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City by the Bay

April 29, 2013

By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick

With about 6,000 other individuals from around the world, I attended the International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Meeting held in San Francisco in early April. 

Flying across the country gives me a chance to finish a serious book in one sitting.  For this flight, I chose Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.   Written by a young Nigerian novelist, the story centers on the Biafran struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria during the late 1960s.  This riveting story employs the artist’s talent to place a narrative frame around genocide, ethnic cleansing and starvation.  In harrowing detail, we see the effect of war on generations and the heroic attempts of people to defend a place as their own.

I kept thinking of this novel as I listened to A&S political science professor Harvey Starr (  give his Presidential address at the ISA meeting.  Harvey is an expert on how states operate and interact with each other on a global stage.   His presidential address focused on the role of space and place in geopolitics and the causes and consequences of failed states.  The conclusions of social scientists can seem bloodless at times.  Scientists need to preserve some objective distance between themselves and their areas of study.  Novelists like Adichie have no such constraints.  Indeed, the novel, the speech and the meeting reinforced for me that understanding the human condition and telling the story requires insights and analysis from the arts and the sciences.

As one of our faculty members was the president of the association, ISA graciously allowed us to host an alumni event in their convention space.   I invited a number of our graduates to an alumni event and was able to brief them on the college and the university.  Naturally, we saw many alums at the conference from political science and international studies who hold prestigious positions in universities and think tanks around the world.  And we also were able to reconnect with a number of our graduates who live in the Bay area.

On behalf of the College, thanks to the International Studies Association for their support of our efforts.

Dean Fitzpatrick with Alumni

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