Meet Featured Professor Pamela Harris

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Meet Professor Pamela Harris and learn why JCU is a great place to study Political Science and International Affairs.

Watch the video and read the interview!

 Professor Harris, who is from Los Angeles, holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and joined JCU in 1999. She is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law as well Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. She teaches courses in international law, constitutional law, American government, and political theory. She has written articles on law and literature as well as on religious liberty in the United States.

Professor Harris recently gave a keynote speech on Privacy, Dignity, and Speech: Protecting Freedom in the Digital Age at the annual conference of the Cornell Institute for Internet Culture, Policy and Law.


 What is it like teaching at John Cabot University?

Our small classes and uncommonly diverse students make teaching at John Cabot exhilarating. It’s been a privilege to see JCU change from a small college for mainly U.S. study abroad students to a great international liberal arts university. Our American students come from Hawaii to Maine, and everywhere in between, from big state schools to small colleges. But we also have students from all over Italy, Germany, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Korea.

What are the advantages of having such a diverse student body?
It’s really exciting to study the criticism of democracy in Plato’s Republic with the input of students from Morocco or Saudi Arabia, who can defend monarchy. Or to discuss the politics of the Muslim veil with women who feel threatened by it and others who embrace it, in the same class.

It is one thing to teach about humanitarian intervention under international law in the abstract, something else to hear the point of view of students from countries like Kosovo or Serbia. We also have many U.S. veterans who have a perspective on the law of military engagement that you can’t get from a textbook.

What makes Rome a good place to study Political Science/International Affairs?
Rome is the seat of the Italian government and the Vatican, both of which provide great stimulus to developing one’s skills of political analysis! Rome is the birthplace of multicultural cosmopolitanism as well as republicanism, the model upon which most governments are based today. These ancient achievements still have so much to teach us today.

Rome is a center of diplomacy, hosting international missions not only to the Italian Republic and the Holy See, but to important UN agencies as well. The internship possibilities in Rome are fantastic: one of my Italian students interned last year at the Italian government’s department for relations with religious minorities, and this year she is working at the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See. Other students intern at the different UN agencies – the FAO, WFP and IFAD.

Finally, Rome’s strategic location at the center of the Mediterranean makes it a good launching pad for learning more not only about Europe, but Africa and the Middle East as well.

With so many choices available in the United States, why should a student choose JCU, an American university in Rome?
JCU offers an unparalleled opportunity for intense academic growth and preparation for graduate school. A former student of mine just told me that she is doing a Master’s in Migration and Citizenship in France, and her mentor there praised her very good grasp of International Law. JCU really provides students with the skills – in writing, research and critical analysis – to succeed in graduate school and the workplace.

Tell us about your research on religious liberty in the United States. How does the situation in the U.S. compare with Europe with respect to religious freedom?
There are two main approaches to religious liberty in many different liberal constitutional systems. States may merely tolerate religious expression and practice or go farther to accommodate the specific needs of religious citizens. The US approach privileges toleration, which has basically meant for a long time now a doctrine of strict separation between religion and state institutions, even local public schools. As a result of this, the religious sphere has become effectively privatized, so that citizens learn at most about their own religion, but don’t have much opportunity – until and unless they take religious studies in college – to learn about the religions of others.

European states are much more comfortable with expressions of religion – or at least the majority religion – in public life. But this can leave religious minorities feeling like second-class citizens. Still, in both Europe and the U.S. we enjoy a great degree of religious liberty compared to less liberal societies.

Learn more about the Department of Political Science and International Affairs at John Cabot University in Rome!