More Than 400 Graduate from International Institute in 2008-09

More Than 400 Graduate from International Institute in 2008-09

Photo by Christine Larson

Gen. Wesley K. Clark, a senior fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations, keeps the message simple in his keynote address to the largest-ever graduating class of the Institute's interdepartmental degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

When the summer quarter and academic year are done, 366 undergraduates and 37 graduate students are expected to earn interdisciplinary degrees in 2008–09 from the UCLA International Institute, an increase of 12 percent from the previous year and 31 percent over two years. More than half of this year's graduates will have taken bachelor's degrees in International Development Studies. Seventy-four bachelor's degrees are expected to be conferred in Global Studies, compared with 20 and 60 students in the first two graduating classes of the major launched in 2005.

The achievements of this largest-ever International Institute graduating class—403 degrees, plus 196 minors—were marked on June 13, 2009, at the International Institute Commencement Ceremony.

Gen. Wesley K. Clark (ret.), the former NATO supreme allied commander who for three years has been a senior fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations, spelled out "three simple rules" for graduates facing "a big, rough world out there" amid financial crisis, climate change, wars, and other challenges.

  1. Treat others with respect.
  2. Seek practical steps forward, not universal solutions.
  3. Don’t compromise your principles.

"It's not profound, but it's hard, and you'll have to remember it," he said.

Elaborating on the second rule, Clark said, "You can actually get things done person by person, family by family. It won't be in the millions; it will be in the dozens. But if you can make a difference like that, you should be very, very proud of it, because that's the way progress is made."

Each of the Institute's Interdepartmental Programs (IDPs) focuses on a world region or on themes including globalization, Islamic civilization, and economic, political, and social development worldwide. The area studies IDPs are small programs that, combining disciplines as well as historical and contemporary perspectives, cultivate the knowledge and skills that students need to move comfortably in societies around the world.

As in recent years, most of the master's degrees are being awarded in Latin American Studies and African Studies; the only doctoral program at the Institute, in Islamic Studies, produced one PhD this spring. With 30 expected graduates this year, East Asian Studies is the largest of the regionally focused undergraduate majors run by the Institute. The IDP in Middle Eastern and North African Studies has seen the greatest growth in the past year, with 17 bachelor's degrees to be awarded, up from 10 in 2007–08.

Every year, International Development Studies honors two graduates for academic excellence and activism. This year's IDS Activist Award went to Emily Birchfield for her work with AIDS Project Los Angeles, Amnesty International, Artists for a New South Africa, the Ikaya Primary School in Kayamandi, South Africa, and other organizations. The IDS Academic Award went to two students with nearly perfect grade point averages, Charlotta Chan and Natalie Price; Price will pursue a UCLA master's in public health.

For more information on degree programs at the International Institute, visit

Published: Tuesday, June 16, 2009