This fall, Michael Kennedy, formerly a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, takes over as the director of the Watson Institute for International Studies. The previous director, David Kennedy '76, resigned this summer after overseeing the Institute on an interim basis for just over a year.
In a July interview with The Herald, Michael Kennedy remarked that he wanted to spend some time at Watson before he set an agenda for the institution. We appreciate Kennedy's prudence, and would like to offer the following several suggestions to get him pointed in the right direction.
First, the undergraduate International Relations course offerings should be more reflective of the pressing challenges the world currently faces. This semester, the number of IR courses on international law exceeds the number of courses on international security and the global economy or the international financial system. Certainly, international law is an important and worthwhile subject. But it need not be the primary area of focus, especially at a time when the world is struggling to cope with the threat of international terrorism and the effects of a severe financial crisis.
Undergraduate students across a variety of concentrations would welcome the return of courses like INTL 1800K: "The American Military: Global Supremacy, Democracy and Citizenship" or INTL 1800C: "The Asian Financial Crisis."
Second, the Watson Institute should seriously consider offering a Master's degree in International Relations. In the long run, a Master's program would create an international network of professionals who received their terminal degree from Brown. This sort of network would enhance Brown's global presence and expand the range of opportunities available to Brown graduates.
A Master's program would also offer more immediate benefits. Master's students will have backgrounds in a variety of disciplines — political science, economics and sociology, among others — and could help alleviate the TA shortages in several departments. A Master's program would also give current undergraduates an additional option for continuing their education at Brown.
Third, the Watson Institute should look to attract additional faculty with real world experience. Already, the Watson Institute can boast of impressive relationships with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke '62 LLD '97 and former Senator Lincoln Chafee '75. And several of the current Watson appointees have worked in institutions such as the UN, the World Bank and the Commerce Department. Nonetheless, the Watson faculty consists overwhelmingly of individuals whose primary experience is in teaching and academic research.
Kennedy should look to diversify the range of backgrounds among Watson's faculty, and undertake new efforts to bring in individuals who have been extensively involved in international affairs. For instance, the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies' faculty includes a former Air Force pilot and instructor at the National War College, a former deputy director of the C.I.A. and the former Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times.
Over the past three years, the University has repeatedly emphasized the importance of internationalization, but a more substantive agenda has been slow to emerge. If internationalization is to mean anything, it should involve the development of an institution on campus that emphasizes engagement with pressing global problems and encourages collaboration between academic researchers and practitioners with real world experience. This is the kind of institution that Kennedy should seek to build.
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