Diplomacy & World Affairs

Meet Madeline Baer of Diplomacy & World Affairs, whose teaching interests include global political economy, human rights, the politics of globalization and development, and Latin American politics.

What attracted you to Occidental?

Having lived in Los Angeles for 15 years now, I developed a deep admiration for Oxy’s reputation, including its faculty and students. Even so, when I came to campus to interview, I was completely blown away by the conversations I had with students. I knew that Oxy was a home to some really exciting research, arts, and activism, but it was the students and their fierce commitment to engage with the world and with politics that made me so thrilled to join the Oxy community.

What are your early impressions of classroom life?

Our students work hard! The classroom is a constant source of pleasant surprises for me. Students link the work we are doing in my classes to their other classes with ease, often drawing parallels between disciplines and drawing ideas out of readings I’ve been teaching for years that are new to me. My early impressions are that Oxy classrooms are a place where I will find lots of inspiration and will grow as a teacher and scholar.

What do you see as the value of a liberal arts education?

I think liberal arts education is at its best when it provides not only the foundations of knowledge and skills that students expect of a college education, but when it prepares students to take part in civic life as engaged political actors. Education should be transformational, and I think the liberal arts environment allows students and faculty to explore ways to take knowledge into the world in meaningful ways.

Your research explores the relationship between states, markets, and human rights through the lens of water policy in Latin America. What are the implications of defining access to water and sanitation services as human rights?

Defining water and sanitation services as human rights can be a very effective way to bring resources and attention to the stark inequities in access to water within and across countries. When the promise of equity and justice inherent in a human rights approach is combined with concrete policy, institutional, and budgetary changes, access to water can be significantly improved in national contexts. However, rights along are not enough—citizen participation in water governance, protection of the public character of water, and environmental stewardship are all necessary to make lasting improvements to water governance.