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Scott Cooper Named New International Relations Program Coordinator

Dr. Scott Cooper with his wife, Trisha

After many years of service, Ray Christensen is retiring from BYU and finishing his term as faculty coordinator of the Kennedy Center for International Studies’ International Relations program. We thank Dr. Christensen for his dedication to the education of the thousands of students who earned International Relations majors under his leadership.

Effective 1 July 2023, the new International Relations faculty coordinator will be Dr. Scott Cooper of the Department of Political Science. Dr. Cooper earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations and Russian from BYU before earning a master’s degree and PhD from Duke University, studying Political Science, International Relations, Comparative Politics, and International Political Economy. He has been at BYU since then, teaching and researching in the Department of Political Science with a special focus on the topics of economic cooperation, alliances, money and currency.

He has been involved with the International Relations program and with the Kennedy Center for many years, as he sits on the committee that oversees International Relations; he’s also been affiliated faculty member with the program for some time. “I believe in this major and what it can do,” he says. “I’ve been working with International Relations students for decades now and I really enjoy that.” He’s also a self-described big fan of study abroad programs, having been the co-director of the Winter–Spring 2010 London Centre program.

Dr. Cooper looks forward to the prospect of getting even more involved with the program and its students now that he is the faculty coordinator. “I’m excited to meet more of the students,” he says. “I already teach introductory International Relations classes in PoliSci, which a lot of people come through, so I meet a lot of students in my classes. I know there are lots that I haven’t met, though, so I’m looking forward to meeting a broader set of students.”

One of his goals is to create more opportunities for International Relations students to get to know each other and the faculty, creating more of a sense of an International Relations community. He also hopes that creating this community will empower students to create closer connections to him and to other faculty. “There are a lot of students on campus who feel like they have to have some special reason or some special permission to go talk to faculty,” he observes. “I would say to those students: come talk to me anyway. Make it a point to come talk to me and the other faculty. Your academic career will be better if you come knock on my door.”

Asked why he thinks it’s important for students to study International Relations, his initial answer is simple: “Because the world is cool. The world is fascinating.”

He elaborates, “Whether through your job or just through being a citizen, the world impacts you: it impacts who people vote for, it impacts the kinds of jobs people have, it impacts the kinds of problems people face. We see the impact with immigration and the people that we meet from all around the world.” The COVID-19 pandemic, he says, has really driven that point home: “As we’ve had all these supply shortages, we’ve realized how interconnected we are with other people in the world.”

Understanding International Relations helps us understand the world around us, he says. “I think it’s necessary for people to study International Relations to understand their environment and especially to understand other people that they’re going to interact with. We’re not going to spend our whole lives in a bubble with people like us; we’re going to meet people from lots of different places and lots of different backgrounds.”

In conclusion, he says, “I think that at its highest, International Relations helps us to understand our common brotherhood and sisterhood as children of Heavenly Father.”

Learn more about the International Relations major here.