This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."
- Course Overview
- Required Course Materials
- Assignments and Grading
- Course Schedule
- Course Policies
Lauren Fritzsche is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography at Penn State. She researches Syrian refugee resettlement in nontraditional destinations in the United States. Her research is informed by feminist geopolitics, settler colonialism, and critical race theory.
She holds a BA from the University of Illinois in Global Studies with minors in Arabic and Anthropology. Her thesis focused on nation building in Jordan and its impact on Iraqi and Syrian refugees. She has studied in Amman, Jordan and has lived in Berlin, Germany working at a transnational academic institution.
Office Hours: May be established on an as-needed basis once the semester has begun.
I will read and respond to e-mail at least once per day during the work week (Monday through Friday). I will attempt to respond to emails at least once over the weekend. If you have any general course questions, please post them to our Course Questions discussion located in the General Information Module in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum regularly to respond as appropriate. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses and comments if you are able to help out a classmate.
When we think of international affairs, we often think of the United Nations, foreign wars, and world trade summits. Though the geography of international affairs is certainly comprised of these and other such elements, each of these has a historical antecedent and a theoretical frame. In order to understand the realm of international affairs in its contemporary context, it is necessary to understand how we got here. One fundamental part of this is understanding how our global political system came to be and how contemporary systems are based on past iterations. The other fundamental part is to understand the theories that shaped these developments insofar as their influence on global political systems. In this course, we will examine the global political system as it is, as it was, and as it might be in the future.
This course provides you with conceptual tools, which will enable you to not only understand, analyze, and explain international affairs/geopolitical phenomena for academic purposes, but also to use these concepts in ‘real’ life so that you develop critical skills to comprehend, and articulate your reality more comprehensively. I encourage you to think critically; think critically means to delve really deep beneath appearances, superficiality, and manifestations to understand the mechanisms, the nuts and bolts, systemic imperatives, and the hidden power structures guiding events and phenomena.
You will be introduced to the World of Geography, and demonstrate the use of spatial perspectives (like territory, resources, raw material, place-based specialized labor) in understanding and explaining global and local events.
By taking this course, students will:
- become familiar with the major approaches in political geography for examining territorial forms, structures, and change; and
- develop critical reading and analytical skills to aid in better understanding contemporary global, regional, and national debates and issues of geopolitical importance.
On average, most students spend eight to ten hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your study habits.
I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. The Internet may still be a novel learning environment for you, but in one sense it is no different from a traditional college class: how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me as well as with your fellow students.
Specific learning objectives for each lesson and project are detailed within each lesson. The class schedule (including all assignment due dates) can be found in the Calendar in Canvas (the learning management system used for this course).
The following materials list is current as of Fall 2017. Please check back in December 2017 for Spring 2018 materials.
Introduction to Geopolitics (2nd Edition), by Colin Flint (Routledge), ISBN 978-0415667739
Most assigned readings will be out of Flint’s Introduction to Geopolitics. Additional reading and viewing assignments will be accessible in Canvas and via this course space. Assigned readings can be accessed via the Course Schedule below.
- New York Times: All PSU students (including World Campus) do have access to the digital version of the NY Times.
- Videos: Throughout the course, we will watch videos (full or in part) on relevant topics. The purpose of these videos is to foster connections between theoretical material and real-world issues. They will not only serve to add new content (case studies) for discussion but provide an important ‘eye’ into various issues we will discuss throughout the semester. As it is impossible to actually travel to various places discussed in this course to conduct ethnographic, or embodied and in-the-field research, such video content will allow us a greater ability to engage with critical and feminist (see prologue) analysis of contemporary geopolitics.
- International News Source: To choose an English language news source based in your research project country/region go to PSU’s International News Databases.
Assignments and Grading
This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:
- Introductory Discussion Post (5%)
- Geopolitical Analysis Discussion (40%)
- Group Digital Video Policy Memo (DVPM) (40%)
- NOTE: This course requires students to maintain a web presence that may include things such as video sharing and other Internet participation. You will be required to participate in online activities that are widely accessible to all, including others outside of Penn State.
- Peer Review and Analysis of All Groups’ Digital Video Policy Memos (10%)
- Reflective Essay (5%)
Please read below for more detailed descriptions of the above assignments. Assignment due dates are listed in Canvas.
Introductory Discussion Post (5%):
In Lesson 1, you will be asked to complete a discussion post comprised of five components. This post will allow you to share a little bit about yourself with the rest of the class while becoming familiar with Canvas discussions, as well as my expectations for your writing.
