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Warren Christopher, International Hot Spots

  • By Irene Fertik
  • Published Mar 1, 2003 8:00 AM

Even at UCLA, it’s not every day that a small undergraduate course is taught by the likes of Warren Christopher, U.S. Secretary of State from 1993 until 1997.

But this quarter Christopher is teaching an Honors Collegium class called International Hot Spots, exploring nine current crisis points on the globe. Just 20 students were allowed to enroll, selected on the basis of a written essay.

“The goal of the course is to create a forum for intelligent and informed debate and to hone students’ research and presentation skills,” Christopher says. “I am teaching this course because I want to be in touch with the views and attitudes of talented young people.”

The format of the class encourages discussion. First, Christopher sets the scene. Then one student presents a discussion of the geography, history and argumentation for one side (say, India). A second student presents the contrasting point of view (Pakistan). Then the whole class enters into the discussion, with designated interlocutors prepared to raise questions.

Christopher brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the classroom. In addition to serving as Clinton’s secretary of state from 1993-’97, he was deputy secretary of state in the Carter administration (1977-’81). Locally, he chaired the independent commission on the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident. He’s the author of two books, In the Stream of History: Shaping Foreign Policy for a New Era and Chances of a Lifetime.

Special guests also add to the quality of the classroom discussion. At a recent meeting of the class, Christopher’s invited guest speaker was none other than John M. Broder, local bureau chief for The New York Times.

In point of fact, only one aspect of the International Hot Spots course appears to be entirely typical: Each student is required to make a presentation and turn it into a written advocacy paper, complete with footnotes.

It remains to be seen if the man who negotiated the release of the Iran hostages is an average or especially tough grader.

HC 153, International Hot Spots, is an Honors Collegium course offered by the College of Letters and Science and supported by UCLA’s Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations.