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The traditional saying, “May you live in interesting times,” is a curse—or a blessing—that dogs many who live and work in the 21st century. Finding solutions to seemingly intractable problems—terrorism, poverty in Africa, violence in the Middle East, unsettled regimes in Latin America and elsewhere—requires a cadre of well-educated and highly dedicated professionals. GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs, which recently moved to a new building on E Street, is helping to create this cadre.


Meet 1957 E Street

• Home to the Elliott School of International Affairs, geography department, and executive education programs

• A basement and seven floors covering 331,300 square feet

• 27 classrooms/seminar rooms that seat 1,754 students

• Three computer labs

• 53 residential apartments that house 193 students

• Three retail areas

• Three underground parking levels

• Seventh floor features a kitchen, meeting space, and a large room with outstanding translation and technological capabilities

Asked to find a few words that describe ESIA, its faculty consistently start with dynamic and continue with excellence, synergy, and eclecticism. “You can do things here that you can’t do anywhere else,” says Karl Inderfurth, former assistant secretary of state and now a professor of the practice of international affairs at the Elliott School and director of its international affairs graduate program.

Perhaps no one epitomizes the school’s dynamic spirit more than its unflappable dean, Harry Harding, a man who is as comfortable conversing in Chinese as he is chatting with a donor. Harding has been dean since 1995. He came to GW from the Brookings Institution; before that, he taught at Swarthmore College and Stanford University, his alma mater. He was attracted to GW, he says, because he saw that it was “a university beginning to take off, an institution in the middle of quantitative and qualitative growth.” When offered the deanship, Harding was excited at the prospect of leading the Elliott School in its journey to national stature.

As if to cap the effort—or herald the start of a new era—the Elliott School moved in the spring to a spacious, six-story building at 1957 E Street—a stone’s throw from the State Department which it shares with GW’s geography department and executive education programs. From the structure’s elegant Italian terrazzo floors to its banks of windows with views of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Potomac River, the space is perfectly suited to the Elliott School’s mission: training the next generation of international policymakers,
diplomats, and leaders.

A School for Our Times

The Elliott School has traveled far from its 1898 origins as the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy, enrolling some 90 law graduates. Today, it enrolls more than 2,000 students: 1,600 undergraduates and 600 students at the graduate level.

Since 2000, applications for the school’s 250 first-year graduate seats have risen from 1,183 to 1,751. During the same period, combined average verbal and quantitative GRE scores have climbed 90 points, the average GPA has risen from 3.42 to 3.56, and the percentage of applicants offered admission has dropped from 70 percent to 43 percent. In the last four years, the yield—the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll—has risen by 12 percentage points. “Applications are up, the yield of admitted students is higher, quality is better, and we have become more selective in the admissions process,” says Admissions Director Jeff Miles.

In September, many of the students who will come through the glass doors of 1957 E Street also had been accepted by other prestigious universities. They chose GW.

The Elliott School’s elevated standing also is reflected in recent faculty hires. “Increasingly, we get our first choice of faculty when we make offers,” Harding says.

Scholars who have recently come on board include Elliot Posner, a political scientist specializing in the European Union, and two international economists, Marco Cipriani, from Italy, and M. Shahe Emran, a native of Bangladesh. The school has attracted important visiting faculty as well; recently this group has included Miguel Rodriguez, former president of Costa Rica, and Leon Fuerth, national security adviser to Al Gore.

The school has strong ties to the international affairs community, often through its public events programs that bring in experts from around the world. In any given week during the academic year, there will be at least one and as many as five special events: brown-bag lunches, evening lectures, and special colloquia. Among the experts who spoke during the spring 2003 semester were Ishaq Shahryar, ambassador from Afghanistan; Joseph Stiglitz, a recent Nobel laureate in economics; and the film director Sydney Pollack, who discussed politics in film. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright welcomed students to her office in March and visited in June. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times and Robert Kaplan of Atlantic Monthly debated globalization after September 11, 2001. Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen also is one of the scores of world leaders, diplomats, policymakers, and thinkers who have visited the Elliott School. Secretary of State Colin Powell plans to visit in September.

