A pause in the action

The HD projection screen and premier sound system sit silently at Turner Theatre a month before classes begin. The year-old complex at Elon University is housed in the Schar Hall in the School of Communications.

The trials of going Graduate school and parenting.

Sarah Donahue wakes up every day at 6:30 to get ready before she prepares her two daughters for daycare.

After the one-hour drive from her house in Eden, she drops the children off in Burlington. She then heads to class at 9 a.m. at Elon University, where she is a graduate student in Interactive Media.

Later, after the long drive home, she does a myriad of tasks that include shopping for groceries, cooking dinner, and getting the house prepared to be put on the market.

After putting the girls to bed, she folds laundry while enjoying one of her favorite shows. On some days, it may not be until 8 or 9 p.m. until she can start her homework.

Donahue represents a large section of students across the country who are dealing with the hardships of being a parent while attending school. According to Donahue, nearly a quarter of students across the country are parents. There are limited resources to help parent-students, as only seven to nine percent of schools provide childcare.

Yet, Donahue is excited to return to class. Aside from the opportunity to improve her prospects in a difficult job market, she is glad to be in a social setting after finishing her undergraduate degree online while taking care of the kids.

There will be many long days for Donahue in the next 10 months. The next day she wakes up: Rinse. Wash. Study. Repeat.

Steven Walt’s instant classic: Love and war on Valentine’s Day

By: Jonathan Wilkinson

Steven Walt’s “IR theory for Lovers” in Foreign Policy cleverly uses the difficulties  of romantic relationships as a vehicle to explain complex international relations (IR) concepts. Foreign Policy also has an impressive design, especially for a political news site.  As a grad student interested in working as a content creator for an outlet that deals with IR, the Harvard political theorist’s 2009 post has long been an inspiration.

Walt opens by announcing that the Valentine’s Day article is a “public service” for “people in love.” He then walks you through the stages of romantic relationships, using IR terminology to explain the dynamics between two lovers. For example, perceptional biasein relationships create misunderstandings. Conflict spirals often ensue because the partners do not understand each other’s behavior. This can culminate in escalations with nasty consequences.

He also points out that major shifts in the balance of power in relationships (like abrupt promotions or layoffs) can be detrimental to a stable couple. A partner with the upper-hand can entrap her counterpart by using the fear of abandonment as leverage. Ultimately, Walt concedes that a strategy of appeasement may be required to preserve a problematic relationship, a statement he concedes “my wife made me put in.” 

Even the best relationships have their bumpy moments, of course, because even human beings who love each other deeply can have trouble figuring out what the other person wants and why they are acting as they are.

Walt’s article shows that relationships between two lovers work in similar ways to alliances between two countries. Both stem from the mutual benefits of the partnership. Both are based on power dynamics that are rooted in human psychology.  Both are difficult to maintain because “they sometimes reflect irrational passions and inevitably limit each member’s autonomy.”

Albert Einstein once said “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Walt takes this a step further in less than 1,000 words by making a complex subject comprehensible and intriguing. He does so by relating a dry, erudite topic (IR Theory) to an emotional, relatable theme (Love). His article shows that perhaps a little understanding of diplomacy could be beneficial for someone in a romantic relationship.

Like the revolution following the advent of the printing press, the internet has democratized access to information. Likewise, Walt’s clever piece is inspiring because it proves that writers in the digital realm can create content that brings once-exclusive topics to a wider audience.