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Seventeen international scholars visit Watson Institute

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Watson Institute for International Studies is welcoming 17 new visitors-in-residence to Brown this semester who will participate in a variety of programs.

Associate Director of the Watson Institute Geoffrey Kirkman ’91 described the process whereby visitors come to Brown as “ad hoc.”

“There are a combination of people who approach us and say ‘Hey, I’d like to spend some time here,’ and people we approach to invite,” Kirkman said.

This semester, the Watson Institute has partnered with The Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World to participate in the Scholars at Risk project, an international network of universities that, according to its Web site, “provides sanctuary” for scholars whose academic freedom or human rights are threatened. Through this partnership, the Watson Institute has brought the renowned Iraqi archaeologist Behnam Abu al-Soof to College Hill.

“Every semester brings a different mix of visitors,” Kirkman said. This semester there are visitors from 15 different countries, including Brazil, Spain, Papua New Guinea and Iraq. Many of the visiting professors are on sabbatical from teaching at their regular universities of employment. One such professor, Jorge Luis Esquirol, said he sees this semester as an opportunity to “re-charge my academic batteries … I’m really excited to work in this environment.”

Esquirol said his experience with Brown so far has been positive. When he first arrived at Watson, he said he was apprehensive about the process of settling in and registering and went to the directory to find the offices of the faculty he had contact with. “Imagine my surprise,” he said, “when I found my name and office number on the directory already.”

Esquirol, who is professor of law and director of international and comparative programs at Florida International University, said he was especially looking forward to interacting with specialists in Latin American studies while at Watson.

Esquirol, who said he is using this semester to write a book on the impact of the American legal system on Latin American law, said he will also work with Vice President for International Affairs David Kennedy ’76 on the multidisciplinary project in global law, governance and social thought that Kennedy has been developing.

In addition to working on research projects, some of the visitors teach seminars and study groups, Kirkman said.

“One of the most exciting things we’ve done with the visitors is the study groups,” Kirkman said. “They give students the opportunity to interact with the visitors.” In the past, the Watson Institute has brought former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee ’75 and former President of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso to lead study groups on campus, Kirkman said. This semester, one such study group on new media in international affairs will be run by the radio broadcaster Christopher Lydon, he said.

According to the Watson Institute’s Web site, Lydon will also use Watson Institute resources for his “Open Source” podcast, which interviews international figures.

Bringing visitors to Watson “adds a lot to campus life,” Kirkman said. “The overall goal is to make sure that (they) provide a mix of perspectives and add to the strengths of the Brown community.”

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