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Category Archives: International Studies Education

Key skills for an international affairs career in the 21st century

In late October, over 70 U.S. government, international affairs schools, students and alumni and other foreign policy and foreign language practitioners gathered in Washington D.C. for a conference on “International Affairs Careers in the 21st Century”. We worked with the Jackson School and the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) to produce this event.

Panelists included senior-level representatives from the U.S. State Department, Department of Defense, Defense Intelligence Agency, U.S. Trade Representative, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, George Washington University Elliot School of Public Affairs, Chemonics International, University of Washington Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

A number of Jackson School alumni served on the panel, including Colonel Mark Barlow (M.A. International Studies, 2006) and Shauna Aron Caria (B.A. International Studies, 2007), along with Jackson School Professor Mary Callahan, Jackson School Director Reşat Kasaba and Director of the M.A. in Applied International Studies Jennifer Butte-Dahl.

I enjoyed moderating a panel featuring policy and academic experts, all of whom had received an international affairs degree several years previously, and who have been able to use that degree in their government and public policy careers. Since I fit into that category myself (University of Washington B.A. Russian Studies, 1982), I also provided my two cents to the crowd, many of whom were just starting out in their fields.

Three panel discussions focused on the following topics:

1) U.S. government international affairs careers, which focused on how work expectations and preferred skills sets of U.S. government agencies may be changing in our times, gaps and opportunities for students to find a job in government, and what should Area Studies Schools should be teaching to prepare students for future careers, with each panelist also describing the classes that helped them the most and situational examples to describe the type of skills needed.

2) Private sector, foundation and nongovernmental organizations careers using area studies expertise examined the value of deep knowledge of area studies, especially “history and context,” what types of technical skills are useful in the field, and tips on entering international development and other global policy careers outside of a government job.

3) How international affairs schools are creating 21st century global leaders and experts highlighted what schools themselves are doing to marry the real world and academia, from soft skills courses to external client research projects to technology literacy and more, and views of what the next generation of area studies will look like and new disciplines to be incorporated into curriculum, such as science.

Top 10 takeaways of skill sets for international affairs careers in the 21st century:

  1. A multidisciplinary approach matters, to quickly find a niche on the team rather than specializing too narrowly. One example given: specializing only in Chinese studies will not help you when assigned to stamp visas in Mexico. You need to understand not just a country, but the regional and global perspectives to an issue and potential policy impacts.
  2. Ability to communicate effectively, including knowing your audience and conveying information to different kinds of people, such as framing what you want to say according to their level of knowledge, their policy objectives and their perspectives. “You need to think about how other people think about things, in a culturally appropriate way,” said one of the panelists, a senior-level career Foreign Service Officer.
  3. Clear and concise writing. Those in government roles particularly stressed the writing norm in their work as “1-2 pages maximum with key points that someone can quickly digest” while in intelligence analysis often the policy brief is only eight lines. All panelists emphasized that knowing how to write well is critical for a career in international affairs.
  4. Area studies and a foreign language combined with technical skills, such as resource management or public health, are viewed as highly useful, with history and context as key to developing policy or international development responses. They noted what they’re hearing from employers is that this combination of skills, with “foreign language a constant” are increasingly more valuable than a generic MBA.
  5. Program management, including strategic or operational planning, are integral to an international affairs career. While such planning tactics are embedded into military training, non-military personnel often lack strategic planning skills, such as defining starting goals, developing milestones, and creating targeted activities to reach those goals.
  6. Be proficient in technology and IT, from Excel mastery to social media, and be ready to apply these to program work.
  7. Become science literate. With climate change projected to be the biggest factor for U.S. foreign policy, as well as issues like cybersecurity, geoscience and artificial intelligence, expand undergraduate and graduate international affairs classes to include STEM-related classes.
  8. At some point, work in international affairs in D.C. or another major hub of international affairs activities to better understand how policy is made, with many agencies and organizations offering on-the-job training, such as contracts management.
  9. Negotiation and consensus-building tactical skills. As Department of Defense Panelist Colonel Mark Barlow said “You are always in negotiation, whether with OSCE member states (i.e., other governments), partners or other organizations.”
  10. Embed in a culture. All the panelists encouraged international affairs students to get first-hand experience in another culture. One of the panelists currently working for Chemonics International emphasized she discovered her passion for restorative justice and human rights — an area she had not considered before — thanks to studying in South Africa for six months while as an undergraduate student.

