Joint degree student reaps benefits of law and international affairs study

For Sam Wiest, earning two graduate degrees at once provides connections. After two years of study at Penn State Law, Wiest is now focused on the core curriculum of the School of International Affairs.

"As a law student I learned about international law. And then I learned in Ambassador Jett's diplomacy class how foreign policy is actually formed," he said. “After that, international law made so much more sense.”

“Interdisciplinary learning like this is one of the hallmarks of the Penn State School of International Affairs, and we are pleased to help students supplement their study here with classes, electives, or joint degrees in other Penn State colleges or schools,” said School of International Affairs director Tiyanjana Maluwa.

Wiest arrived at Penn State with experience in other communities. After his freshman year at Brigham Young University, he pursued a two-year international mission opportunity in Barcelona, where he learned Spanish and Catalan. He worked with people of Catalonia in their efforts to have Catalan be recognized as an official language of the European Union. Wiest learned that as a province of Spain, Catalonia could not appeal to the EU directly for recognition; they were instead forced to lobby Spain for recognition. He also spent four months working as a translator for a Member of the Parliament from Catalonia.

"Living in Barcelona and witnessing the struggles of the people of Catalan gave me the vantage point of a minority people in Europe. It was fascinating to see how different levels of government get along and the degree of negotiation required to function among all of them," he said.

Wiest anticipates making a career of solving multilevel international issues. With his legal background and interest in negotiating many layers of international structure, he anticipates that working for the federal government or an international organization to combat international crime would be a great fit.

Last summer he interned in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice where he focused on organized crime and racketeering.

“As globalization increases, the way we think of crime needs to adjust. We need to look beyond national borders to solve problems,” he said.

He plans to write a master's paper on international organized crime, which would tie together his legal study and interest in international law, international economics, and multilevel organizations. Wiest anticipates graduating in 2011.