Illicit Global Economy

The course that was awarded with the ITEL-OER fellowship program surveys the political economy of illicit global activities. Courses in international relations usually ignore the illicit flows of capital and trade of goods, services, and even people, notwithstanding the substantial impact of this activity on the global economy and on state and citizen security. Topics covered include corruption, money laundering, and the illicit traffic of drugs, humans, and body parts.

The course also examines some of the initiatives sponsored by governments and multilateral agencies to fight such crimes. I had both graduate and undergraduate students from the School of Foreign Service enrolled in my class. They were somewhat of a diverse group in respect to their life experiences, except that all of them have lived in a foreign country for at least six months. They also varied considerably in terms of age range. Group members were from juniors to an Iraq war veteran who is still active in the military.

Given the relative high appeal of the topics covered in the class among the general public, I wanted to use this fellowship program to take advantage of the human and technical resources that CNDLS can offer to learn to produce online courses that would hopefully promote the work that the Center for Latin American Studies, and GU by extension, does on security studies. An additional, and by no means less important, advantage for producing the online modules is that they can be used as extra class learning material. Unfortunately, I was informed during the first cohort meetings that they would not be able to help me produce the videos. This news was somewhat of a letdown but I then decided to consider an alternative work proposal. I proposed to learn an online software program in Geographic Information System (GIS) so that I could, in turn, teach it to my students. My hope was my students would create their own websites examining international flows of money laundering using GIS capabilities, for example. After consulting with the university’s library staff, I decided to work with the ArcGIS online platform that GU subscribes. My students attended a 1h30min workshop offered by a GU librarian, and were also required to turn in a certificate of completion for the 3h15min online course on ArcGIS (for desktop version) at as part of the course requirement. Unfortunately, I was not able to develop the level of proficiency in GIS that would make it possible to execute the above online exercises. However, I am confident that I will be able to guide my students through those exercises next time I offer this class, in Spring 2015.

I also was inspired to produce podcast interviews for my class during the ITEL meetings. My goal was to interview a couple of the authors read in class, with questions for the interview provided by the students themselves. After many attempts, I only was able to meet with my interviewee in the last week of the semester. His name is Kevin Casas-Zamora, a former vice-president of Costa Rica, and editor of a book read and discussed in class. But despite the fact that the edited version of my conversation with the author was made available to the students two days after the interview, I still was not able to get proper feedback on the podcast from the students. However, this is a problem that can be easily dealt with in my future classes.