Monday, December 7, 2009

Got pictures to share?

We had a busy weekend here at the IRC, working to put on two events in three days.  Last Friday, members attended our much-hyped annual Berkley Lecture with Allison Stanger.  Then yesterday (Sunday, Dec. 6th) IRC board member Benny Lee hosted a private reception in his home with special guest and world-class pianist Behzod Abduraimov. 

We have pictures from these events that anyone can view at our Facebook page.  Please feel free to tag yourself and people you know in the pictures.

Finally, if you have pictures that you would like to share with the IRC, please let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or by emailing

Thanks to all who attended these events.  Watch the blog for details of more upcoming events!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Berkley and Todd E. Davis Scholarship winners to be announced at Berkley Lecture

Whew!  The IRC staff has done a lot of reading in the past few weeks.  We received applications from all over the metro for our two scholarships, and we're pleased to announce that we have chosen the winners for both.  We will announce the names of the winners at Friday's Berkley Lecture.   

Regular readers remember our announcements about the Todd E. Davis scholarship (for college students) and the Eliot S. Berkley Award for International Achievement (for high school students). Students submitted to the IRC an essay on an international topic, a statement of purpose, and a teacher recommendation.  The IRC staff and board of directors went through all of them carefully and look forward to congratulating the winners this Friday.  The Eliot S. Berkley Award winner will receive a $500 scholarship, the Todd E. Davis winner will receive a $1000 scholarship.

The IRC would also like to mention Lenora Miles of Platte County High School, who submitted dozens of her students' essays for consideration for the Berkley Award.  Miles' campaign on behalf of her students is truly admirable, and the IRC looks forward to another crop of essays from her students next year.  We will feature more about Miles in our upcoming December newsletter.

The Berkley Lecture is this coming Friday, but it's not too late to register!  Go to to register to attend. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Taking the GRE- for those who really really don't want to

Utter whatever curse you want about the GRE. Whatever slam you can come up with, the GRE probably deserves it.  The verbal section’s dependence on archaic vocabulary is the part I hate most.  It is one thing to test for vocabulary words that people actually, you know, use—surreptitious, taciturn, ambulatory—but then a test taker will encounter words she’s never heard before in her life—saturnine, gainsay, encomium—and be punished for her egregious sin of not knowing something that 99% of the population doesn’t know and 99.9% doesn’t care about.  If you’re the sort who cares about fairness and merit in academia, you’re probably aware that this sort of test is especially unfair to students who speak English as a second language.  Imagine that: you work for years to learn English, get a good score on the TOEFL, maybe even attend college in the US.  Then you take the GRE and because you don’t know what “peripatetic” means you might has well be tossed in a volcano. 

I exaggerate, of course.  But many would agree that the GRE is a bad test of academic ability; it is more of a test of your ability to jump through bureaucratic hoops and cough up $150.  You could protest.  You could howl and throw a tantrum and vow to only apply to schools that don’t need a GRE score or just throw in the towel and take the GMAT or LSAT instead.  You could fill with righteous anger and protest graduate schools’ dependence on a money-making racket disguised as a standardized test to judge another human being’s “potential.”   

But, at the end of it all, you will still have to take the GRE to go to grad school.


I won’t spend hours going over all of the test taking strategies out there.  There is a whole industry for standardized test prep.  I recommend at least picking up a book or going to some kind of course for the GRE.  If the GRE is important to getting into grad school, and grad school is that important to your future, you should do some kind of prep.  Everyone you’re competing against for that admission will be. 

Besides reviewing the concepts tested and maybe taking a prep course, here are some rules for preparing for the GRE.

1.  Pick a date to register early.  Unlike the ACT or SAT the GRE can pretty much be taken any old time.  Because there are so many spots and you can take the test on relatively short notice it is easy to procrastinate—both to register and to actually prepare.  Don’t wind up taking the GRE two weeks before your application is due.  Pick a test date a few months out, and prepare accordingly.

