International and Global Studies Department Taking Center Stage


By Jamie Dickson

Mercer's Department of International and Global Studies (IGS) has undertaken many new and exciting projects and programs this year. Under the direction of professors such as Dr. Amy Nichols-Belo, Dr. Chinekwu Obidoa and Dr. Eimad Houry, the department has introduced a new degree program in global development studies and a new global health newsletter. Additionally, alumna Emily Bless is using her education and experience in Mercer's Model Arab League in her career.

Alumna Spotlight: Emily Bless, CLA '16

Emily Bless has put her experience as a member of Mercer's Model Arab League to work. She is currently employed in Washington, D.C., as a student programs associate at the National Council on U.S. Arab Relations (NCUSAR).

At NCUSAR, Bless assists in planning the 25 nationwide Model Arab League conferences. She works with host institutions to recruit participants and assist them throughout the conference process. She also works with the organization's interns.

Bless was a member of the Model Arab League throughout her time at Mercer, where she served as a National University Model Arab League chair as well as head delegate of the Mercer Model Arab League team.

“Model Arab League is a wonderful organization that I had the opportunity to participate in all four years, and it shaped much of who I am today,” she said. “As an international affairs major, it fit with what I was studying, and the organization gave me some of my closest friends with whom I still keep in contact.”

In 2014, Bless took her passion for international affairs abroad when she was invited to participate in NCUSAR's Qatar Study Visit Exchange and Malone Fellowship, where she spent 12 days in the country and met with government officials, civil society actors, educators, students, businesspeople and journalists.

“Being able to visit Qatar and listen to the thoughts and ideas of officials from many different sectors allowed me and 14 others to gain a better understanding of their way of life and culture,” she said. “To then be able to come back and share that experience with those on campus and in my community so that they might see or read or listen to just a part of my journey just added to the joy of the experience.”

In addition to her work with the Model Arab League, Bless held leadership roles in Le Cercle Francais, Panhellenic Council, Omicron Delta Kappa and Mercer International Mock Conference Association, and was a member of Alpha Delta Pi. She was also among 26 seniors and juniors in the College of Liberal Arts inducted into Mercer's inaugural class of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation's most prestigious academic honor society, last spring.

“I learned a lot through being in leadership positions, but the most important was recognizing that I as a leader did not make the organization run, the team of officers and members did,” she said.

Bless, who grew up in Acworth, studied international affairs, French and Spanish at Mercer. She said the Department of International and Global Studies and Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures primed her for the workforce.

“I think the International and Global studies program prepared me immensely for post-graduation… I do not think I would be where I am today without the help of my wonderful advisers, Dr. Houry and Dr. (Anna) Weaver. Both were instrumental in my life at Mercer and getting me to where I am today,” she said.

Degree Program in Global Development Studies Introduced

The Department of International and Global Studies introduced a new degree program in global development studies last fall. The program will prepare students to work domestically or abroad in a wide range of professions, including those that require awareness of social problems and approaches to solving them; the ability to connect concepts across disciplines and contexts; and sensitivities to cultural and socioeconomic differences.

The program is designed for students who have an interest in international issues or a desire to connect local issues to global concerns. Students interested in the program should want a deep understanding of the needs of people around the world and the historical, social, political, economic and environmental conditions that shape and define them.

A global development studies degree will allow graduates to understand many foundational elements to society, including history, economics, sociology and politics. Graduates will be prepared for many domestic and global careers, such as international aid worker, economic development officer, foreign services officer, medical doctor, lawyer and foreign correspondent.

All IGS majors require a study abroad or international internship experience. Students must complete 45 hours of required coursework to complete a major and 18 hours to complete a minor. For more information, visit

Global Health Newsletter Launched

Students and faculty in the IGS department launched a global health newsletter, titled “Global Health in Action,” last fall. The aim of the newsletter is to share discussions held in the classroom with the public and make them relevant to a broader audience.

“In launching this newsletter, we aim to introduce the many pressing, relevant issues discussed by global health studies majors to a wider audience,” said Emma Peel, editor-in-chief. “Global health majors are exposed to a radically different educational experience than most Mercer undergraduates, and we believe that it is our responsibility to share these alternative teachings with our peers.”