These scholars, leaders, and educators contribute a varied perspective to the Elliott School, a perspective that also derives from the curriculum. For the fall 2003 semester, there are more than 60 graduate courses, ranging from “Africa in the 21st Century” to “War to Peace Transition” and including courses on Latin America, Northern Europe, Taiwan, terrorism, negotiation, budgeting, and policy analysis.

The school sponsors several public outreach programs as well. In early June, some 200 Chinese students, studying at colleges and universities across the United States, attended a four-day foreign policy colloquium that the school put together. Later that month, about 60 high school teachers participated in a week-long forum on international affairs. The school also runs an annual program, “Governing in the Global Age,” which educates state legislators and officials on relevant international issues.

Professionalizing the Curriculum


Karl Inderfurth (center) welcomes dignitaries from Costa Rica, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Ambassador Thomas McNamara has a day job at the State Department as a senior adviser to the secretary and deputy secretary. In his long career in public service, he has developed an expertise in counter-terrorism, among other fields, and the Middle East, among other regions. Last summer, he crossed E Street to co-teach an undergraduate seminar on national security, sharing the course with Elliott School Professor Karl Inderfurth. One afternoon, McNamara opened class with a short lecture on the history of Al Qaeda, followed by a discussion of intelligence and evidence, and how to distinguish the two. Then he explained a way to understand terrorist groups—“so you can choose how and whom to protect against”—by examining organization, motivation, objectives, leadership, and resource base. Students contrasted the objectives of Osama bin Laden and those of Saddam Hussein, discussed sleeper cells and underground communication. When it comes to diplomacy, McNamara noted, “One size does not fit all; one size fits one size.”

As the seminar progressed, conversation ranged broadly, to relevant books such as Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, a classic volume on mass movements, and The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, by Samuel Huntington, a Harvard political scientist and former policy aide to President Bill Clinton. By incorporating these works and ideas, it was apparent that McNamara, a part-time faculty member, has an intellectual as well as a practical perspective on his field.

And that is important at the Elliott School: scholarship and practice, practice and scholarship—more and more, the two are inseparable. For much of its history, international studies, at GW and elsewhere, have revolved around a trilogy of academic disciplines: history, economics, and political science. “The Jurisprudence School [the school’s original incarnation] prefigured the role of the major players in all subsequent I.A. [international affairs] programs,” wrote Professor Emeritus Peter Hill in his 1991 book on the history of international studies at GW. “It established a permanent presence for the I.A. Big Three…those professors of history, economics, and political science whose academic disciplines today form the core of international studies.” At the Elliott School, the trilogy has grown to embrace anthropology as well, with other academic disciplines involved when relevant.

Now, with Harding as dean, the school has initiated classes that teach real-world skills. These vary from sharply targeted, practical areas such as federal budgeting, fundraising, and public speaking to more conceptually oriented topics—in Harding’s language, “meta-skills.” These classes include policy analysis and long-term forecasting. Some courses focus on specific government agencies and international organizations. Inderfurth teaches one on the National Security Council; another course explores the changing role of the United Nations.

Graduate students planning careers in international affairs in today’s complex and competitive world have an advantage if they have training in these specific skill sets, Harding says, as well as a solid foundation in academic theory and substantive knowledge of international issues. “These are students who have different needs from undergraduates and Ph.D. candidates,” he says. The undergraduate program offers a liberal arts program with a comparative international perspective. Harding also has instituted a “capstone” project for graduate students. Rather than being required to write compositions or theses, students work in teams to solve real-life policy problems.

Michelle Riebeling, a 2003 graduate, says the Elliott School “did a good job of combining academic training with professional skills.” Riebeling, who spent three years teaching English in the Czech Republic before enrolling in the Elliott School, earned a master’s degree in European and Eurasian studies. She passed the exam to become an officer in the U.S. Foreign Service and is awaiting security clearance. She took one skills-based course each semester: forecasting, media relations, formal briefings, and post-conflict reconstruction.

