Politics and International Relations

Olivia Keithley

What do you currently do?

I currently work at the University of Dayton as the Coordinator for Co-curricular Learning. I oversee the curriculum development and assessment of our co-curricular experience and design learning initiatives centered around authorship, interculturalism, and community living. I also teach a course in the Education department around identity, power, privilege, oppression, and community development.

How do you see the connection between the time you spent as a POL major and what you’ve been able to do since?

I was a Politics major with minors in Education and African American Africana studies during my time at Ursinus. My Politics major gave me the tools to see how our society is built upon systems of power. I took a number of IR courses which gave me a great understanding about conflict, resolution, and decision making.

These themes all arise in the courses I teach and the experiential learning initiatives I design as a part of my job. Additionally, I am constantly asking the question, “Who’s voices are being represented here?” when I design syllabi, learning initiatives, or am simply serving on a University committee. I learned to ask this question during Politics courses at Ursinus where I realized that central to democracy was access and representation for people of all identities.

Lastly, my degree in Politics and then my Masters in Educational Policy has allowed me to see how policies, structure, and decisions ultimately cause positive or harmful outcomes to groups of people. I think about this when I design curriculum, but it also shapes the work I do as a conduct officer. I hear cases when University students violate our code of conduct and I utilize a variety of restorative practices. I developed a deep belief in Restorative Justice during my time as a Politics majors at Ursinus where I learned that much of conflict is rooted in harm and restoration is possible through dialogue, collective responsibility, and shared accountability.

What advice do you have for students currently majoring in, or considering to major in POL or IR?

Everything about a major in Politics or International Relations is transferable. I reflected above on how it has shaped my work world, but I also use the skills I gain through these majors in my friendships, volunteer work, and simply how I interact with the world on a daily basis.

My IR and Politics courses taught me to be intensely curious about the world and different belief systems, values, and ways of doing things. I carry this with me as I travel or encounter something in my daily life that is new.

My Politics major also solidified for me the importance of being active in the communities I am a part of in order to help make positive changes in service of greater justice and equity. I take this with me as I serve on various non-profit and community based Boards and as I move from place to place and become invested in getting to know new cities.