University News

Watson Institute seeks to integrate with departments, students

By
Staff Writer
Friday, September 14, 2012

The Watson Institute for International Studies is implementing several pilot initiatives this semester to further the institute’s integration into related University departments and student life.

The pilot initiatives include undergraduate and graduate fellows’ programs, an internal faculty sabbatical program and three lecture series on global security. The institute will also expand its funding for faculty undertaking research in line with its goals and for international relations and development studies concentrators traveling abroad for research.

“There’s been a perception across campus that the institute has not been sufficiently linked up across various levels of the University,” said Peter Andreas, interim director of the institute, adding that he hopes the changes will help make the Watson Institute a more inviting place for students and faculty.

Though the institute has always involved students informally in projects, Andreas said, the Undergraduate Fellows Program will look to involve students more fully in the institute.

Cameron Parsons ’14, an undergraduate fellow, said this formal relationship is what sets apart the fellows program from his past involvement with the institute. Noting that the institute was one of the motivating factors in his choice to attend the University, Parsons said the program will allow him to form a “close relationship with Watson.”

Colby Smith ’13, also an undergraduate fellow, said the program will transform the institute into “a new community for students,” rather than just an office or event space, adding “another dimension to the academic experience.”

Though the exact mission of the undergraduate program has yet to be solidified, the fellows have met each other and others affiliated with the institute, which fellow Kathy Nguyen ’13 said will help them take advantage of networking opportunities at the institute.

Unlike its undergraduate counterpart, the institute’s Graduate Fellows Program has been more fully developed. The program provides its fellows with office space, research funds and travel support. There are currently seven fellows from the anthropology, economics, sociology and political science departments, all at various stages in their graduate studies. The program allows graduate students “to be engaged in the life of the institute … in a more systematic way,” said Angelica Duran Martinez GS, a graduate fellow and doctoral student in political science. Duran Martinez said the program will support her writing process, while also allowing her to “exploit the potential … and take advantage of the human capital” at the institute.

Watson is also sponsoring a sabbatical program that enables professors to spend their sabbaticals at Brown – away from their departments – while engaging in “policy-relevant research in international studies,” Andreas said. Esther Whitfield, assistant professor of comparative literature, will be the first faculty member to take part in the program this spring.

The institute will also focus on bridging the gap between itself and related University departments, such as the William R. Rhodes Center for International Economics and Finance, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the India Initiative and the Middle East Studies Program.

The goal of the Latin American center is “globalized area study,” which will be better facilitated by the center sharing a space and partnering with Watson, said Richard Snyder, professor of political science and the center’s director.

Ashutosh Varshney, professor of political science and director of the India Initiative, said that housing the initiative in the Watson Institute’s facilities allows the two to “build bridges and create synergy” within the University. The India Initiative is at the “intersection of policy and research,” Varshney said. “Our goals connect well with Watson.”

As part of the efforts to better integrate with institutional partners and the student body, Andreas is also trying to revitalize the institute’s global security profile by supporting three new speaker series related to global security, which he hopes will also help “bridge the policy-academia divide.”

“For Watson to function meaningfully it has to connect better with Brown, Brown’s research and Brown’s pedagogical aims,” Varshney said. Though these initiatives have garnered much support from Watson affiliates, Andreas said, “any initiatives’ continuation is up to the next director. … There is no long-term commitment.”