Summer Course Explores Developing Nations in Unique Way

Billions of people in the world live on less than $10 per day—and almost half the world lives on less than $2.50 per day. Some countries are in turmoil, while others are peaceful—some authoritarian, and some democratic. What explains the enormous differences between nations, both in terms of economic growth and political stability?

Dr. Richard Elgar explores these intriguing questions in his course, Politics of Developing Nations (POL_S 400) this summer through WSU Global Campus.

“We explore a lot of fascinating issues in this course, and I always do my best to make it fun, engaging, and interesting,” said Elgar, who has been teaching the summer course for ten years.

The course explores the effect that globalization has in politics around the world, especially as it relates to nations struggling to rise up the ladder of economic and social development.

“We talk a lot about how everything is connected, and how the decisions that one nation makes can have a domino effect, impacting other nations in a wide variety of good and bad ways,” said Elgar. “We also focus on inequality in economic relationships between nations, giving a snapshot on current events and how they influence the developing world.”

The course is open to all students, and although it is a political science class, Elgar noted that students from all majors across campus have taken and enjoyed this class over the years. Elgar especially recommends the course for political science majors.

“We cover a lot of unique and important material in the course. There are a lot of concepts that students won’t have touched on before, even those who have been studying political science for years,” said Elgar, “And although there’s a lot of reading, which can intimidate some people, those articles and chapters are all very engaging.”

To help students connect with the material, Elgar utilizes some unusual and engaging teaching techniques. For one, he begins each section of instruction by playing a song from popular music and applying its lyrics to the subject matter.

“The Clash appears quite a lot, like ‘Rock the Casbah’ when we look at the Middle East,” said Elgar. “Also songs like ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries when we consider conflict, or ‘Bangla Desh’ by George Harrison when talking about aid, or Manu Chao while we discuss globalization.”

“Starting off with a song is a way to have a little fun with the material and make it memorable for the students at the same time. It also sparks classroom discussion and gets everyone talking,” said Elgar.

Another way students engage with the material is through role-playing exercises and projects.

“I assign each student a nation and ask them to learn about that nation and put themselves in its shoes, so to speak,” said Elgar. “Then, as their assigned nations, the students can interact, and it can get really interesting.”

According to Elgar, he’s received very positive feedback from the course.

“This course still reigns as one of my favorite courses I have taken at WSU. I really enjoyed our final project where we chose a developing country and explored its history in depth and made predictions about its future development,” said Emma Ekman, a former student of Elgar’s. “I think this class would be particularly compelling for a student who is interested in international development, comparative politics, world history or sustainability.”

“I really enjoyed taking the politics of developing nations taught by Richard Elgar, because he covered essential concepts needed to better understand international relations,” said Griffin Grubb, an international relations graduate student who has taken the course. “Understanding the historical context of colonialism, globalization, and the role of international institutions in relation to developing nations allowed me to understand why states struggle with economic instability, human rights issues, and a lack of access to natural resources.”

Politics of Developing Nations is a 5-week course, starting May 9th through WSU Global Campus. If you have questions about the course, contact Richard Elgar at

Visit the WSU Schedules of Classes to learn more about this and other courses being offered this summer. Find additional information on the Summer Session website.