2.  Find a good prep book/course.  As I said before, there are a ton out there.  A few criteria have to be met for best results.

            a.  Is the prep material current?  The GRE has gone through a lot of changes in the past few years, going from a written to a computer adaptive test, moving toward entering answe ers instead of multiple choice questions, and using “experimental” questions on test takers.  A good prep book will tell you how to prepare for each, but if it’s from 1995, it’s not going to be as helpful.

            b. Does the tone and content suit you?  Look at the book and see how it’s written.  Is it dry and instructive, or more conversational?  Go with a book that fits your personality.  It will make it easier to absorb whatever the book is trying to teach you if the book doesn't remind you of that painfully unhip teacher who always called you "dog."

            c.  Are there sample tests?  There is no better preparation for the GRE than taking the GRE.  ETS (the company that makes the GRE) releases old tests to the public after a few years.  A good prep book will incorporate those old tests and use them for diagnostic.  Even better: many books will come with a CD-ROM that will simulate the computer adapted tests.

3.  Vocabulary- Repetition is your friend.  Those ancient vocabulary words I complained about earlier?  You still have to learn them.  Again, there are lists, flashcards, books out there that will help you.  Go through the words and pick out words that you know cold.  Set them aside—you already know them.  Then go through again and pick out the words that you kinda sorta know what they mean, or have heard somewhere before.  These are what you need to memorize.  The words that you’ve never heard before, have no context to put them in, doubt that they are actually English?  Put those aside, your chances of learning them are slim to nil. 

Then take the vocab cards or list or whatever of words that you need to learn, and start memorizing.  Repetition is your friend here.  Look at the cards a few times a week, using the same words until you know exactly what it means and how to use it in a sentence. Yes, it's boring.  Yes, you still have to do it.

4. Review, Review, Review your math.  You may still remember the Pythagorean theorem.  You may still even remember how to do quadratics.  That’s great.  But can you do them under a time limit, sorting through irrelevant information, while already intellectually exhausted?  Be honest with yourself here.  If it’s been a few years since algebra and geometry, you owe it to yourself to take some sort of refresher.  Especially if you’re weak at math (like me) this will boost your ability and your confidence on test day.

5.  Check your network.  I am bad at math (so very very bad) but I am great at verbal and vocabulary questions. I have a friend who is amazing at math but struggles with the ambiguities of the verbal section.  See where we're going here? Go to your friends and ask their help, ask to study together, ask for their advice.  They're your friends, they'll be happy to help you.  Just be there to offer your help when they need you.

Also, if you're a student, check the career center.  Their whole job is is to get you a job or into grad school.  They will offer advice, test prep materials, and maybe even tutoring.  Again, a theme is emerging here: don't put it off.

In case you were wondering, I finally took the GRE, in spite of all my carrying on, this week.  I did pretty well, thanks to my own prep and an awesome assist from more math-literate friends.   Now that it's over I can swear an oath to never ever not ever take a standardized test ever again.  My wish for others is to prepare well and early, get through the GRE, and move on with their lives already.  We are all much more than a test score. 

Good luck to all!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Event Announced: The Khaarijie

January 25
7:00 p.m.
Location TBA
J. Malcolm Garcia, who has worked as a reporter for The Kansas City Star, has recently released his newest book The Khaarijee: A Chronicle of Friendship and War in Kabul, a memoir about six orphans, a dog, a Muslim man, and an inexperienced American journalist--thrust together in post-9/11 Afghanistan.   Join the IRC as Garcia, a former social worker new to both journalism and war, dicusses his time in Afghanistan, where he found both a professional and emotional center.
In addition to working for The Kansas City Star, Garcia is a regular contributor to The Virginia Quarterly Review. His travel essays have appeared in Best American Travel Writing, and Best American Non-Required Reading.

More details to be announced as the date approaches.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cuba Today event cancelled, update on other upcoming events

The IRC is sad to announce that its event Cuba Today: Reflections on My Visit with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, which was first announced at our Awards Banquet, has been canceled.  We apologize to all our members; we share your disappointment.  We are currently working on refunding registration fees.

