Piper McGavin '20

Student Name

Piper McGavin

A reflection and "highlight reel" of being an IS major

I have been putting together the IS newsletter for the past two semesters and thought I would know when my moment to write a student voice essay had come. I had a vision of a reflection full of wisdom on my time as an IS major. Considering we are entering our last week of classes, the moment has definitely come, but I do not feel qualified, or old enough, to be writing this. I think this comes from both the difficulty of summarizing three amazing years, and simply not wanting to say goodbye. Instead, I have decided to reflect upon my "highlight reel" of IS and all that makes the program special.

As I’ve watched freshmen apply to IS in the past few months, I’ve been reminded of my own excitement to apply. I was lucky to know sophomores in the program who encouraged me, so I was ready for all IS had to offer. The summer before entering the major I had my first IS highlight, taking Prof. Nakazato’s "Food, Power and Politics" course in Parma, Italy. Learning about food and eating gelato in Italy is about the best introduction to the major you can get, therefore, I was truly excited to get started. I began with "Intro to IR," a course which remains one of my highlights, and a highlight of many of my classmates. It felt like the beginning of something special, and marked a transition in my learning at BC. I moved away from core classes where the interest level of students was often mixed, and towards a place where my classmates were curious, engaged, and passionate. It was my first exposure to what makes the IS program so special, which is the camaraderie of majors and the community of shared interest.

Moving to junior year, another, potentially obvious, highlight of mine was studying abroad. I spent a semester in Geneva, Switzerland, and there I was able to see the practicality in what I had studied at BC. I watched how international organizations and NGOs operated at the Human Rights Council at the UN, and recognized themes of state power and norms in a way that made my learning feel very real. I worked at a small legal-rights NGO called International Bridges to Justice, and was exposed not only to inspiring work, but to the harsh realities of trying to make a change in a large system that does not easily accept dissenting voices. I came back motivated to engage in learning further about these issues and to ask questions about challenges I had seen.

When I returned I was very happy to find a place to ask these questions and rediscover the passions of my classmates in "Ethics, Religion & International Politics" with Prof Willard. I told a friend recently that only in a class of IS majors would there be 12 people waiting to speak on zoom. This not only shows the opinionated voices of my classmates, but the camaraderie and willingness to listen. ERIP has felt like the perfect place to come back together as a group, having had diverse experiences abroad and in classes, and tackle large and daunting questions from a variety of viewpoints. ERIP has not only been a highlight, but a rewarding way to end my time in IS.

Finally, and the main reason I’m sad to say goodbye, is the people. I obviously and truly love IS, and I may work for the program, but I promise I’m not paid to say that. From having an incredible advisor (shout out to Prof. Erickson) who listened to me beg not to take macro econ (and then told me to let the fear of econ motivate me), to bonding with Prof. Nakazato over our Canadian-ness, to attending the IS summit in England and being so happy to see familiar faces, I feel lucky to have such a dedicated and caring faculty. Additionally, I am so happy to have gotten to know so many passionate classmates who are going to do incredible things. The people made every class and debate more interesting and are what make IS special.

I did not expect to write this reflection from home, and ending senior year in such a sudden and world-altering way is tough, but either way I was eventually graduating. I am excited to move forward, to law school in the fall, and to continue building upon the foundation IS gave me. So, in conclusion, thank you IS, you were awesome, I’m going to miss you!

Piper McGavin '20
April 2020