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Religion, Media and International Relations

The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, in collaboration with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and the Department of Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences, in response to a three year grant from the Henry R. Luce Initiative on Religion and International Affairs, established an interdisciplinary initiative on “Religion, the Media, and International Relations.”

The program at the graduate level imparts a substantial critical understanding of the interaction between religion, the media and international relations, and how that interaction influences policy, leadership, decision making, and problem solving. Supported by faculty whose specialized competencies intersect with religion, the program is underpinned by several existing undergraduate majors and minors at Syracuse University.

The “conventional wisdom” about religion that pervades the print and broadcast media is filled with misperceptions and misinformation. This initiative offers future leaders in international relations, journalism, and public policy a more accurate and useful alternative informed by interdisciplinary scholarship on religion. Graduates will enter their professions with a new body of knowledge and a keen perception of the role of culture and religion in motivating human behavior. The program draws on Syracuse University strengths: Maxwell’s renowned International Relations program; the mass communications expertise at the Newhouse School; and the depth of religious scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Religion. This interdisciplinary synergy has created curricula and materials that illustrate the vital role played by religion and religious beliefs in international affairs, with particular emphasis on the influence of the media on events and outcomes.

The program has three components. First, faculty across disciplines attend intensive workshops where they repurpose existing courses to include religion as an analytically salient factor, develop new interdisciplinary courses, and rework existing case studies to demonstrate the impact of religion on international events, and vice-versa. The faculty of the Department of Religion contributes their impressive reservoir of knowledge about the world’s religions. Second, we develop curricular materials, including teaching guides, bibliographies, audio-visual archives, staged simulations, and case studies, and convene a Junior Faculty Teaching and Curriculum workshop to disseminate them to other APSIA schools. Course materials, teaching tools, and related resources are also available on the program web site. The final component will be an international conference on Religion, the Media and International Relations where scholars, policy makers, and practitioners in all three areas will present cutting-edge research, and attend small group discussions for journalists, policy makers, religion scholars, and stake-holders affected by national and international decisions. The proceedings will be edited and published.

The project is administered by the Maxwell School’s Executive Education office, and implemented by scholars from all three faculties. Political science professor Mehrzad Boroujerdi, who also directs SU’s Middle Eastern Studies Program, serve as the lead program coordinator, working in close coordination with Professor Tazim Kassam, Chair of the Department of Religion, Dr. Nancy Snow, Associate Professor of Public Diplomacy at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications where she teaches in the dual degree Masters in Public Diplomacy program and Professor R. Gustav Niebuhr, who holds a joint appointment in the Newhouse School and the College of Arts and Sciences.


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Religion, Media and International Affairs Program
Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs
346 Eggers Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244-1020
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