University News

Watson begins search for director

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Watson Institute for International Studies began its search for a new permanent director last week. In an October email to the faculty, Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 announced the eight members of the search committee, which assembled for the first time Nov. 9 to discuss advertising for the vacant position.

The committee is chaired by Susan Alcock, director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World and a professor of classics. Its membership reflects the wide variety of disciplines the institute spans, Schlissel said. The committee will also be working with Isaacson Miller, an external search firm, to help identify candidates. Though the firm will not be involved in interviewing candidates or making final decisions, it will gather background information, write to potential directors and present three finalists to the provost and President Ruth Simmons, Schlissel said.

Isaacson Miller was hired to help the committee locate candidates with experience in diplomacy or NGO work. The institute has tended to focus on the theoretical aspects of international affairs, and it is important for students to learn from “practitioners” as well, Schlissel said. To that end, the search committee is seeking someone whose experience is not purely academic.

“For a position as important as Watson director, we thought it would be valuable to get professional help drumming up the robust pool of applicants,” he said.

Candidates will also be evaluated on their “leadership ability, managerial talent and clear interest and knowledge of international affairs and policy issues,” Putterman said. A director with policy background will help the institute bridge the gap between academic affairs and policy discussion, he said.

As in previous years, students will not be involved in the search process. “Watson is really a research institute,” Schlissel said. “It’s not a department, major or concentration.”

Sumner Becker ’14, a potential international relations concentrator, said he was not sure what role students could play in the search process, but said “student voice is critical.” The institute could encourage more interactions between the academic ideas of students and faculty in the future, he said.

The institute is currently in the process of reevaluating its mission on campus after an external review conducted last year concluded that it needed to focus on fewer areas.

“Getting a new director will be a major step in getting it out of limbo,” said Deputy Provost Joseph Meisel, who will also be assisting the search committee.

Schlissel said the new director will be responsible for designing “Watson’s academic agenda in the years ahead,” but he expects it to continue its mission of “bringing to the Brown community outstanding scholars interested in teaching.”

The committee’s other members are Professor of Political Science Mark Blyth, Associate Professor of Political Science Melani Cammett, Professor of Economics Louis Putterman, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies J. Timmons Roberts, Chair of the East Asian Studies Department Kerry Smith as well as Watson Board members Lucinda Watson P’03 and Phillip Lader P’08 P’11.

The Watson Institute has been under the leadership of Interim Director Carolyn Dean since Michael Kennedy resigned as director at the end of the last academic year. The committee hopes to identify a new director by the end of the spring semester, Meisel said.