A year later, internationalization still just beginning to take shape

By
Thursday, December 13, 2007

With David Kennedy ’76 starting in January as Brown’s first Vice President for International Affairs, the administration has spent much of this semester preparing for his arrival. The University’s internationalization effort, which aims to improve Brown’s image abroad and bolster the study of international issues on campus, has produced several flashes of activity this semester, but there is consensus that the pace of work will pick up once Kennedy starts next month.

“The story now is one of planning and continuity,” Kennedy said.

Up to this point, the internationalization agenda – first outlined as a University priority by President Ruth Simmons in her 2006 Convocation speech – has been primarily directed by the Internationalization Committee’s September report.

“All of us are still trying to digest the Internationalization Committee’s report and find out what voices weren’t heard from during that process,” Kennedy said.

The committee, created in October 2006, was charged by Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 with exploring how Brown could best strengthen its international connections and enhance the curriculum with a more coherent international focus.

“I think part of our interest is ensuring that practically every nook and cranny in the University benefits from the internationalization initiative,” Kertzer said. “Part of the new vice president’s job is to make sure that all of the major areas of the University are affected by internationalization.”

Indeed, Kennedy has already spent considerable time listening to University constituencies in an effort to develop a sense of Brown’s existing strengths and weaknesses. Though his employment at Brown does not officially begin until January, Kennedy has spent most Thursdays and Fridays on campus this semester, even while maintaining his full teaching load as a professor at Harvard Law School.

“There are so many interesting initiatives going on at Brown and my own view is that I’m just beginning to see them,” Kennedy said. “My first project will be getting to know Brown better than I’ve been able to already.”

“My sense is that he’s really doing his homework in terms of spending time on campus every week, even a couple days a week,” said Associate Professor of Political Science Peter Andreas, a member of the search committee that selected Kennedy. “He has been doing the rounds, meeting with people, talking with the relevant faculty and administrators. … He’s not starting until January, but he’s definitely putting in some serious hours at Brown this semester.”

“It’s a lot of pro bono work, if you will,” Andreas said.

Kennedy will also be occupied setting up his office and staff. There are ongoing searches to fill two positions in his office: an executive assistant and a director of international affairs. Both searches have narrowed the applicants down to short lists, he said.

Though Kennedy’s office will eventually be located in the University Hall suite currently occupied by the registrar, he will work out of the Watson Institute for International Studies until his new space is ready in September.

The provost’s seed funding initiative, which will provide grants of around $10,000 to $20,000 to faculty groups working with international collaborators or trying to establish programs at Brown with an international focus, served as an effective way to see what is already happening. The list of winning proposals, announced yesterday, includes groups working with institutions in China, Brazil and France in a diverse array of fields.

“The fact that there were over 40 proposals shows how much interest there is in this initiative,” Kertzer said. Though Kertzer proposed the seed funding initiative as a tool to maintain the momentum of the internationalization agenda this semester, he said that it might become a regular feature in the future. The program will be administered by Kennedy’s office once it is running next semester, he added.

As the provost’s office continues to solicit faculty and student responses to the committee report, Kertzer said all of the proposals it contains remain on the table. “Nothing has happened in the last two months that has selected some and not others,” he said.

Nevertheless, two specific proposals have emerged as the most developed so far.

Global health, an area that received significant attention in the internationalization report, will certainly become an important component of the overall agenda. Members of the Internationalization Committee’s global health working group have continued to meet throughout this semester to determine how Brown can best utilize its existing strengths to become a leader in the field.

The group also received one of the seed grants to support continued work through next semester on its proposal for a global health initiative. According to one of the group’s leaders, Associate Professor of Anthropology Daniel Smith, the goal is to present a proposal by the end of the current academic year.

“Our mission is to sketch out in a more detailed, concrete, implementable form … a Brown global health initiative. Part of that is determining whether there are any structural changes that need to be made to increase Brown’s profile in global health,” Smith said. “We need to find something that fits with our strengths so we can carve out our niche.”

Smith specifically mentioned the “low walls between disciplines” as an advantage that will help create synergies between departments, better integrate the campus and the Alpert Medical School and help join together the research and educational aspects of the plan.

Though the report suggested developing a global health institute, Smith stressed that this idea is being considered but far from approval.

But Kertzer said internationalization would not merely be the creation of new centers and institutes. “When you look back five years from now to see what’s happened, there will be some combination of exciting new entities but also things will have happened to some existing entities that will transform them through internationalization,” he said.

The second idea that seems to have gained traction draws on Kennedy’s current research interests in international law and global governance. Though there are no concrete plans yet, Kennedy said he is “very hopeful that we’ll be able to inaugurate something in the area of global governance in the Watson Institute in the coming years.” He envisions an institute for advanced research that would bring global legal scholars to Brown and anticipates that such a program would involve teaching undergraduates as well.

Andreas speculated that global governance would attract undergraduates’ attention and plans to discuss with Kennedy future plans for undergraduate study in the area.

While most of the excitement related to internationalization has yet to come, Kertzer said students are beginning to be affected by the effort. He mentioned that Persian classes were offered this year and that a recent donation will allow the University to hire a full lecturer in the language next year.

Finally, ongoing study groups led by professors-at-large out of the Watson Institute have been praised for successfully allowing undergraduates to work closely with prominent international figures including professors-at-large Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Ricardo Lagos Escobar, former presidents of Brazil and Chile respectively.

“The study groups are relatively new, and my sense is that they have been quite successful. They are a very different experience from formal teaching in the classroom,” Andreas said. “They are terrific and really great opportunities for students.”