Thanks to Monique Thormann, Director of Communication at the Jackson School of International Studies, for her observations of the event.  As you can see, there was a lot of practical advice for new grads, as well as plenty of food for thought for the deans and directors of the schools of international affairs in the room. Kudos to the Jackson School for pulling together an impressive and useful day.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Inaugural Jackson / Schlesinger Lecture with The Honorable John M. Deutch

The inaugural lecture last week in honor of Jim Schlesinger was a success. First we had John Deutch, MIT emeritus Institute Professor and former head of the CIA, speak at a Rainier Club lunch that drew diplomats, business people, and community leaders. In the afternoon he met with students at the Jackson School. And in the evening he gave an excellent, engaging lecture on nuclear deterrent policy and how that policy may or may not change going forward. We had 150 chairs filled with a line out the door for entry into the hall. The large audience included UW students, Navy ROTC members, as well as community members.

Professor John Deutch lecturing at UW

Professor Deutch also spoke about his relationship with both Jackson and Schlesinger. When Schlesinger became America’s first Secretary of Energy, Deutch served as Undersecretary of the Department.

The following day, Dr. Deutch worked with Jackson School students on their Task Force policy brief on nuclear proliferation and deterrence. It was a first-rate way to begin this important series, which we intend to continue to tie with the Jackson School’s Task Force program.

Board Member Larry Phillips wrote afterward, “John Deutch did a masterful job providing the historical context and ongoing debate, as well as the progress that has been made surrounding nuclear proliferation issues.  He sounded the alarm about the costs associated with upgrades to our nuclear triad deterrent, and the lack of robust debate so far and the need for that to occur before those funds are expended.  At the end he fielded questions from some pretty well-informed audience members, and did a good job providing substantive answers. The “refresher” on these issues was welcome and enlightening, especially so given the dearth of substantive discourse at the national level.  It was a bit of a walk back in time, when serious issues were discussed, debated, and decided by serious people.”

The Jackson Foundation initiated this lecture series to honor Senator Jackson’s longtime friend and colleague Jim Schlesinger by bringing high-level foreign policy experts to the Jackson School. Given his personal history with Jackson and Schlesinger, Professor Deutch was the perfect choice to start off this series.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Jackson School Attracts Young Global Leaders

The Jackson Foundation has a long and proud history tied to the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.  Our support for undergraduate and graduate student programming, faculty positions, conferences, visiting lecturers, and research has been at the core of the Foundation’s work since its inception.  The School was close to Senator Jackson’s heart, as it promotes new generations of leaders who will help our country understand the world and take part in America’s foreign policy establishment.

The School is always innovating, and we have been supportive in launching many of the new programs developed over the past decades.  The Master of Arts in International Studies, or MAAIS, a program created two years ago, is a great example of the reinvention and re-thinking at the School under the leadership of Jackson School director Resat Kasaba.  MAAIS is designed to attract early and mid-career professionals from all over the world who have an interest in a 10-month Master’s program that tackles critical global challenges in a pragmatic, policy-oriented manner.  Conceived as a way to connect the university community with the broader Puget Sound region – and all the expertise of its business, philanthropic, and policy circles – the program marries lectures, field visits, and group projects with in-depth international affairs education.

MAAIS Graduation
MAAIS 2016 Graduation Class

Seattle’s location and the excellence of the university draw the dynamic young individuals to this program.  The MAAIS Civic Council, created to support the students, consists of corporate, philanthropic, NGO, political and security sector figures from companies and organizations influencing global policy and decision making.  Recently I had an opportunity, along with a few other members of the Civic Council, to meet with the new MAAIS students from the 2016-17 class and talk about how we can connect them to the broader community.  Once again the students are diverse in every sense of the word – hailing from Afghanistan, China, New England, Hungary, the Pacific Northwest, and Pakistan, among other geographic origins – and representing interests from food security, disability rights, and international trade to journalism, diplomacy and humanitarian development.  Several of the students have had extensive careers in the military, and plan to return there once they’ve received their degrees.  They are experienced young professionals who hope to gain new skills from the MAAIS program, where they will find exposure to new ideas, technology, and a vibrant Seattle community of entrepreneurs and NGOs.

ISCNE China Delegation

The Jackson School is already a nationally-recognized leader in international affairs education.  This professionally-oriented new degree allows more students to take advantage of all the Jackson School has to offer and then go out and share what they’ve learned with the world.  The Foundation is proud to have made another grant of support to this important program just this week.

Read more about the MAAIS program and the wonderful cohort of students engaged at the School this year.  And tell young professionals about it as they consider navigating international affairs to move forward in their careers.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Rising Stars at the Jackson School

This week the Jackson Foundation hosted a lunch to highlight graduate students at the University of Washington’s Jackson School who are benefiting from Jackson Foundation fellowship support.  “These Jackson Fellowships represent the core of the Foundation’s long-time support for the School,” said John Hempelmann, Foundation president, in introducing the event.  “Support for high-level graduate training in international affairs is fundamental to the Jackson legacy.”

