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International Trade, International Law, and International Experiences

May 17, 2017

Portrait of Cosette Creamer

Portrait of Cosette Creamer
Photo by Kate Drakulic, CLAgency.

To say that Assistant Professor Cosette Creamer has been busy since she started at the University of Minnesota this past fall would be an understatement: Whether it's teaching, working on her book manuscript, carrying out research about international politics, or giving talks to local community members, it's safe to say that Creamer has a lot on her plate in any given week. But to her, it's hardly a chore. "I don't think of this as a job. It's more than a career, it's my life," says Creamer. "I get to ask questions that are interesting to me and that I'm passionate about, and not a lot of people can say that their careers let them do that."

Creamer's main areas of interest are international politics, trade, and law—subjects that are more relevant than ever in today's increasingly globalized world. Any student lucky enough to have Creamer as a professor will get the privilege of learning from someone who's an expert in their field, full of passion for their work, and equipped with a breadth of real-world experience.

Creamer began college when she was just 16, at Simon's Rock College of Bard in Massachusetts. From there, she transferred to the London School of Economics to continue her undergraduate education, where a course taught by a standout professor inspired her to pursue international politics and law as an area of study. "It made me realize how much these international rules and regulations are more about politics than they are about law."

After finishing her master's at the University of Chicago, Creamer received a David Boren National Security Education Program Fellowship, through which she received funding from the Department of Defense to travel to Cambodia for research. Creamer spent a year and a half in the country, researching the establishment of a tribunal to convict former Khmer Rouge leaders of war crimes carried out during the Cambodian Genocide. During her stay, Creamer traveled around the country interviewing a broad range of individuals on their perceptions of the trials. She returned to Cambodia as a law student, and spent two summers working with the tribunal and an non-governmental organization (NGO) monitoring the trials. Creamer's experiences in Cambodia gave her a rare opportunity to be a part of a noteworthy international trial, and to see firsthand the real-world ramifications of a topic that's been a major focus of her life's work.

Today, Creamer is continuing research on trade disputes between countries and how they are settled through the World Trade Organization (WTO). This work will eventually be turned into a book manuscript that she aims to have published. In particular, Creamer is examining how adjudicators (officials who essentially act as judges for trade disputes brought before the WTO) balance authority between the national and international level. Creamer says she's interested in the "underlying politics of what should, in theory, be a legal process."

Creamer is also researching a variety of other topics, including a project with a team of graduate students that has received a grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID). For this project, Creamer and her team are exploring what makes human rights campaigns effective and examining the unintended consequences that these campaigns sometimes have. The group will participate in a workshop with USAID at the end of May, where they will present their findings.

Outside of research and teaching, Creamer has been getting involved in the University's local community. She has given talks on international trade, to audiences such as church groups and women's clubs, as part of the Foreign Policy Association's Great Decisions program coordinated by Global Minnesota. "It's always interesting to talk with people about how international trade affects businesses and industries within their community," says Creamer.

As Creamer's first academic year at the University comes to a close, she feels grateful for the warm welcome she’s received from the department. She's impressed with the work ethic of the students she's taught and is excited for the future. "It's an amazing and gratifying experience to be able to explore questions about the world with students," says Creamer. "Every time I teach a course, I learn something new from students."

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.