While Harding has taken the school into new territory, he and others say Harding’s predecessor, Maurice (Mickey) East, who led the school from 1985 to 1994, got things moving in the right direction. “Mickey created the foundation for the school,” says Professor Edward McCord, an historian who has been at the Elliott School since 1994. And in his book, Peter Hill wrote, “East took the first steps towards bringing national recognition to the School.” In 1987, under East’s guidance, GW reorganized the then School of International Affairs to focus exclusively on the study of global issues. One year later, the school received its current name to honor former GW president Lloyd Elliott and his wife, Evelyn (Betty) Elliott.

While Harding emphasizes the importance of skills-based training, he also is committed to a strong academic program. “We clearly need to hire people who can bridge the gap between scholarship and skills. We need practitioners who have an academic mind set and academics with an interest in application.” History, Harding points out, has a great deal to teach us about the present. “The Korean peninsula is straight out of the Cold War,” he notes. So are the issues in the Taiwan Strait and in U.S.-Cuba Relations. “These are unresolved legacies that are still with us even as other disputes emerge.”

The Cold War and More


A student relaxes in the lounge of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies.

For 12 years, Professor Hope Harrison, who speaks both Russian and German, sifted through Cold War documents in Moscow and Berlin, researching the history of the Berlin Wall. For her, a child of the Cold War, the icy relations between the Soviet bloc and the West held a sense of mystery. As she grew up, she wondered, “What’s going on on the other side? Are their intentions as sinister as we think they are?” In her soon-to-be-published book, Driving the Soviets Up the Wall (Princeton University Press, 2003), she reveals that the Soviet Union was actually reluctant to split Berlin; Khrushchev only agreed to build the Wall after intense pressure from the East German government, which was desperate to prevent its unhappy citizens from fleeing.

Harrison is co-founder of GW’s Cold War Group (GWCW), founded in 2000 with Professor James Goldgeier and Professor James Hershberg. GWCW works closely with the National Security Archive at GW, the largest private clearinghouse of declassified documents, and with the Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project. The group’s goal is ambitious: to make GW “the place everyone would come to to study the Cold War,” Harrison says. Activities run by GWCW include a summer institute on archival research and an exchange program with the London School of Economics.

GWCW is part of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, one of three major scholarly centers at the Elliott School. The centers operate somewhat like small think tanks, similar to research institutes such as Brookings. Within their groups, faculty members brainstorm ideas, develop projects, and organize major conferences.

IERES explores European Union policy and the rapidly changing landscape of the ex-Soviet bloc. Last April, the institute, together with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, played host to an international conference on “Civil Society in the Ukraine,” attended by more than 100 Ukrainian and American scholars, officials, and business leaders. This fall, the institute is organizing a conference on the Cold War in Budapest. “We’re in the middle of what’s going on,” says Goldgeier, who directs IERES.

The Sigur Center for Asian Studies maintains a similarly high profile in the affairs of its region. The Center was recently recognized as a GW Center for Excellence, a special University designation which will fund visiting faculty and graduate research assistantships for three academic years. In spring 2003, the center held several major conferences, including one concerned with reconciliation between Japan and the Asian countries it occupied before and during World War II. Currently, the center is planning a major conference on the issue of the U.S. military presence on Okinawa. The center also is expanding its range to include South and Southeast Asia, a timely move in light of the growing tensions on the Indian subcontinent. “What happens in Pakistan and India can affect countries in Northeast Asia,” says Mike Mochizuki, an expert on Japan who directs the Sigur Center.

Then there is the Center for International Science and Technology Policy, which for more than 30 years has focused on science, technology, and public policy. CISTP and its Space Policy Institute host foreign visitors, organize symposia, and carry out research projects, many sponsored by government and non-government organizations. “Almost every [international] issue you touch—there is technology in the background,” notes CISTP director Nick Vonortas.