It is always inspiring and somewhat humbling to meet the young graduate students who are benefiting from the Fellowships.  They are an accomplished bunch, with many languages and research areas between them!

Craig Gannett and Andrew Munro chat with Celia Ann Baker, Jackson/Culp Fellow
Craig Gannett and Andrew Munro, Board members, chat with Celia Anne Baker, Jackson/Culp Fellow

To help the School with a new initiative, the Foundation supports a PhD student in the Jackson School’s doctoral program.  The program is pragmatic in nature – it is three years (rather than the customary five) and thematic (rather than just history, politics, or economics).  Two recent PhD fellows, Deep Pal and Oded Oron, joined Foundation Board members for lunch. Deep studies Indian foreign and security policy and follows India’s interaction with China with great interest.  Deep values the Jackson legacy in his work:  “I was first exposed to Senator Jackson’s vision of forging closer alliances in Asia during my stint with the National Bureau of Asian Research in Washington, D.C. I believe this line of thought resonates in my work – at a time when Asia is undergoing profound changes, alliances between like-minded powers like India and the United States are going to be more important.”

Deep Pal and Oded Oron, Jackson PhD Fellows
Deep Pal and Oded Oron, Jackson PhD Fellows

Oded’s research focuses on the mobilization of irregular migrants such as guest workers, undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refuges. His dissertation compares African migrants mobilizing in Israel with migrant movements in Washington State, so the Fellowship here has been a great fit.  He is also deeply aware of the Jackson legacy in immigrant human rights, represented by the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and Jackson’s outspoken defense of the right to emigrate freely.

The Foundation also funds two Henry M. Jackson/Gordon Culp Fellows each year — one in Russian and East European Studies and one in China Studies at the School.  Ross Doll, the China Fellow, and Celia Anne Baker, the Russia Fellow, engaged the crowd as they talked about their work and the way that the Fellowship has helped them move forward professionally.  These two fields have been integral to the history of the Jackson School and were a key reason that Senator Jackson worked hard to support the School and its students during his Senate years.  The Foundation is proud to continue that tradition.

Ross Doll, Jackson/Culp Fellow
Ross Doll, Jackson/Culp Fellow
Celia Ann Baker, Jackson/Culp Fellow
Celia Anne Baker, Jackson/Culp Fellow

Resat Kasaba, Jackson School Director, spoke of the Foundation’s unstinting commitment to the School for over 30 years:  “In recent years we have introduced a new Ph.D. Program and a new Applied Master’s Program with Foundation support.   These initiatives have enriched the Jackson School’s profile significantly.   Thanks to our partnership, we have recruited top-notch students from around the world, strengthened our ties to the Pacific Northwest region, and established new relationships with the policy world in Washington D.C.  Foundation support has been critical in keeping the School at the top of its game.”

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Honoring Professor Kenneth B. Pyle

Kenneth Pyle webOur culture celebrates our sports heroes – from Michael Jordan to Derek Jeter to Kobe Bryant.  We marvel at their ability to play on, through pain and years, achieving fame and success.  Few of us have had the opportunity to publicly celebrate the careers of other, less famous giants in their fields.  I’m delighted to cast the spotlight on one such unsung hero, Professor Kenneth B. Pyle, longtime historian and teacher at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies.  Ken – retiring after 51 consecutive years of teaching, which certainly qualifies him for MVP – has won numerous teaching awards over the years.  Equally important, he’s touched the lives and shaped the scholarship of thousands of young minds at the University.  His students speak of him fondly, whether they now serve in the State Department or teach at other universities around the nation.

I’ve had the good fortune to have had Dr. Pyle on the Jackson Foundation Board of Governors during my tenure on the staff.  He was a founding member of our Board, having forged a close alliance with Senator Jackson in the days when Ken headed what was to become the Jackson School, and Jackson sought Ken out for advice on China and U.S. foreign policy toward Asia.  Ken has spoken movingly of that seminal relationship, which began with Senator Jackson dropping by Ken’s office at the U.W. and peppering him with questions for two hours.  Jackson and Pyle shared a concern that there was a national shortage of people who truly understood the workings of Asian and Slavic countries, and both believed that an immersion in the study of these areas was critical to achieve an understanding in U.S.-China and U.S.-Soviet relations.  From that moment forward, Scoop and Ken collaborated – in enhancing international studies at the University, in traveling to China together in the early days of détente with China, and in mentoring young students.

