My Story: The Class That Changed Me

(MChe Lee/Unsplash.)

Everyone has a story about that one class that changed their life. Maybe it was the way the instructor taught the class – giving good constructive feedback, for example, or inspiring you to go beyond what you thought you were capable of. Maybe the course content inspired you to change something about yourself or challenged you in another way. This is my story about the class that changed my life.

It should be no surprise that the class that changed me was in my major, political science. That class was Dr. Cox’s POL 235. The course title, “How Wars End: Civil Wars and International Responses,” sounds like it would immediately strike boredom in the hearts of any non-political science or international relations major, but this class was far from boring.

POL 235 is seminar-based, which means that while there are lectures (that you are expected to attend), most of your work will come from your own research. This isn’t to say you’re on your own; others in the course will do all they can to support you. Dr. Cox presents most of the theory behind your study. You’re then expected to take the concepts presented in class and apply them to a case study. This gives you a sense of “getting it.” You’re showing the class that you have learned from the theory and can recognize its applications in your respective case.

Furthermore, when essays are returned to you, they’re covered with carefully crafted and commending comments. Throughout the course, I felt empowered to adapt my work and use the words of encouragement Dr. Cox provided me to continue to improve. I struggle with academic confidence (which is a bold thing for an Oxbridge kid to say), but there’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve got it right. Iteration is the key to perfection, after all.

Dr. Cox is also a phenomenal instructor with hands-on experience in peace and conflict research. Before his time at Jewell, he worked with the humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse to aid and support those affected by the end of Sudan’s second civil war in 2006. He is not merely presenting theory – he’s had boots on the ground and knows how rough war can be.

Before taking this course, I was considering the “standard” political science graduate program. I wanted to go to law school to become a corporate lawyer, argue a case, make money and repeat steps two through four. After taking this course, I’ve realized that money isn’t everything. I’ve been inspired to take the course content and make it my own. I want to use what I learned in this class to lift the downtrodden. I want to challenge the status quo of war, helping to bring it to an end. 

In all aspects of the course, one message stood out: war is devastating. It devastates all the militant actors. It destroys civilian well-being. Quite frankly, war destroys my hope in humanity.

But Dr. Cox’s other message – that war is not the default, and there is a way out – stood out more.

The course inspired me to change my career path. Even more, it poured into me as a person, enabling me to build confidence in my own work, to research complicated cases and to analyze complex situations. How Wars End is not easy. As any political science major will tell you, no course taught by Dr. Cox is. But the work is well worth the undertaking.

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