“It’s a dream come true for a professor"
Dr. Karen Smith Stegen is Professor of Political Science at Jacobs University Bremen. Photo: Jacobs University ,


July 09, 2018

When she found out the result, she was very proud. In the latest CHE ranking, the most important university ranking in the German-speaking world, “her” course of study “International Relations: Politics and History” achieved excellent results. “That was fantastic, an incredible confirmation,” says the political scientist Prof. Dr. Karen Smith Stegen, who not only teaches the course at Jacobs University Bremen, but also designs and coordinates it.

What makes it special? The academic does not have to think hard to answer. “It is an English-medium course and we cover the whole range of topics in international relations, from theory to history, law and business. We have great teachers, including a practitioner such as the former German ambassador Prof. Dr. Claas Knoop, who teaches diplomacy and foreign policy. And, most importantly: we have highly motivated students from all over the world.”

The diversity and internationality of her students has particularly impressed the American. When talented young people from the US, China, Senegal or Germany contribute their experiences, this always leads to exciting discussions and contributions, she says. “That’s great, this is what I enjoy about Jacobs University, it’s a dream come true for a professor,” says Smith Stegen with audible enthusiasm. For many students, studying is an opportunity in life because they come from less well-off backgrounds. Their path will lead them to continue their studies at the best universities worldwide or to jobs in international organizations, business or the media. “With a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Jacobs University in one’s pocket, the job prospects are very good,” she says.

, Prof. Dr. Karen Smith Stegen designs and coordinates the course of study „International Relations: Politics and History“ at Jacobs University Bremen. Photo: Jacobs University

Smith Stegen, who spent part of her childhood in Heidelberg as the daughter of a civilian employee of the US Army, teaches political theory and comparative government. In the upcoming academic year, another course will be added: International Resource Policy. It deals with the production of oil in the Arctic, the extraction of rare earths and China’s investments in many African countries. “Access to raw materials is a key driver of international politics,” she says. Another new aspect of the course, at the express request of the students, is a course on academic writing and philosophy. And, of course, she also conducts research: for example on the prospects of success of sanctions.

The scientist keeps fit with yoga and recently discovered a new hobby at the Overseas Museum in Bremen: Gamelan, ensemble music from Indonesia, which fascinated her a long time ago while vacationing there. She is now a member of the ensemble. Smith Stegen studied psychology and business administration in the US and received a doctorate in political science from Northwestern University in Illinois. She joined Jacobs University in 2009, after a short stint at the University of Heidelberg. “I love this university!” she says. “The courses are great, my colleagues and our president are totally dedicated and the diversity of students is enormously enriching.”

Of course, current developments, such as Donald Trump and the changes in the transatlantic alliance, are discussed in her classes. As an American and as a political scientist, she herself is rarely asked about the American president. “I suspect people are being polite,” she says, smiling. She tries to see the positive aspects of Trump’s presidency. “For Europe, it can be an opportunity to focus more on itself and to emancipate itself from America.”

This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University is featuring students, alumni, professors and employees. For more stories, please have a look at www.jacobs-university.de/faces

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