Anne & Kenneth Pyle Professorship

We at the Jackson Foundation value the role that Professor Pyle has played at the Jackson School and at the University of Washington for the past 50-plus years.  We were delighted to name a recent professorship at the Jackson School in American foreign policy in honor of Anne H. H. and Kenneth B. Pyle out of respect and recognition of Ken’s major achievements in his field and his leadership of the Jackson School, and of his wife Anne’s integral partnership with Ken in that success.At the end of this month, there will be a public program to celebrate the career of Ken Pyle.  We invite you to join us for this substantive program, featuring distinguished professor T.J. Pempel, University of California Berkeley, and many top-level colleagues from the Jackson School.

Congratulations, Ken.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

UW Center for Human Rights Brings World to Students

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy, the Helen H. Jackson Chair in Human Rights and Director, the University of Washington’s Center for Human Rights at the Jackson School, has continued to forge links between the Jackson legacy and current human rights concerns.  With Foundation support, the Center has sought to build partnerships with organizations that will extend its reach.

Angelina greatly values what practitioners can add to a student’s education about human rights, so the Center has made it a priority to bring that real-world element into its work.  One delegation sponsored by the U.S. State Department consisted of visiting human rights advocates working in the area of human rights and the environment.  This exposed the students to discussion about environmental sustainability and rights in several different countries, as delegation members interacted with students about using a human rights lens to view environmental injustice and challenges.

Helen Jackson Chair Angelina Godoy (top left) and students at Center
Helen Jackson Chair Angelina Godoy (top left) and students at Center

The Center’s partnership with Landesa, an organization promoting international land rights for the world’s poorest families, is another showcase for on-the-ground human rights activity.  The Center has built an ongoing relationship with Landesa, taking advantage of visiting international land rights practitioners to bring them to the University and talk to students in formal and informal settings.  These events, begun a few years ago, have been so successful that they have been repeated annually, so that Landesa Fellows now routinely visit the Center in the fall.  Other faculty members have taken advantage of the visiting Fellows to bring them to talk to classes that relate to land rights, such as poverty, population, women rights, human rights, and Asian studies.

Visiting Land Rights Advocates from Landesa
Visiting Land Rights Advocates from Landesa

We are proud of our connection with the Human Rights Center and pleased that it has found ways to reflect on Senator Jackson’s legacy by engaging contemporary human rights in innovative and meaningful ways.  I’m certain that the students are benefiting from the links with policymakers and other advocates at the frontlines of human rights work worldwide.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

International Affairs Education – Why it matters

Last week the Jackson Foundation partnered with the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington and the Washington DC-based Woodrow Wilson Center on a public conference on the future direction of international affairs education and foreign language study. The conference attracted an overflow crowd in Washington, DC interested in exploring how to bridge the gap between academia and policy and how to ensure that this generation of students is being trained for our nation’s future foreign policy needs.

"International Studies for the 21st Century"
“International Studies for the 21st Century”

The conference also wrestled with diminished U.S. government funding since the end of the Cold War for both area studies and foreign language support. Reduced resources worried many: Bob Galucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation, stated in his keynote address that declining funding hurts America’s readiness in times of crisis: “This is a time when policymakers need more help than ever to understand the world.” He counseled, “You can’t google judgment. There is no substitute for people who know the country.”

Bob Galucci, President, MacArthur Foundation
Bob Galucci, President, MacArthur Foundation

Academics from the Jackson School have been on the forefront of innovation in this field and the conference highlighted this trend. Saadia Pekannen, associate director of the Jackson School and director of the School’s new PhD program, described how the PhD program will educate “public intellectuals” to be effective in the real world. The new program will emphasize training to ensure that students can communicate outside the academy and tackle pragmatic, policy concerns.

Colonel Eric Larson, US Army
Colonel Eric Larson, US Army

The conference also showcased the recent Ukraine crisis as a prime example of how in-depth knowledge of Russia’s politics and history is critical to policymakers, military leaders and the business community. While some languages and area study might occasionally seem arcane, one never knows where the next headline crisis will hit. Support for ongoing scholarship and language study means our country will be prepared. Colonel Eric Larson, director of the U.S. Army’s Foreign Area Officer Program, produces the military affairs specialists and linguists for the Department of Defense and embassies and commands all over the world. Speaking to an audience that included the heads of many major university programs on international affairs, Colonel Larson reiterated the importance of the work: “Your influence is felt on a daily basis,” he concluded.

Lara Iglitzin
Executive Director