Thomas C. Sorensen Seminar: United States Involvement and Global Perspectives


With ongoing United States involvement in the Middle East, South Asia, and Eastern Europe, frequent reference to the term “nation-building” is made by policymakers, commentators, and journalists. What exactly does “nation-building” mean? Why is it important?

Foreign policy and international affairs experts David Jervis, Patrice McMahon, and Bob Switky spoke to the historical and comparative context of “nation-building,” with particular reference to current affairs and unfolding events. The panelists sought to discuss the questions: What are the lessons learned from prior attempts at nation-building? Although often touted by some policymakers as a remedy for failed states and civil wars, is it equally viable as a response to international terrorism? These and other questions will be explored at this seminar, which was held in conjunction with MacNeil/Lehrer Productions’ By the People dialogue in Kearney.

Seminar leaders:
David Jervis (Visiting Assistant Professor, UNK)
Prof. Jervis taught at Washburn University, Kansas, and Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, before coming to UNK in 2003. In addition to teaching, Prof. Jervis’s career has included overseas work in Germany, Croatia, and South Africa as well as administrative work in international education. His research interest is American foreign policy, especially as it relates to societies facing domestic instability.

Patrice McMahon (Assistant Professor, UNL)
Prof. McMahon’s research interests include the causes and effects of ethnic identity on international relations, transnational determinants of domestic policy, democracy promotion, and human rights. Recent publications include “What have we wrought? Assessing international involvement in Bosnia,” Problems of Post-Communism, January/February 2002, “International actors and women’s NGOs in Poland and Hungary,” in Sarah Mendelson and John Glenn, eds. The Power and Limits of NGOs (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002) and “Building Civil Societies in East Central Europe: The effect of American NGOs on women’s groups,” Democratization Summer 2001, Vol. 8 No. 2. Prof. McMahon just finished co-editing a book with David Forsythe, entitled “Human Rights and Human Diversity: Area Studies Revisited,” which was published in 2003.

Bob Switky (Assistant Professor, UNK)
Prof. Switky’s teaching and research interests include foreign and defense policy, comparative politics, and international political economy, and his geographic area of specialization is Western Europe. Prof. Switky has presented research papers at professional conferences, including those sponsored by the International Studies Association and the Midwest Political Science Association. Prof. Switky’s current research agenda includes a study of the rationales for a national missile defense system and British foreign policy during World War II. He has co-authored a book on the political importance of regional trading blocs as well as a textbook on World Politics.

This event was co-sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln College of Arts and Sciences, the Nebraska Educational Telecommunications/NETV, University of Nebraska at Kearney Office of the Chancellor, University of Nebraska at Kearney Department of Political Science, and the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. This event was free and open to members of the public, student body, staff, and faculty of the University of Nebraska at Kearney.