Schemel Forum Courses Examine International Relations from Fascinating Perspectives

Jul 18, 2014

Beginning in September, local residents can study a century of Russian foreign policy, the evolution of American exceptionalism, and cooperation among Israelis and Palestinians through the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton. University professors and a local historian will teach these evening courses in six sessions, all on campus.

The fall lineup opens with “Peace through Non-Violence? A Study in Film,” taught by Dominic Saadi, a graduate of the University and a Middle East expert. Four award-winning film documentaries tell the stories of Israelis and Palestinians working together non-violently to achieve security, freedom and peace in the region: “Budrus,” “My Neighborhood,” “Encounter Point” and “Home Front.” In the first session, Mr. Saadi will offer an introductory background to the conflict and situate the non-violent approach within the larger context of the history and philosophy of non-violence, with particular attention to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The films will be shown during the next four sessions, followed by a question-and-answer period. The final session, a panel discussion on the films and the possibility and promise of non-violence as a modus operandi in elongated periods of conflict, will be moderated by Julie Schumacher Cohen, director of community and government relations at the University. The course will meet in the Pearn Auditorium of Brennan Hall from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the following Mondays: Sept. 8, 15, 22 and 29; and Oct. 6 and 20.

During “American Exceptionalism, Historically Speaking,” David Dzurec, Ph.D., associate professor of history at the University will examine this nearly four-century old concept. In 2009 when asked by a French reporter whether he shared his predecessors’ understanding of American exceptionalism, President Obama replied, “I believe in American exceptionalism just as I believe that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” The President’s response seems a departure from many broadly held definitions of American exceptionalism that often include John Winthrop’s 17th century vision of his colony as a “city upon a hill,” along with Abraham Lincoln’s declaration that the American Republic was “the last best hope of man on Earth.” This course will explore critical moments in the development of American exceptionalism and conclude with a consideration of President Obama’s 2009 response and a discussion of the nature of American exceptionalism in the 21st century.

“Throughout America’s evolution, American exceptionalism worked both for and against the greater good, by endowment and by example,” said Dr. Dzurec. “We will try to focus on American exceptionalism from historical perspectives rather than political ideologies.” The course will meet in room 305 of the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Wednesdays: Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; and Nov. 5.

Sean Brennan, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at the University, will teach a course titled “One Hundred Years of Russian Foreign Relations.” In the 20th century, Russia, whether under tsars, commissars or presidents, has had tumultuous relations with most of its European and Asian neighbors over geopolitical, economic and ideological issues. Former allies became the bitterest of enemies while hated enemies became important allies. This pattern continues up to the present day, as is evident in the Russian seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. The course will examine Russian relations with six countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Poland and Ukraine. Each of these relationships played a crucial role in creating the modern world.

“Russian foreign policy is still influenced by unresolved issues from the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, as well as a long-standing tradition of authoritarian rule,” said Dr. Brennan. “Russia’s tumultuous relationships will continue until it is guided by a new generation of leadership, one that values human rights.” The course will meet in room 305 of the Weinberg Memorial Library from 6 to 7:15 p.m. on the following Mondays: Oct. 27; Nov. 3, 10, 17 and 24; and Dec. 1.

Local residents can attend any course for $60 per person or $100 per couple (Schemel Forum members and University faculty, students and staff may attend free of charge). Space is limited and registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, contact Emily Brees, Schemel Forum assistant, at 570-941-6206 or For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers at 570-941-4089 or

The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, the forum has grown quickly from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Session fees vary by program.



Back to Top