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Personal Education

05/11/2011

When Chris Skutnik '11 of Sunderland, Mass., heads to graduate school this fall, he will bring with him a solid foundation from MCLA that includes undergraduate research and the opportunity this year to be a delegate at the North American Model United Nations at the University of Toronto in Canada, where he considered contemporary world problems.

A double major in history and political science, Skutnik will pursue his master's degree in international relations on his way to a career in international diplomacy. Already, he has conducted research on the political paradigms of the 1990s war in Kosovo at MCLA's annual Undergraduate Research Conference. This semester, he researched the origination of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the factors that constituted its development and subsequent activity as a terrorist organization.

"I wanted to attend MCLA because I was very impressed with its class size and the History Department," Skutnik said. When he was a sophomore, MCLA added its political science and public policy major. "I snapped that up as soon as I could."

The personal attention that MCLA offers its students attracted Skutnik to campus.

"I actually took classes with the chair of the History Department, Dr. Kailai Huang.  I had heard tales of students attending other, larger schools, and receiving the bulk of their education from adjuncts - only rarely meeting with the actual professors," he explained. "I can honestly say that without a doubt, the dedication and professionalism of my professors in the history and political science departments was extraordinary.

"These professors have pushed, challenged and forced me to react, question and thoroughly understand many of the different concepts they were teaching," he continued. "I feel that they have been fair with my grades, quick to respond to my questions and all-around pretty nice people."

Besides the history and political science courses required for his major, Skutnik enjoyed other classes that centered on topics with which he was less familiar.

"For example, I took the Irish travel course, which was amazing, but also the "History of Russia," "Legacies of Communism" and "International Relations." I also studied Africa, public policy and more," Skutnik said. "I found that the more interested I was in a subject, I performed less 'work' and more 'research.'  I was actively interested in these histories, theories and concepts."

Last year, Skutnik traveled with Dr. Anthony Daly's class to Ireland, where he immersed himself in the Irish culture, talked with local residents and visited historic sites

"There is much that the classroom can teach us.  But to see these places in person - that is an experience that simply cannot compare," he said.

It's easy to get involved at MCLA.

"Students, clubs, professors - and everyone else with a project or a plan in mind - take many steps to encourage regular student participation," Skutnik explained. "I have never felt any hesitation in asking for information or getting involved if there were an event or activity on campus.

"Being an involved student has helped me expand my understanding and outlook in a variety of ways; whether it was traveling to other nations, getting to know those around me much more closely, performing some community service or simply enjoying a comedian that Comedy Stop has invited to the school," Skutnik continued. "All are all activities that both require and illustrate the power of communication, organization and good teamwork."