- 5% Introductory Discussion Post
Geopolitical Analysis Discussion Assignment (40%):
- 2x/semester + comments on group member’s posts (8 weeks)
- NYTimes & one other English language news source from the targeted/researched country or region
Discussion Assignment Summary
Similar to your group video project, this assignment is facilitated through group interaction and engagement. The activities at the end of each lesson will provide you with instructions for what to focus on in your discussion post. Each team member will compose two discussion posts (approximately 500 words) throughout the semester. In addition, you will be commenting (approximately 200 words) on each of the discussion posts from your members when they take the lead. After your teammates comment on your original discussion post, you will then respond (approximately 200 words) to their cumulative comments in a summative post/analysis (within the reply section of that original discussion).
In total, you will compose two discussion posts and two subsequent summative responses as well as six discussion comments by the end of the semester.
News Resources & Recommended Databases
- Highly recommended: All PSU students (including World Campus) do have access to the digital version of the NY Times.
- Highly recommended: To choose an English language news source based in your research project country/region, go to PSU’s International News Databases
- Recommended: Historical archives, academic and peer-reviewed journals and official government documents – both US based as well as official documents from your country/region.
- Not recommended: Wikipedia, Reddit, personal blogs and the like. While these types of sources can be very informative, the information posted is not exactly peer reviewed and vetted (with the exception of Wikipedia – but some pages are better than others, and those pages that need more cleaning up are flagged if you go to the site; but looking at a reference/citation, I would not be able to be 100% sure).
This assignment is facilitated through group interaction and engagement. The activities at the end of each lesson will provide you with instructions for what to focus on in your discussion post.
Each discussion post should 1) connect to the course content, 2) connect to that assigned lesson’s activity, 3) highlight the important geopolitical aspects of the articles, and 4) utilize the recommended resources (listed in the previous section) to discuss how such treatment of the topic is connected to the respective geopolitical national interest.
A brief note on this assignment: The intention of this assignment is not only to encourage us to get to know the international current event of our assigned country/region but also to better understand how these current events are represented in the media. How are the current events and issues discursively constructed (Flint, Prologue, Pg. 4) to project the geopolitical interest of that particular state/region? Through gaining familiarity with the news sources based in your country you will come to better understand the topics of primary concern to that country. You will also start to be able to understand the geopolitical code of that country. That is, this assignment should help you be able to discern who are the country’s (current or future) geopolitical friends and allies and who might be their (current or future) enemies or challengers.
One limitation of this assignment is that we are utilizing the English language version of the digital international news sources. To gain a better understanding and more revealing insight into the particular national perspective on an issue, we would want to read the news in the national language (i.e., French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, etc.) – because the English version vs. native language version of a newspaper (yes, the very same newspaper) can actually differ in their emphasis on particular points and angles of a story. Here is a more extreme example of this practice.
And, although you may be fluent in a second, third, or fourth language, I would be challenged to assess your reading and comprehension proficiency in your selected foreign language (for the entire class—unless everyone chose Mandarin, which is unlikely), and so we will limit our examination of international current events in the media to English language sources.
To say that many people have strong, often passionate, feelings about politics would be an understatement. What we will encounter in this news-oriented discussion, and in the content of this course, can, and likely will, elicit strong feelings and opinions on a wide variety of topics. Why? Because these events are real, ongoing, and touch our lives. Some events may feel more abstract and distant from some of us, while others may have friends or relatives who are directly dealing with the events we hear about in the news.
I am a firm believer in academic freedom and freedom of speech. Nonetheless, dialogue and conversation via e-mail, discussion, and so forth, require that we understand some basic rules of "netiquette" to maintain our academic integrity and virtual classroom civility (see the Netiquette section of this Orientation for the basic rules). I want to encourage conversation and dialogue (within our formal assignments as well as in your various discussions with classmates) that are based on a framework of mutual respect and a desire for continued and deeper understanding of the issues at hand and also the multiple perspectives represented.
Healthy debate and exploration are encouraged in your discussion posts. At the same time, you must support your well thought out claims and analysis with accurate and appropriate references. Points will be docked when the rules of decorum are disregarded.
Papers and projects for this class require both in-text citations and a reference or works cited list. The discipline of Geography and many other Social Sciences require the use of the APA citation format. Since it the convention of the discipline, it is important for you to know how to use this format. If you are not familiar with APA format, see the links below for help.
