Inside the classroom

The art of war and peace

We've had some amazing last-minute breakthroughs, a couple of attempted coups, and even a sickening slide into war.

Associate Professor Brian Bow's expertise focuses on Canada-U.S. relations and Canadian foreign policy. And inside the classroom, he likes his students to challenge and engage each other with lively debate. It's no wonder, then, that his favourite course to teach is Diplomacy and Negotiation (POLI 3581). As he describes it, the debate couldn't get much livelier:

“It's a seminar course, and it usually generates pretty lively discussion. Most of the students are from the Political Science program, but the subject matter is appealing to students from other departments—such as History, Sociology, Law, and Management. There are no prerequisites, so I tend to get a wide variety of students, with a variety of backgrounds and interests.

"One of the best parts of POLI 3581 is the negotiation simulations. I started out with one, and in some subsequent years have had as many as three major simulation exercises. The crisis simulation exercise, which I cooked up myself and have been refining over the last five years, is a lot of fun. Students are assigned to specific roles within three different fictional governments, and thrown into a hypothetical crisis scenario. Every player has to negotiate not only with the representatives of the other governments, but with their erstwhile “teammates” as well."

Exhausted and happy

"We've had some amazing last-minute breakthroughs, a couple of attempted coups, and even a sickening slide into war. After three hours on the edge, and the frenzied bargaining that always erupts in the last 15 minutes, the students usually leave exhausted, but pretty happy with the experience. And the quality of the reports they’ve written afterward lets me know that they’ve learned something as well.

"I expect my students to work hard, and I want to see some care and creativity in their work. I also believe that upper-level seminar classes should challenge students to think on their feet, and force them to engage with one another. I expect them to come to those classes well prepared, get themselves into the discussion, and not shy away from debate.”