Message from the Dean

photo: Michael E. Brown
December 11, 2014

On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was breached, allowing a stream and then a flood of East Berliners through its gates and into West Berlin. It was a world-changing event.

Twenty-five years later, Elliott School faculty and students marked this anniversary and examined the implications of the fall of the wall. Professor Hope Harrison, who recently analyzed these historic developments for the Elliott School's Web Video Initiative, led a group of GW students in Berlin for the official celebration. Here in Washington DC, the Elliott School’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies—in cooperation with the German embassy and the Wilson Center—hosted events that analyzed issues ranging from the wall’s "accidental" opening to its place in German memory. 

At GW's Elliott School of International Affairs, we tackle great global issues, and we do it exceedingly well.

In October, I hosted a discussion with Christopher Kojm—who recently completed a five-year term as chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council and then returned to the Elliott School faculty. Professor Kojm gave us an overview of the NIC's Global Trends 2030 report as well as his analysis of current national security challenges, including the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Drawing on his wide-ranging, high-level professional experiences, he also offered some leadership lessons, which were especially valuable for our students.

Shortly after the Pentagon released a report in October stating that climate change “poses immediate risks to U.S. national security,” Professor Marcus King spoke with The New York Times about the nature of these risks. Professor King is a leading authority on water security, including the relationship between water scarcity and extremism.

Professor Henry Hale's new book, Patronal Politics: Eurasian Regime Dynamics in Comparative Perspective, examines the political development of non-EU, post-Soviet states. In the book, Professor Hale argues that what some observers might describe as democratic breakthroughs or authoritarian comebacks are often the regular ebb and flow of what he calls “patronalism,” a system of power based largely on personal connections. In addition to making a major contribution to scholarship, Professor Hale is helping us understand regime dynamics that are highly relevant to current policy problems.

In November, faculty members Stephen Biddle and Marc Lynch spoke about the U.S. response to ISIS to a packed house at the Elliott School at the same time lawmakers on Capitol Hill were debating the topic—within sight of the Elliott School. Professors Biddle and Lynch have appeared in the media dozens of times on this and related topics, and both have advised administration officials and lawmakers on U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Also this semester, I was delighted to announce that several stellar scholars are joining our faculty. Renowned development economist Sabina Alkire, who leads the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, is coming to GW to be the inaugural holder of the Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professorship in International Affairs. Hugh Gusterson, esteemed for his research in cultural anthropology, science and technology, and international security, joins us as a professor of anthropology and international affairs. Allison Macfarlane, who is completing her term as chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, will join us in January 2015 and be the next director of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy. All three of these new colleagues are coming to the Elliott School in new faculty lines, substantially enhancing our intellectual firepower.

In addition, the Elliott School just received three new grants through the U.S. Department of Education's Title VI program, totaling more than $2.7 million. These awards will support research, language instruction, and outreach in the Institute for Middle East Studies and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. These awards are also signs of the Elliott School's standing in the international affairs pantheon.

These are just a few recent highlights. To learn more about the remarkable work being done by our faculty, students, and alumni, please read this issue of Briefing and take a look at the Elliott School's new Annual Report, recently posted on our website. To stay up to date on Elliott School news, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And to share in the Elliott School's extraordinary international affairs resources, you can watch videos of some of our most prominent events on our website via the Web Video Initiative. We have posted more than a dozen videos this semester alone, and our online video library now contains more than 450 recordings.

As the fall of the Berlin Wall reminds us, unexpected, massive, even revolutionary changes are possible in the international system—and many of these changes are very positive developments. Bad news usually dominates the headlines; good news is shaping many global timelines. At GW's Elliott School of International Affairs, we like to say that we are helping to make our world a better place. We like to say it because it's true.

/s/ Michael Brown
Michael E. Brown
Dean
Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University