Why are citations important? Well, in an academic environment citations are important for at least two basic reasons. The first is to give credit to the author(s) from whom you have read and found their ideas worth repeating (whether paraphrasing, building from their foundation, or directly quoting). Using someone’s work without proper citation is considered plagiarism because without proper citation your readers are going to assume you came up with that idea, claim, argument, and so forth. Thus, it’s truly important to acknowledge (through proper in-text citations) whose ideas, thoughts, and arguments you are building from. Secondly, proper citations are important and advantageous to you because you are letting your reader know that the claims you are putting forth have been built on the foundations of other respected scholars/thinkers. In choosing what resources you will be working with, you are choosing which scholars (and which of their ideas/claims/arguments) will be supporting your research—or, in some cases, you will cite certain scholars and their works to highlight that you are deliberately not in agreement with their ideas/claims/arguments. In short, your selection of scholarly resources tells your readers which authors you are engaging with. Lastly, if you have a question about how to cite sources, do contact me—or reach out to your classmates—to get clarification. Some sources may seem hard to figure out how to cite, but there is a proper citation format for pretty much every source of information out there—from a book to a podcast to an e-mail exchange.
|Assignment Timeline||Due date (Submitted by midnight on the dates below)|
|Introductory Geopolitical Analysis Discussion - Lesson 1 Activity (All students complete)||5/26 (Friday)|
|Discussion 1A (Lesson 2 Activity)||6/2 (Friday)|
|2/3/4 comment||6/6 (Tuesday)|
|1A responds||6/9 (Friday)|
|Discussion 2A (Lesson 3 Activity)||6/9 (Friday)|
|3/4/1 comment||6/13 (Tuesday)|
|2A responds||6/16 (Friday)|
|Discussion 3A (Lesson 4 Activity)||6/16 (Friday)|
|4/1/2 comment||6/20 (Tuesday)|
|3A responds||6/23 (Friday)|
|Discussion 4A (Lesson 6 Activity)||6/30 (Friday)|
|1/2/3 comment||7/4 (Tuesday)|
|4A responds||7/7 (Friday)|
|Discussion 1B (Lesson 7 Activity)||7/7 (Friday)|
|2/3/4 comment||7/11 (Tuesday)|
|1B responds||7/14 (Friday)|
|Discussion 2B (Lesson 8 Activity)||7/14 (Friday)|
|3/4/1 comment||7/18 (Tuesday)|
|2B responds||7/21 (Friday)|
|Discussion 3B (Lesson 9 Activity)||7/21 (Friday)|
|4/1/2 comment||7/25 (Tuesday)|
|3B responds||7/28 (Friday)|
|Discussion 4B (Lesson 10 Activity)||7/28 (Friday)|
|1/2/3 comment||8/1 (Tuesday)|
|4B responds||8/4 (Friday)|
- 30%: 2 x 15% for each discussion post + follow up responses to comments
- 10%: quality of comments/discussion about on your team members’ discussion posts
Group Digital Video Policy Memo (DVPM) (40%):
- 4 members to a group – all will contribute to creating the Digital Video Policy Memo.
You will collaborate by utilizing the online discussion forums and shared folders to upload research, links and video clip content. To actually create the DVPM, you will be using WeVideo—an online video making collaborative tool. There will be more information forthcoming about the expectations for this assignment.
- 5% Mini-video introduction
- 5% Outline (organized according to structure of policy memo)
- 5% Storyboard – narration + visual concept
- 5% Rough Draft of Video
- 5% Rough Draft Critique and Proposed Edits/Modifications
- 15% Final Draft of Video
Peer Review and Analysis of All Groups’ Digital Video Policy Memos (10%):
After the completion of your Digital Video Policy Memo, you will be asked to view, analyze, and evaluate the completed videos of your fellow classmates. I will provide you with the forms and criteria for completing the peer review and analysis as the course progresses.
- 10% Peer Review and Analysis
Reflective Essay (5%):
The reflective essay is a one-page, single-spaced writing assignment that is due during the last week of class. The reflective essay should draw connections between course material including readings, films, and blog posts, as well as from your collaborative digital video policy memo assignment. This is your time to reflect on what you learned throughout the semester and draw some preliminary conclusions on how you think this course provided a new perspective with which to understand our globalizing world. It should not be a summary of class content, but a personal reflection regarding how the content of the course has influenced your ability (set of tools with which) to analyze a variety of current events. As you reflect on the course, you might look back over the various materials and ask yourself, “in five years what (of this material) will stick out as most memorable and influential in shaping the way I understand the complexity of our globalized world?”
- 5% Reflective Essay
It is important that your work is submitted in the proper format to Canvas by the designated due date. I strongly advise that you not wait until the last minute to complete these assignments—give yourself time to ask questions, think things over, and chat with others. You'll learn more, do better...and be happier!
