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School of Arts and Sciences

International Relations Honor Society Earns Distinction

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sigma Iota Rho receives Chapter Spotlight Award

News international relations award

Frank Plantan (third from left), Co-Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Pennsylvania, presents the 2017 Chapter Spotlight Award to (from left) James Glaser, Dean of Arts and Sciences; Vickie Sullivan, Professor of Political Science and Interim Director of the International Relations program; and Joseph Auner, Dean of Academic Affairs for the School of Arts and Sciences. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

International Relations (IR) has long been one of the most popular majors among students at Tufts, and with that comes a variety of extracurricular organizations for students to participate in. One such organization is the Sigma Iota Rho Honor Society, which "aims to promote and reward scholarship and service among students and practitioners of international studies." This spring, the Tufts University Beta Chi Chapter of Sigma Iota Rho was selected as the recipient of the sixth annual Chapter Spotlight Award by the national governing body of the organization.

On May 4, 2017, Sigma Iota Rho National President, Frank Plantan and Senior Liaison Officer, Mark Castillo presented the award to IR program faculty, students, and staff. The presentation was followed by an information session led by Plantan for students on internships, jobs, and career pathways in international relations.

Before reading the letter of recommendation, Castillo shared an aside that left the audience laughing: "Tufts is very much like the New England Patriots. On a routine basis, you guys knock it out every year."

astronomical challenge
Frank Plantan show students a shirt with the unofficial Sigma Iota Rho motto, "Diplomacy is the art of letting someone have your way." (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

The award recognized the group for being one of the strongest chapters in terms of induction volume. Additionally, two Tufts students were published this year in the honor society's Journal of International Relations, an unusual feat for a national, double-blind reviewed publication. Each edition of the publication includes a feature article by leading practitioners such as Joseph R. Biden, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, and Pascal Lamy.

Winnona DeSombre, a rising senior, published "Getting Harder to Catch: Analyzing the Evolution of China's Cyber Espionage Campaigns against the United States through a Case Study of APT1," written for the course Security, taught by Senior Lecturer Ming Chow in Computer Science. "I'm a Computer Science and IR Security double major, and my area of interest in particular is cyber security," says DeSombre. "I chose to write on Chinese cyber espionage primarily because it happens to be a topic that is accessible to many people in theory, but individuals don't know the scope of or trends behind the problem, let alone the technical aspects that go into cyber espionage in general. My goal in this paper was to shine a light on those two areas." This summer, she has an internship at MIT Lincoln Labs doing Cyber System Assessments and is a research assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Cyber Security Project.

Rising senior and IR major Samuel Weitzman published "A Farewell to Arms: Explaining Ukraine's Decision to Forgo Nuclear Weapons," a topic he discovered by accident while reading news about Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. "I came across something called the ‘Budapest Memorandum.' Curious about what the capital city of Hungary had to do with Ukraine, especially given the fact that part of my family first came to the United States from Hungary, I did some further reading and soon discovered a series of complex questions surrounding Ukraine's decision to hand over its nuclear weapons to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union."

Two years later, Weitzman says he "leapt at the chance to delve deeply into the curious case of Ukrainian disarmament" in the paper he wrote for Professor Jeffrey Taliaferro's course Force, Strategy, and Arms Control. This summer he is interning with the Global Business and Economics Program at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. "I look forward to the opportunity to translate the academic lessons I've learned in the Tufts classroom into practice while honing skills that will allow me to make a positive difference in the world," says Weitzman.

"This is a tribute to what we have going on here at Tufts," says Dean James Glaser. "Tufts has long been a magnet for the best students in International Relations, and that's something we are very proud of. It doesn't surprise me that the work of our students is being published by this prestigious journal."

Political Science Professor and IR Program Director Vickie Sullivan thanked the faculty, students, staff, and deans for the work that resulted in this honor. Addressing Plantan and Castillo, she says "What was particularly gratifying was that you cited our students and their research, and that's thanks to the faculty who are willing to work with students with intellectual curiosity. Tufts faculty and students, in addition to learning, are here to create new knowledge."