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Experts Weigh In

Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds

Man in a group of protestors stands holding up a sign that reads "#DefendKurds"

 

Tashi Rabgey. Research Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs.

"The abrupt change in the US Syria policy has had immediate and devastating effects – from Turkey’s ethnic cleansing operations in Syrian Kurdish territories to the release of ISIS prisoners and destabilization of the region as a whole. Geopolitically, the position of Russia, Iran and the Assad government have been strengthened while US credibility and diplomatic leverage have plummeted to new depths. But as clear as these immediate consequences have been, the sudden reconfiguration of the region also raises questions about the infrastructures of governance that have given shape to the shattered Syrian state over the past eight years of conflict.

Most significant in this regard has been the Kurdish self-governing entity known as Rojava. Formed in 2012 as autonomous enclaves in northern Syria, Rojava grew in scale as Kurdish forces led the assault against ISIS and won back control of Syrian areas far beyond Kurdish territories. The Rojava administration eventually controlled a third of the Syrian state – an area larger than the size of Switzerland. In 2016, the de facto autonomous administration declared itself a new federated region in northern Syria and proposed an asymmetric system of governance for the Syrian state.  

While it lacked recognition and was rejected by the Assad government, the Kurdish-led regional administration managed to persist through the mayhem of war-torn Syria. Indeed, at times it appeared to thrive. Espousing democratic values of ethnic and religious pluralism, gender equality and even ecology, Rojava was, by any measure, an extraordinary political experiment at the heart of one of the most deadliest wars in recent memory. While it was also widely denounced for its connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the fact remains that Rojava drew attention to an aspect of statehood that is often overlooked in times of conflict: namely, the role of governance infrastructures in the provision of public goods, in gaining public confidence and in bolstering the social foundations of regional stability.  

With the geopolitical realignment of the region – and more Turkish aggression on the horizon – it is too soon to tell what will become of the Syrian Kurdish experiment with democratic governance and regional state-building. But it is right to acknowledge this de facto Kurdish-led autonomous administration and important to take note of its achievements for future prospects in structuring Syrian statehood."

Read more expert analysis and opinion...

 


School Updates

Photo: Flags at the European Commission

Elliott School of International Affairs awarded a "Jean-Monnet" grant by the European Commission

For the second time in a row, ESIA in 2019 was among the few U.S. schools awarded a "Jean-Monnet" grant by the European Commission. Under the joint leadership of Dr. Erwan Lagadec (IERES) and Dr. Nina Kelsey (IISTP), this new project will explore "Subnational transatlantic relations: the rise of subnational climate para-diplomacy".

On November 21, 2019, ESIA will convene the inaugural meeting of the project. They will be joined by high-level representatives from subnational governments and coalitions for a closed-doors workshop that will formally set ESIA's project in motion for the next two years.

Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France to the United States

A Visit from His Excellency Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France 

On Wednesday, November 20th, Ambassador Philippe Etienne joined the Elliott School of International Affairs for a breakfast conversation hosted by the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies. His talk focused on France's perspective on the state of Europe and was followed by an open forum.

Students gathered in Lindner Family Commons to hear his remarks and ask questions on  topics ranging from the current French political climate to predictions about Brexit and evolving relations with China.

Photo: Central Eurasian Studies Society Logo

We Want Freedom: The fall of the communist regime in Slovakia in 1989

It has been 30 years since the citizens of Czechoslovakia expressed their desire for freedom and democracy through a series of peaceful mass protests against the communist regime. The Velvet Revolution of 1989 has become a world-known symbol of the power of oppressed, a symbol that helps victims of their own governments keep hope even today.

Organized by The Elliott School and the Embassy of the Slovak Republic, "We want Freedom: The fall of the communist regime in Slovakia in 1989" will be on display in Elliott beginning October 22.

Schedule for Elliott School Exhibitions

 


Jillian Dipersio

Jillian Dipersio

BA Candidate, International Affairs
 

"My research has focused on the social effects of desertification and drought. Through conversations with local professors, livestock famers, and government officials my hope is to propose policy solutions to desertification in the Sahel, a region in Africa."


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