MESPOM is jointly operated by a consortium of 4 European and 2 North American Universities, each location presents its own unique set of learning opportunities. Dr. Alexios Antypas from Central European University discusses the opportunities MESPOM students receive in Budapest/Vienna.
What is the primary research area you focus on? What courses do you teach MESPOM?
My general focus is on Global Environmental Governance. I primarily focus on North-South issues, and the global politics of the environment. But I'm also interested in issues of environmental diplomacy, the development of international Global Environmental institutions and trans-boundary legal issues, especially in the European region.
In the first semester, with Alan Watt, I co-teach the Introduction to Environmental Policy (IEP) course with a focus on environmental thought and international environmental politics. Later in the semester, I also teach an advanced course on Environmental and Resources Governance (ERG), which is a comparative policy course. Then in the second semester, I teach the Advanced Global Environmental Governance (AGEG) course. The course is structured as multiple seminars through which we dive deep into international political economy and how political economy shapes environmental issues. So, the North-South issues are really front and centre there. Alan and I also co-teach an elective course on Environment and Democracy, which is a very intellectually challenging course that provides students with a nuanced understanding of democratic theory most have not yet encountered, and also serves as an introduction to environmental political theory in general.
How long have you been teaching MESPOM for and how has your experience been so far?
I’ve been teaching it since the beginning in 2005. I think MESPOM is a really amazing program. I'd like to even go as far as to say that it is quite unique in the world. If you look at it class by class, then perhaps you can find similarities with other programs, but if you look at all of its features put together, I think that is unique. I would be surprised to find another program where you would get the breadth of education that you get in MESPOM. That is really what makes MESPOM stand out above and beyond any other environmental program, because it's not just the course work but it's the diversity of the different universities and of course, probably most importantly, the diversity of the student body, which is truly amazing. You learn as much from the other students as you do from anything else that you're getting in the program.
As professors we learn a lot from the diverse student body too. For instance, prior to MESPOM, I had probably only taught a very small number of students from developing countries. But now the diversity of the MESPOM program has broadened my perspective. Of course, I was always very aware of North-South issues, but I've learned a lot and adapted my teaching, to the diversity of the students as well, I think in the process enriching the classroom experience. Environmental problems are global, but we also have a global political economy and a diverse global population. So, if you can't grasp all of these things simultaneously, you're definitely missing pieces of the puzzle.
What are some of the things/skills that you hope students would leave with after studying at CEU?
In relation to what I teach, the mandatory IEP course is geared towards giving everyone a baseline understanding of the politics of the global environment and the underlying philosophical issues. The politics of the environment at the international level should not be mysterious to environmental professionals. In principle they should be able to orient themselves when they're hearing about policy ideas.
In the ERG course students learn how to think about policy making and pick up transferable skills to be able to understand policy decisions and processes over the long, short and medium terms. They should leave with realistic expectations of what policy can and cannot deliver, and a good understanding of why policy is more effective in one country or sub-national unit than in another. In the AGEG course one of the issues we engage is environmental worldviews and how these shape the politics of the environment at the international level, within the context of our political economy. People tend to have very different worldviews and conceptual frameworks that they apply to exactly the same set of facts. So, it’s not the facts alone that matter, but their interpretation can matter a lot more, and that in turn can guide politics. When a spokesperson makes a statement, understanding exactly where they are coming from and in what ways their worldview clashes with that of others is important. Students should also walk away with a more profound understanding of why there are such differences in point of view over the environment across the world, and what the implications are.
As far the program as a whole goes, I think it depends a lot upon what specialisation students choose. But I guess the umbrella characterization that I would give to the CEU leg of the experience is that CEU should give students the tools with which to think about and analyze the social science aspects of the environment, with a strong component of policy, and also to know what questions to ask in the first place.