Five Questions With: Symeon Giannakos

Symeon Giannakos is a professor and director of the graduate program in international relations at Salve Regina University. He received his doctorate in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia in 1990 and teaches courses at Salve in international relations and comparative politics with a concentration on nationalism and ethnic conflict, as well as ethics and international affairs.

He has also taught at Norwich University in Vermont (1990-1993), the American University in Bulgaria (1992-1997), Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., (1998-1999), and Ohio University (1999-2002). Giannakos’ research focuses on national identity and conflict. He has published extensively on this topic and was the editor and contributor of “Ethnic Conflict: Religion, Identity and Politics” (2002).

In 2011, he served as a Fulbright Scholar to Albania. His most recent publication delves into Chinese nationalism and is forthcoming in the peer-reviewed journal Nationalities Papers.

PBN: What was the catalyst for creating an online-only international relations program?

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GIANNAKOS: Since the program is tailored for professionals with practical experience in the field, it is necessitated by the demand for continuous education by professionals who cannot possibly have the time or opportunity to return to the classroom to earn an advanced degree.

Based on their practical experience and individual skills, a great deal of professionals advance in their career to become key decision-makers. This program will give them the opportunity to capitalize on practical experience and combine it with formal education.

PBN: Why is the program targeting enrollment by active military personnel – from the U.S. and other countries – as well as government officials?

GIANNAKOS: Because it is these professionals who typically advance to key positions requiring a better understanding of a world that is becoming increasingly more complex. Whether they end up as instructors in military institutions or working for key national security agencies in critical advisory roles, broader formal education will serve them and their countries better.

PBN: Eligibility requirements include more than five years of industry experience and a master’s degree. As a Ph.D. program, do you expect many working professionals to return to academia after that long in the field?

GIANNAKOS: In order for a professional to qualify to apply, he or she must have at least five years of practical professional experience in the field, rather than the industry, along with a master’s degree.

The purpose of the degree is not to allow graduates to stay on or return to academia but to facilitate their professional advancement. For example, a military officer who becomes a national security adviser would greatly benefit herself from having undergone all the formal education possible, including a Ph.D. with a dissertation element. That professional will understand the world better and will be a much better practitioner and adviser.

PBN: Would you please provide a short overview of the courses available and topics discussed in the 48-credit program?

GIANNAKOS: Each course is taught by experts on a specific area of the world and each course will be an important component of understanding the world as a whole. In this sense, each course is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that will provide in-depth understanding of the political realities of specific areas of the globe. Put together, the courses will provide a big picture of the intricacies and complexities of the world. The dissertation state of the program will provide the research, analytical and writing skills to translate the world and its complexities to policy prescriptions.

PBN: What’s been the reaction so far? How many students are enrolled for the program’s inaugural run?

GIANNAKOS: The reaction in this early stage of the program’s implementation has been encouraging and promising. Professionals seem to be appreciative of the opportunity to continue in their career and also be able to continue with their education. Salve has a track record of serving the educational needs of professionals for decades and this program is the spirit of continuing that tradition.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email,