has often surprised me, with each semester seeming to dissolve as soon as it became the driver of a routine. Still, the semester is supposed to end, the degree is meant to be earned, and the day to day of graduate school is (hopefully) destined to fade into the structure of a related career. I think most people on the Ex-Patt board (and at the Patterson School in general) would agree that they signed on for the whirlwind of activity associated with an accelerated program and many times looked forward to its conclusion and a little peace. I know I did.
Just as assignments and readings acted as mental checkpoints along the path of the semester, this blog has become a major fixture of my academic experience over the past year; marking the progress of my week and offering a productive distraction. Posting this one contains the traces of a finality that can only compare to leaving Kentucky. I am grateful for and partially defined by both spaces and in debt to those who have written and read things here and been good friends to me there.
Beyond my personal ties to the Ex-Patt, this site holds a greater significance for a domain that rarely flirts with the concept of finality and is defined by its dynamism; the field of International affairs. There are a number of different sites and sources that one can turn to in order to glean the analysis of thoughtful and well-read individuals on current events and policy but what makes this site special is the perspective of students and variety of approach.
With a diverse group of thinkers, drawn from the business world, politics, development, academics, and the military, the shape of opinion and the angle of analysis have generally produced some novel syntheses of the news cycle. This variety is compounded by the fact that many of us are getting exposed to the theoretical base of the discipline for the first time, which encourages innovation in the interpretation of what may prejudice other more structured and seasoned viewpoints.
The articles that have combined these qualities in the most interesting fashion have been those that fuse the common wisdom of popular culture with the theoretical perspectives of international affairs. It would appear our readers agree, as they are some of our most read and shared posts. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, Maddie Higdon and Lee Clark’s post on Mass Effect’s diplomacy system was featured here and on PAXsims and Marc DuBuis’s musings on the concept of the weak state and Game of Thrones is here.
Outside of Mass Effect and Meeren, the conflicts of this universe have featured prominently in this semester’s blogs, with Russia’s intervention in Syria and continued involvement in Ukraine serving as the impetus for a number of posts ranging from a focus on the Russian military and operational friction in Syria, to economic and diplomatic maneuvers, to analysis of Russian grand strategy.
ISIS unfortunately continues to be a major news item, with its attack on Paris, atrocities in its primary area of operation, and penetration into Africa and Central Asia as somber notes on another year defined by one of the more macabre and well-publicized manifestations of the continuing disorder in the Middle East. The growing political violence in Burundi also loomed large and spawned thoughtful analysis here and here.
One thing I have been particularly pleased with this semester has been the balanced and typically sober analysis of US-China relations and Asia generally. Some corners of the security blogosphere have become a clickbait wasteland, with a growing cottage industry formed around the production of titles combining the words “China” and “war”. I felt a great deal of pride in the fact that our site acknowledged the potential for conflict and change in Asia but also delved into the nuances of the economic and security conditions surrounding the two powers’ relations with the rest of the world and each other. Central Asia also received a fair amount of attention and rightfully so, given its unique place as a barometer of influence and global economic growth.
Another high note, for the world community at least, was the Iranian nuclear deal, a bright spot in what has increasingly appeared to be a dour year for global peace. We have a number of perspectives on the agreement, with a look at the deal itself, how it affects Iran and its ability to project force, as well as the impact of its implementation on Kentucky.
Beyond the competition that often defines the traditional study of international affairs, the Ex-Patt blog also continued to cover the movement of people, human security and human rights, trade and business, the global politics of sports, as well as American government and budgetary issues.
We have also experimented with infographics this semester, both of which were well received and a nice change of pace from the walls of text that are the typical medium of analysis on the blog. If you enjoyed those, you should see more to come. Dana Lea, the creator of the first infographic for the site and our social media guru, will tend to the blog from now on. I wish her luck and I’m sure she will expand our audience and continue to cultivate this blog’s unique voice.
The Ex-Patt blog could also use your help, the reader, student, teacher, alumni, or thinker who feels they could contribute to the Patterson School’s conversation on international affairs. We have had a number of valuable contributions from alumni, independent analysts, and writers that have been among our most successful posts. If you want to share your perspective, or respond to our community’s, please submit your blogs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been grateful for my time here, the experience of gaining insight into the viewpoints of my peers, and the opportunity to work on a project that I watched grow before my eyes. We could not have made it such a succesful year without our readers and writers, and I’ve been happy to see the WordPress globe light up as we gained viewership from around the world We are also forever indebted to those that dedicated so much of their precious time to creating content for this blog. To everyone else, thank you for the views, shares, up votes, likes, and tweets. We hope there will be many more to come.
Ryan Kuhns is a master’s student at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. He studies International Security and Commerce with his main interests being in international relations, defense economics, strategy, and the social/political organization of war. He can be contacted at email@example.com or followed on twitter @ryandfkuhns.