IROnline Alumni Profile: David Spencer

Meet David, an International Relations Online student in Maryland who is passionate about community, communication, and service.

Current Location: Maryland

What is your field of study and what line of work are you in?

I am in the Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) program with a concentration in United States Foreign Policy and National Security. I work in telecommunications and am an active duty member of the United States Army.

Why did you choose International Relations Online?

I chose the program because it was the only rigorous and interactive program that could accommodate my busy travel schedule. The flexibility in the program has helped me balance my academic goals with my family and professional responsibilities.

How do you see yourself making a difference in the world?

I see myself making a difference in the world by promoting peace and stability in the U.S. military. With all the attention combat operations get in the press, it is easy to overlook the assistance and training our service members provide to partners and allies throughout the world on a daily basis. I see my work in telecom as fostering cooperation as we literally build and maintain the communications connections between people.

How is the School of International Service making a difference in your world?

The School of International Service has greatly expanded the cultural and professional diversity of my social network. Working with classmates of diverse backgrounds has forced me to challenge my assumptions and consider alternate ways of thinking about the issues, ideas, and policies considered in the courses. This has made a difference in my world by giving me a wider perspective when considering new situations. 

What makes the School of International Service special?

I think what makes the School of International Service special to me is the community and the effort the professors and staff make to foster the sense of community among the online students.

What does the word “service” mean to you?

Service means acting to improve the well-being of others. It is what builds peace in our families, communities, and nations.

What world issue or current event is of interest to you?

Human trafficking has shocked me since I realized its modern extent while serving in Afghanistan. I find interesting the lack of attention human trafficking gets from the national security establishment, even as it creates operational space for all manner of other threats, ranging from narcotics to the movement of weapons and foreign fighters.

What is your favorite class?

I’ve enjoyed almost all the classes, but my favorite so far was Causes of War. I really enjoyed the group projects and having the opportunity to deep-dive into a conflict. I chose the Greek Insurgency and intercommunal violence on Cyprus that occurred from the 1950s to 1970s.

Have you taken any classes while traveling?

I have taken classes while traveling domestically and from Nairobi, Kenya; Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan; Brussels, Belgium; and Nicosia, Cyprus.

How has the program helped you to achieve your career goals? What is your next step?

The program has helped me become a better writer and a better analyst. I am planning for the next step in my career after the military—joining the Foreign Service. 

About the Immersion

What was it like to finally connect with your classmates face to face?

The funniest part is seeing the reaction to how tall everyone is in real life. We normally just exist as talking heads for a little over an hour at a time, and we don’t see each other full size. Getting to meet many of my classmates in person and break bread with them cemented the camaraderie many of us have gained as we tackle graduate work while still moving at full speed through life’s other challenges 

What was your site visit like?

The site visits to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and U.S. International Trade Commission were great opportunities to learn more about organizations focused on trade. I also enjoyed it as an opportunity to interact with some on-campus students that I would not have otherwise had an opportunity to connect with.

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