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Taubman to integrate with Watson Institute

University’s public policy hub will continue to operate within expanding Watson Institute

The Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions will become a part of the Watson Institute for International Studies, administrators announced Monday.

The integration of the two institutions will not take place immediately, but administrators and faculty members affiliated with each have begun the year-long process of working out the details of the merger, Watson Institute Director Richard Locke told The Herald.

Locke announced the change in an email Monday afternoon.

Though Locke expressed confidence that the merger would move forward, he cautioned that the proposal must still clear several administrative hurdles.

Taubman will continue to exist as a distinct center under the umbrella of the Watson Institute, which also houses the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Brown-India Initiative and the China Initiative, among others, Locke said.

“We already have a kind of tradition of having country- or regional-based centers where people do research or programming within Watson,” he said.

The recognition that globalization has rendered national borders less relevant in studying policy issues spurred the change, Locke said. “It just doesn’t make sense to have one center focused on domestic issues and one policy center focused on global issues when in fact the issues blur across boundaries.”

Much of the best current policy scholarship takes a comparative perspective, he added.

James Morone, who became director of the Taubman Center in July, named expanding the center’s focus on international policy issues as one of his priorities earlier this month.

“The idea of separating domestic public policy and international public policy made sense in the 1980s when these centers were set up, but today it just doesn’t make sense anymore,” Morone said Monday. “Combining our focus, combining the two centers and thinking across domestic and international public policy is just much more powerful, and it’s much more contemporary.”

Morone said he and Locke have discussed their mutual desire to put Brown’s “stamp on the study of public policy.”

The Taubman Center will continue to conduct public opinion polling in Rhode Island. It will also still offer both undergraduate and master’s degrees in public policy, Locke said.

But neither program will maintain the same structure, Morone said. Though changes are still in the preliminary planning stages, the undergraduate concentration will feature new tracks, including one in conjunction with the Swearer Center for Public Service for students interested in direct work with social policy in Rhode Island, he said.

An intensive 12-month master’s program that will incorporate classroom and online learning, an internship and a two-and-a-half-week policymaking experience abroad is also in the works, Morone said. Whether this will be an additional option for students seeking a master’s degree in public policy or a replacement for the existing two-year Masters in Public Administration and Masters in Public Policy programs has not been decided, he added.

Neither the public policy concentration nor the master’s programs will continue to operate exclusively within Taubman, drawing instead on the breadth of the University’s departments, Morone said.

Ross Cheit, professor of political science and public policy and director of undergraduate studies at Taubman, wrote in an email to The Herald that the integration could bolster both Taubman and Watson by capitalizing on the “many possible synergies between the two units.” He added that Locke’s leadership could “bring Brown into the forefront of policy studies, broadly conceived.”

Cheit said he has no concern that Taubman will be less attentive to domestic policy by joining with the growing international studies institute.

“We don’t want to lose what Taubman has done so well, which is be a premier voice in Rhode Island politics,” Morone said. “That absolutely will remain.”

Taubman will add to its existing strength in state politics and policy by bolstering its national work and adding an international component, Morone said.

Locke said conversations about integrating the two bodies predate his July 2013 arrival at Brown. The idea gathered momentum over the course of the last year, as Watson and Taubman faculty members discussed the possibility of integration and the Academic Priorities Committee addressed it at a meeting last year.

Andrew Foster, professor of economics and director of the Population Studies and Training Center, said the idea of joining the two institutions has been simmering for the past decade.

“The general sense was that Taubman was kind of too small in terms of number of (full-time equivalents) to really successfully carry out its mission, so joining it with something I think made sense,” Foster said. “I certainly agree with the idea that it’s hard to sort of divide up the world into domestic public policy and international public policy.”

Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Urban Studies Marion Orr, who preceded Morone as Taubman director, said the integration will provide Taubman “with the faculty resources it so desperately needs.” In a follow-up email to The Herald, Orr added that every external review of Taubman in the past 15 years has stated that the center lacks sufficient tenure and tenure-track public policy faculty members.

Orr said merging with the Watson Institute, with its large endowment, has long been seen as a possible remedy to the center’s understaffing.

Peter Andreas, associate director of the Watson Institute and professor of political science and international studies, referred to the integration in an email to The Herald as “a smart and long overdue move” and a “win-win for all.”

Foster said the proposed integration’s effect on various departments remains unclear, adding that working out the details of those relationships will be crucial to the plan’s long-term success.


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