Faculty Spotlight: Myriam Benraad
August 02, 2023
All Knowledge Areas
Faculty Spotlight: Myriam Benraad
Myriam Benraad is a prominent political scientist and scholar with a specialization in Middle East studies. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) and is known for her extensive research on Iraq, particularly the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its impact on the country's sociopolitical dynamics.
Currently, Myriam Benraad holds the position of Global Academic Chair for International Relations & Diplomacy at Schiller International University at our Paris campus, where she imparts her knowledge and passion for international relations to a diverse student body. Her commitment to experiential learning, innovation, and research enrichment ensures that students gain a comprehensive understanding of global issues and develop an open mindset in their academic pursuits.
Can you tell us about the journey that led you to specialize in political science?
My academic journey began with a literary background in France. I pursued preparatory classes, with in mind a future career in literary studies. However, an entrance exam brought me to Sciences Po, where I had the opportunity to study political science, international relations, public law, and various other disciplines. It was a comprehensive curriculum that steered me towards political science.
Your books have received significant acclaim for shedding light on the complex history and dynamics of Iraq. What inspired you to write these books, and what were some of the key insights you gained during your research?
The decision to write about Iraq was influenced by a mix of circumstances. During my time at Sciences Po, I explored the Middle East and studied Arabic. Initially, I had written a few research papers on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, with the outbreak of the war in Iraq about 20 years ago, I was intrigued by one of the major conflicts of our century. Despite the challenges of researching in a dangerous and chaotic environment, I persisted and learned a great deal about political violence, civil wars, and conflicts. Writing my Ph.D. in Iraq took seven years due to the difficult access to the field. Nevertheless, it provided me with valuable experiences that remain at the core of my research interests.
As the Global Academic Chair for International Relations & Diplomacy at Schiller International University, what are some of your primary responsibilities, and how do you bring your expertise in the Middle East to enrich the curriculum?
As the Global Academic Chair, I teach various international relations courses at Schiller. I have gradually expanded my research focus from Middle East studies to more comparative perspectives, allowing for a broader understanding of global issues. Recently, I have delved into the study of emotions in world politics and the role of revenge in conflicts and peace, adding depth to some of the curricula that I teach. Furthermore, my position presents unique challenges, as I am involved in experiential learning, innovation, and diverse research endeavors.
Given your extensive research and understanding of the region, how do you incorporate real-world events and developments into your teaching to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of international relations?
I believe in exposing students to real-world situations through simulations, case studies, and outdoor learning. This empowers students to reflect and forge their own opinions, making experiential learning an invaluable tool for understanding complex global events and systems.
In a multicultural environment like Schiller International University, how do you ensure that students from diverse backgrounds benefit from their interactions with each other?
At Schiller, we have a highly international student body, which naturally fosters inclusivity and curiosity. I encourage an open mindset among students, enabling them to learn from one another's unique cultural backgrounds. Icebreakers and various activities facilitate interactions and cultivate a sense of shared interest in international relations. Fortunately, the students embrace diversity, and Schiller's philosophy of inclusion resonates well with them, making it an enriching and inclusive environment.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in international relations, particularly those who are passionate about the Middle East?
For aspiring students, I would emphasize the importance of being curious about international affairs, open-mindedness, and tolerance. The world is diverse, and understanding different perspectives is crucial in forming well-rounded opinions and judgments about global issues. Self-reflection and a willingness to embrace complexity are essential traits to navigate the field of international relations and diplomacy.
Apart from your academic pursuits, what are some of your hobbies or interests outside of work?
Literature has always been a passion since my academic journey began at the turn of the new millennium. In addition to my academic contributions to books and journals, I would like to write literature and have a project in mind for a novel. Additionally, I enjoy gardening, exploring art, visiting museums, and spending quality time with my family and friends.
What book would you recommend to students?
Herodotus’ Histories are a masterpiece of classical literature on international relations and diplomacy that I can recommend to students. These stories explore the complex relations between the Greeks and the Persians that still haunt the present day. Besides, Herodotus was among the early travelers in history who had much curiosity about the world, an interest in the affairs outside his country, as well as a true concern about passing informed and honest knowledge to future generations.
What is your favorite thing about Paris?
Paris exemplifies what Schiller International University stands for multiculturalism, diversity, inclusion, and rich history. The city's significance in politics and its numerous cultural and educational places offer a fitting environment for our international relations and diplomacy programs.
Where in Paris would you recommend students to visit?
Close to our Paris campus is the Parc Monceau, a beautiful ornamental garden in the 8th arrondissement where students can take a peaceful walk and capture the spirit of this unique place. They will find remnants of the past, surrounded by flowers: an Egyptian pyramid, Greek pillars, as well as Roman ruins. It is an amazing place, offering both space and time for students to reflect and relax.
Is there any message or insight you would like to share with students at Schiller International University?
In these turbulent times, I would encourage students to remain empathetic, caring, and attentive to others. Cultivating values of care, altruism, and inclusivity is essential in becoming engaged citizens in a fast-changing and often very challenging world.