Due dates for all assignments are posted in Canvas.
|Assignment||Percent of Grade|
|Introductory Discussion Post||5%|
|Geopolitical Analysis Discussion||40%|
|Digital Video Policy Memo||40%|
|Peer Review and Analysis (of the DVPM)||10%|
I will use the Canvas grade book to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades in the grade book, too, by clicking on Grades in Canvas. Final grades will not be curved. The following ranking system will be used to determine final grades for the course:
|A||93 - 100|
|A-||90 - 92|
|B+||87 - 89|
|B||83 - 86|
|B-||80 - 82|
|C+||77 - 79|
|C||70 - 76|
|D||60 - 69|
|X||Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)|
Note: Final grades will not be rounded up to the nearest whole number, or letter grade. For instance, if you have a total of 92.75, you still get an A-, rather than an A (see above). In order to get an A, you must have a 93 or higher.
Below you will find a summary of the primary learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. This course is fifteen weeks in length, with twelve lessons and an orientation week preceding the official start of the course. Two of the lessons are two weeks long. The remainder of the lessons are one week in length. See our Calendar in Canvas for specific lesson time frames and assignment due dates.
NOTE: See Canvas for a full semester list of assignments and due dates.
|Topics||Orientation to the online course.|
|Readings/Assignments||Online orientation material, Orientation Assignments|
|Lesson 1: Geopolitics - An Introduction to Historical Roots and Theories|
|Group Project Timeline||Introduce the group video project, assign groups.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 1 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 2: Geopolitical Agency - The Concept of Political Codes|
|Group Project Timeline||Narrow research focus, establish group work responsibilities and communication expectations.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 2 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 3: Justifying Geopolitical Agency - Representing Geopolitical Codes|
|Group Project Timeline||Research.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 3 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 4: Embedding Geopolitics Within National Identity|
|Group Project Timeline||Research.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 4 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 5: Territorial Geopolitics - Shaky Foundations of the World Political Map?|
|Group Project Timeline||Research Outline of video content due - Introduction, content categories, sources/citations, connection to course.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 5 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 6: Network Geopolitics - Social Movements and Terrorists|
|Group Project Timeline||Begin searching for video clips & pictures based on the outline.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 6 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 7: Global Geopolitical Structure - Framing Agency|
|Group Project Timeline||Storyboard due (inclusive of images and narration/script).|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 7 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 8: Economic Globalization|
|Group Project Timeline||Convert storyboard into your DVPM.
Write script/narration based on the outline and video clips.
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 8 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 9: China on the Rise|
|Group Project Timeline||Create the 1st draft of the digital video essay.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 9 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 10: Humanitarian Crisis|
|Group Project Timeline||Peer comments on 1st drafts, compiling a list of editing/further research "to do's".|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 10 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 11: Environmental Geopolitics - Security and Sustainability|
|Group Project Timeline||Edit, edit, edit!|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 11 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Lesson 12: Messy Geopolitics - Agency and Multiple Structures|
|Group Project Timeline||Final Group Project Video is due.|
|Readings/Assignments||See Lesson 12 in Canvas for due dates and directions.|
|Group Project Timeline||Review of other teams' digital video policy memos.|
|Readings/Viewings||Digital Video Policy Memos|
Peer Review and Analysis
Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated and will result in an automatic ‘F’ for the course grade, as well as possible disciplinary action by the university. This consists of cheating on exams or plagiarism on the papers. Plagiarism includes using another author’s work as your own or fabricating information or citations in your paper. Properly citing sources is absolutely fundamental to academic writing, so if you have any questions about whether you are adequately citing your sources, please discuss them with me during office hours. For further information on the EMS College’s academic dishonesty policy, see the Academic Integrity and Research Ethics website.
I do not accept any "late work." Many of your assignments are group oriented in scope, and as such, any late work can adversely impact your classmates' work as well. In exceptional circumstances, you should contact me to discuss a reasonable accommodation for submitting late work. The earlier you contact me to request a late submission, the better. Requests will be considered on a case by case basis.
For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the ITS Help Desk (for students at all other campus locations).
Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.
This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted. We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our technical requirements page to view the mixed content.
Penn State E-mail Accounts
All official communications from the Penn State World Campus are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.
This course follows the guidelines for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students."
All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.
For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: Contacts for Disability Resources at all Penn State Campuses. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources (SDR) website.
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation, see Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.
Counseling and Psychological Services
Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing. The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity and sexual orientation. Services include the following:
Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling and Psychological Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741
Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents
Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via the Report Bias webpage.
Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.
In case of weather-related delays at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.
Connect Online with Caution
Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information with others whom you do not know.
If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If, for any reason, the course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.
If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.