At Home and Abroad
Serving as moderator at the premiere of a major documentary film and participating on an international panel in Paris with former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, in the midst of preparing for a new semester of teaching courses here at UB? It’s all in a day's work for Ivan Sascha Sheehan, associate professor and director of the negotiations and conflict management and global affairs and human security programs within the College of Public Affairs.
Sheehan admits that juggling events and teaching can be challenging but says his instruction and fieldwork are interrelated. "Being able to make subjects come to life
for students uses the same skill set that's needed to communicate with legislators," he explains. "They're both balancing
many things and want to get up to speed in a limited time."
Being a key contributor to events such as the Washington, D.C., premiere of National Geographic’s Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of Isis is a wonderful opportunity, says Sheehan. After the documentary's debut, he moderated the discussion with its filmmakers, New York Times bestselling author Sebastian Junger and Emmy award-winner Nick Quested. The film deals with one of his areas of focus—the conflict in Syria—but he emphasizes that international affairs have local implications as well.
"There's a temptation to look outward, with the assumption that there is only conflict somewhere else," Sheehan says. "But the discontent that exists among populations trapped by authoritarian regimes is not wholly unfamiliar to students from Baltimore, some of whom have experienced unfair scrutiny by law enforcement or have overcome circumstances that made it challenging for them to realize their full potential."
Sheehan says he works with students who are particularly sensitive to these dynamics in a local context. "It puts them in a very competitive position when they graduate, because they understand how matters they face at home might compel others to engage in conflict or seek structural change. If they can deliver their insights in a clear and compelling way, then they have an opportunity to make their voices heard and make a difference both at home and abroad."