I only took two classes with Ben, as I discovered Political Science and IR late in my frosh year and he was on sabbatical during my second year at Oberlin. When he returned, I took his Mideast Politics class and then his seminar. I was disappointed at first that he had changed his seminar topic from Arms Sales to Refugees. It reflected his changing research interests, but I had been more interested in the old arms sales topic. Of course, that might have been a good thing since a friend I knew had his paper disrupted towards the end of the semester as he had been studying the "successful" arms embargo against Iran just as it came out that the US via Iran-Contra was selling arms to Iran. Ooops.
Anyhow, the refugee course was new to Ben, reflecting a desire to continue to pursue his curiosity wherever it took him. This helped inspire not just my career but how I pursued it. Ben went from studying the International Atomic Energy Agency to refugees to the International Criminal Court. Perhaps as a result, my worked has also bumped around from topic to topic, depending on what intrigued me, rather than specializing in one thing for my career.
Ben was far better than I have ever been in running a seminar. It was a good group to be sure, as Obies are pretty sharp folks and like to
While Ben shaped some of my views of both IR and teaching, perhaps the contribution I can most clearly identify to my career is that he gave great advice to a panicked senior who was looking at grad schools. "Check out UCSD. Sure, the folks there are pretty arrogant, but they are also quite sharp." I would not have applied to UCSD if not for Ben's advice, and I would not have gotten in without his recommendation. His assistance that year definitely changed my life, as that choice forever dominated my destiny.
Ben turned out to be a great adviser to the next generation of IR scholars. Oberlin has a grand tradition of producing not just Phds and not just Phds in Political Science, but in IR: Kenneth Waltz, Robert Jervis and Scott Sagan all went to Oberlin. The folks who Ben mentored may not have as big names, but I am pretty proud to be in the same company as George Shambaugh, Audie Klotz, and, my classmate, Beth DeSombre.
Congrats on your retirement, Ben. Oberlin will miss you, and I will certainly miss our occasional coffees at random ISA's over the years.