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Looking Ahead to the 7th Annual UC Conference on International Cooperation

April 01, 2024
Paddy Ryan interviews Christina Schneider


This month, the 7th annual UC Conference on International Cooperation (UCCIC) will convene at UC Santa Barbara. Hosted in partnership with IGCC, the conference brings together international relations (IR) scholars from across UC campuses to discuss research in progress, share ideas, and provide mentorship for junior IR scholars at UC institutions. In this interview, IGCC senior writer/editor, Paddy Ryan, sits down with UCCIC co-founder Christina Schneider, a professor of political science at UC San Diego and co-director of IGCC’s future of democracy initiative, to discuss the history of the conference and what’s in store for this year.

Dr. Schneider, thank you for speaking with me. You and Leslie Johns, professor of political science and law at UC Los Angeles, founded UCCIC back in 2016, with the goal of connecting junior and senior IR scholars from across the UC system. How did the idea for the conference come about? What sort of benchmarks did you have in mind to gauge its success?

I visited UCLA in 2015 to give a talk to the political science department. My UCLA colleague Leslie and I started talking about the fact that the UC system has a lot of strength in international relations, but that there was very little engagement among international relations faculty across the UC campuses. Leslie approached me with the idea of thinking through a way to create a cross-campus community of IR scholars across the UC. I was very excited about the idea, and we began to develop the proposal for UCCIC.

Our main goal was to create a space that would allow for formal and informal engagement between IR faculty across campuses and to provide feedback and network opportunities for junior faculty in the UC system. Despite the initial lack of formal funding and the many competing demands on faculty across the system, we were very pleased to see that many of our colleagues were eager to contribute to this community by participating in the initial workshop and providing feedback on junior scholars’ research.

UCCIC has been convened six times since 2016. What stands out to you as the key themes that the conference has covered in that time span?

Since our goal was to create an inclusive space for all IR faculty, we never focused on particular key themes. In addition, when selecting the papers, we give priority to junior scholars. As a result, we have been able to listen to research from all aspects of international relations, usually topics at the cutting edge of our field.

How have the topics covered in UCCIC workshops evolved over six iterations of the conference?

Over time, we have seen workshops centered around topics that relate to current global events such as the rise of China, migration issues, international security and war, and climate change. I have found it particularly stimulating that these workshops have brought together IR scholars who work in very separate subfields.

UCCIC aims to cultivate a community of researchers across UC campuses, with a particular focus on supporting the next generation of IR scholars. What do you see as the greatest successes the conference has had over the years?

UCCIC has personally been a wonderful way for me to get to know IR scholars from across the UC campuses and to engage and learn from faculty with diverse viewpoints.

The workshop series has created a community of scholars that has opened dialogue from within departments to across the UC system. But what I am most proud of is that UCCIC has provided a venue for junior scholars to receive valuable feedback from senior academics in the field and to provide them with access to peer mentorship to help them navigate the early career stage.

In the six years of running UCCIC, I have come to know many of my junior colleagues across the UC campuses very well and we have seen several tenure-track faculty successfully navigate the tenure promotion process. We are grateful to know that UCCIC played a small part in those careers.

How has the conference had an impact on the work of the University of California IR community generally? How has the conference produced an impact beyond the UC?

The community created through UCCIC has allowed faculty to pursue new research ideas with colleagues from across the UC campuses, and it has created more opportunities for graduate students to benefit from the networks of IR faculty across campuses. All this, we hope, contributes to the success of UC faculty and graduate students in addressing some of the most challenging questions of our times.

The networks created through UCCIC have also affected collaborations beyond the UC system. The conference offers a relatively informal model of community-creating peer mentorship within the IR community that colleagues in other regions can emulate.

Since 2019, UCCIC has been organized in cooperation with the IGCC. How has this partnership helped further the objectives of UCCIC? And how has this helped move forward the work of IGCC in turn?

The support from IGCC has been instrumental in various ways. Whereas initial workshops were organized on a shoe-string budget, which meant that faculty without sufficient travel resources could not attend, IGCC has made UCCIC much more inclusive for all faculty across the UC. It has also provided more visibility for the workshops, which in turn has been very positive for our efforts to create a community.

We hope to contribute to IGCC’s mission in a small part by helping to develop the research network of UC scholars who work on policy-relevant research to mitigate conflict and promote a more peaceful world order. Creating more community among the very scholars that are at the center of IGCC’s mission has made it easier for them to collaborate within the broader IGCC research network. Many of UCCIC’s regular participants contribute directly to IGCC by offering policy analysis in blog posts, interviews, or podcasts.

The 7th meeting of UCCIC will take place on April 12, 2024, on the campus of UC Santa Barbara. What’s in store for this year’s conference? How will this year’s event be different from previous iterations?

We are very grateful for my colleague [IGCC research director for U.S. and global security initiatives and UC Santa Barbara associate professor in political science] Neil Narang to host this year’s workshop at UC Santa Barbara. As in previous years, our focus is to bring together IR scholars from across the UC campuses and to support the next generation of IR scholars at UC. It is exciting to hear that we will have a large number of participants from almost all UC campuses talking about topics ranging from international security to international organizations and domestic politics.

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