University News

With new director, Watson Institute paves way for future

Locke said he plans to expand the faculty and pursue interdisciplinary collaboration

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, October 18, 2013

Faculty members and administrators said they expect to see a reinvigorated and inclusive Watson Institute for International Studies under the leadership of its new director, Richard Locke, who began his position in July.

The institute faced a turbulent past decade, its leadership changing hands seven times in nine years and struggling to define its mission and central focus.

Locke said he hopes to grow Watson by focusing on three core areas of international studies — security, governance and economic, political and human development — while further integrating Watson’s programs into other departments and institutes on campus as well as growing research and the number of faculty members.

“Watson has always had a tremendous amount of potential, but it hadn’t fulfilled its promise,” Locke said. The institute “didn’t have the presence it should have had in academic and policy circles, and it was seen as a strange insiders’ club on campus. It just didn’t have the kind of energy you’d expect for a center whose mission is to promote a peaceful and just world,” he added.

Locke was hired last spring after an extended search to find a permanent successor to Michael Kennedy, who left his post as the institute’s director in spring 2011. In spring 2012, the University chose not to hire any of the three finalists being considered to head Watson. Peter Andreas, currently a professor of political science and international studies, served as the institute’s interim director last year.

Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 praised Locke’s plans for the institute. “He’s modernized the agenda of the institute in a very attractive way,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel said he expects Watson to become one of the University’s “shining stars,” adding that both he and President Christina Paxson were excited about Locke’s leadership.

Locke’s previous positions as chair of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s political science department and deputy dean of its Sloan School of Management at taught him “how the culture of promoting excellence is so important,” he said, adding that he would like to replicate that at Brown.

Locke said he plans to emphasize interdisciplinary collaboration, working with sectors like the School of Public Health, the Alpert Medical School, the environmental science program, the computer science and math departments and various humanities programs to address the institute’s three core focuses.

Since Locke’s arrival as director, Watson has hired new faculty members, grown the faculty fellows program and built up the postdoctoral program, he said.

“We’re building up our human capital so that we can actually deliver on what we say we want to do,” Locke said.

The institute recently solicited proposals from faculty members for initiatives focusing on the three core areas, Locke said.

Locke said he would ultimately like to build a program in international and public affairs with both an undergraduate and a master’s program, adding that he believes the center should focus on developing a new approach to researching international security.

“When you look carefully at other major security programs, they are primarily focused on traditional security concerns,” Locke said. But Brown should avoid investing in those areas because exploration of traditional security concerns is already a “crowded space,” he said.

Faculty members and administrators interviewed said they had been impressed with Locke’s leadership.

“(Locke) has already infused the Watson Institute with energy and purpose, and his commitment to transparency, professionalism and broad consultation is, frankly, inspiring,” Keith Brown, professor of international studies, wrote in an email to The Herald.

“(Locke) has taken an organization that was working under interim leadership for several years and has given it a shot of energy and focus that has uplifted everybody,” Schlissel said, adding that he “couldn’t have hoped for a better start.”

Andreas called Locke a “burst of adrenaline for the place, which has been much needed and long overdue,” adding that Locke is an “engaging, collaborative and supportive colleague.”

Andreas said he also appreciated Locke’s plans to expand Watson’s faculty.

“That’s urgently needed because we’ve actually been shrinking in size over the last number of years,” Andreas said. “He’s brought an exciting vision that’s clear and involves a lot of buy-in from faculty and units across campus. I think it’s something that a lot of people from different disciplines and so on can get enthused about,” Andreas said.

“The real rewards have been that the students are amazing,” Locke said. “It’s a great interdisciplinary culture — the Open Curriculum percolates throughout the whole university.”