We invite all members to these other events in the coming weeks:

Asian Economic Outlook 

Nov. 17th, 2009 8:00 AM to 9:15 AM

Join the International Relations Council, in partnership with the UMKC Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, for "Asian Economic Outlook" with Dr. Norihito Tanaka, Visiting Professor of Economics at UMKC.  Dr. Tanaka will discuss current economic perspectives and the business environment, including the growth of the Chinese economy, the Japanese economic situation and governmental power shift, and emerging markets and economies in Asia.

Tanaka is a professor of International Business and Economics at Kanagawa University in Japan.  He has also taught in Thailand, the Phillipines, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.  Tanaka has published several books, including Japan's Postwar Economy and Technological Competitive Power of U.S. and Japan.
This event is free.  Please RSVP to the Bloch School.

2009 Berkley Lecture: Dr. Allison Stanger: One Nation Under Contract

Dec. 4th, 2009  at 12 PM

We have been posting about Dr. Stanger's book and the issues she will likely cover in her presentations.  Click on our "Berkley Lecture" tag to view them.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Now on YouTube: C. Fred Bergsten "The World Economy After the Crisis"

Did you miss our Awards Banquet this year? (Shame!) You missed a great night of networking, socializing, and learning! Scholars and professionals came from across the Midwest to support the IRC and confer on current international affairs. As a bonus, everyone dressed up and looked fantastic!

Our biggest draw of the evening was Dr. C. Fred Bergsten and his predictions about the future of the global economy. Dr. Bergsten gave an hour-long speech and took questions from the audience afterwards.

Kicking yourself for missing the fun? You’re in luck. The IRC recorded Dr. Bergsten’s speech, and now for the benefit of all IRC members we are posting the speech to YouTube as a series of audio clips. The clips are embedded below and can also be viewed on our YouTube channel.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

To view and register for more upcoming events, please visit
For more on Dr. Bergsten and the Petersen Institute for International Economics, visit

Monday, October 26, 2009

Attention Students: Todd E. Davis Scholarship now available

(The IRC is offering a scholarship opportunity to area students, though eligibility is restricted to undergrads at one of our ten member schools, please see requirements below.)

The International Relations Council (IRC) is pleased to announce the Todd E. Davis Scholarship.  This $1,000 scholarship has been funded from the death benefits of Todd E. Davis.  Mr. Davis was killed in Iraq on an Army combat mission in January 2008. Todd was the nephew of Dorothy and Ralph Ochsner.  Dorothy, a long time IRC member and friend, passed away in June 2009.
This scholarship will be awarded to a current student at one of IRC’s Educational Organizational members at the 2009 Eliot S. Berkley Lecture on December 4, 2009.
The requirements are:
  1. Full-time undergraduate student at one of these schools: Avila University, Baker University, Johnson County Community College, Park University, University of Kansas, UMKC, UMKC Bloch School, University of St. Mary, Rockhurst University, or William Jewell College.
  2. A cover letter expressing interest in the Todd E. Davis Scholarship.
  3. A letter of recommendation from a professor, to be sent directly to the IRC, that attests to the candidate's interest in global affairs, the promise of excellence in the study of global affairs, and any impressive leadership by the candidate in creating a globally-engaged community.
  4. Submission of a 3-5 page essay on one of the following topics:
    1. The Nobel Peace Prize selection committee has requested that you nominate a candidate for its 2010 competition.  In the award guidelines, they stipulate that the ideal candidate will be an individual “who expresses his/her knowledge of crises, conflicts and the importance of peaceful paths to resolutions.”
    2. One of the toughest problems the Obama Administration faces is how to define “success” in Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan.  Give your advice.
The deadline for submissions is: Friday, November 13.
The applications will be evaluated by the staff of the International Relations Council.

Please send application materials to:
Linda S. Trout, Executive Director, at
Or:          International Relations Council         

          911 Main Street, Suite 2226
          Kansas City, MO 64105