By Theo Zittel
“It's actually very simple to understand,” said freshman Carston Smith. “I should know, I’m a politics major.”
The first-year student, Carston Smith, is currently taking the course, “POL 4 Introduction to International Politics”; a core requirement for those majoring in Politics here at Saint Mary’s College. As the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues to develop and worsen, it has become the topic of discussion amongst the Politics courses within the school’s curriculum during the Spring Semester. Carston currently has one year of politics classes under his belt, including the introductory course, “POL 1 Introduction to Politics”, as well as, “POL 125 Human Rights”, and “POL 115 Theories of Justice”. He looks forward to taking many of the other Politics courses offered here at the college and getting first-hand experience working with local or state-level government through internships over his remaining summers while studying.
The POL 4 course focuses on the theoretical frameworks for studying international politics and the causing forces for different political actors’ collisions and allyship. In his class, Carston has been assigned a semester-long research paper, where he decided to tackle the politics of Eastern European countries. According to Smith, it was entirely coincidental that his chosen topic correlates with the conflict currently taking place in Eastern Europe.
The paper required him to study the political structures of Ukraine, Russia, and those that once made up the republics of the USSR. He now understands each country’s role in the political economy, domestic and international affairs, and democratic practices in relation to Russia. The class structure allows for Carston to explore his interest in global security and the field of policy.
Due to his intellect and interest in the current state of the world, Carston claims that he is an expert on the conflict. He explains that just within his first two years at Saint Mary’s, he has what it takes to understand the push factors of Putin’s war in Ukraine. Since he has paid close attention to the event since its start and the disputes between Russia and Ukraine during the past few years, he has become confident enough to declare himself an expert.
Carston has demonstrated his interests and expertise on the conflict by reposting media that he finds crucial to share with his followers on his Instagram story daily. In an interview with him, he explained the importance of staying informed on the matter. “This is one of the best ways to be informed on the crisis taking place over there. Since we live so far away from the conflict zone, it is often difficult to imagine what life is like for the folks who have to deal with it in real life. Unfortunately, it is their reality, while we only see it through the lens of Western media. However, I believe that paying attention to it online is very important to understand it.”
His friends say that he constantly checks Twitter for updates and retweets everything concerning the state of Ukraine. He gets most of his news on the war through these social media sources. Each class period, the professor and classmates of his POL 4 class joke with him about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, asking him to fill them in on the affair.
Carston also reported that if he had not taken these courses already at SMC, he would have no interest in the war. As the war progresses, he spends hours of his day making sure he knows everything about its effects. The last thing that he told me was that he hopes to be able to report on the war in one of his classes so he can share his intellect on the subject.
(Image Courtesy messiah.edu)
Melanie Moyer '22,