The center takes part in important contemporary debates on topics such as biodiversity, genetically modified foods, global disease, bioterrorism, technology transfer, the environment, and intellectual property protection. The Space Policy Institute is involved with global space programs such as the Space Station, the global satellite industry, the global positioning system, earth observation, space law, and the militarization of space.

Global Reach


Dean Harry Harding (left) and John Holden, director of the National Committee on U.S./China Relations, welcome former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Two hundred students from all over China are gathered in 1957 E Street’s spacious second-floor reception area in June, nibbling on beef skewers, sipping white wine, and debating foreign policy. Exchange students, they are enrolled in programs at universities across the United States. Liu Chunmei, a young woman from Xi’an—capital of the Tang Dynasty—has been studying for a master’s of public affairs at Indiana University. Zhu Ling, from Shanghai, traveled here from the University of Arizona, where he is studying international affairs. For the next few days, Liu Chunmei, Zhu Ling, and their compatriots will immerse themselves in U.S. foreign policy at the Elliott School and all over Washington. The Elliott School organized the special colloquium with the National Committee on U.S./China Relations and the support of a grant from the Coca-Cola Company.

John Holden of the National Committee welcomed the students in Chinese. At the reception, Harding talked with some students in Chinese. The keynote speaker, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), discussed Congressional politics. The next morning, the students heard Madeleine Albright on the role of public opinion in policymaking. After lunch, they fanned out across the city, visiting the Capitol, the State Department, CNN, and other Washington institutions. By the end of the colloquium, one student remarked to Dean Harding, “I know more now about U.S. foreign policy than I do about my own country’s.”

The colloquium is just one of several notable outreach programs the Elliott School sponsors. Another is a summer institute for high school history faculty. Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which has named the Elliott School a National Resource Center for international studies—one of only eight in the United States—the program exposes secondary school teachers to fresh ideas and approaches to international education. This summer, Hope Harrison talked to about 60 teachers about her research in Moscow and Berlin. Professor James Goldgeier addressed the future of U.S.-European relations; Professor Nathan Brown tackled the Middle East. There were lectures by people from outside the Elliott School: representatives from the German, French, and Mexican embassies and from the Middle East Institute, as well as the executive directors of Africa Action and the Center on Policy Attitudes. “It gives a whole new tilt to how we’re teaching lessons,” commented one of the teachers.

The Way Forward

Strong ties to the international community are a key aspect of what makes the Elliott School such a dynamic institution. Being in the middle of Washington is a big factor as well. These traits, along with its visionary dean and brilliant faculty, are largely responsible for the Elliott School’s rapid rise in status.


The Jujitsu of Higher Education
President Trachtenberg
on the Elliott School

“The Elliott School now has a preeminent faculty, an incomparable location, and, therefore, the opportunity to become all that its ambition and imagination can make it. The new building gives it the facilities it needs to lock into place in the highest ranks of schools of international education.

“My agenda for the Elliott School is for it to carry out GW’s part in the jujitsu of higher education. Jujitsu takes advantage of the momentum of one’s opponent. Too many institutions say ‘Here is what I want to be’ and then try to impose that on the world. I ask:

“‘What does the world need, and of that agenda what does it make sense for GW to do?’ The world needs diplomats, people informed about the issues, problems, and challenges of international affairs. Because of where it is, GW is a logical player in that corner.

“Within the next 20 years I fully expect graduates of GW’s Elliott School to be a dominant force in world affairs, serving as sitting ambassadors and in other high-ranking positions in the state department, in other executive agencies, in the legislative branch, and in law, business, and commerce. We are becoming a school of international affairs not just for Washington, not just for the United States, but for the world.”

The school is not resting on its laurels, however. One of the dean’s next projects is finding ways to increase student engagement. There are plans for smaller classes; Harding also is looking at ways to make larger classes more interactive—possibly by implementing the type of Socratic dialogue that law schools have long relied upon to train lawyers-to-be to think on their feet. Writing also is “an important mechanism of engagement,” Harding points out. This year, the Elliott School is preparing to provide writing classes to some of its undergraduates, in keeping with a University-wide writing initiative.

Harding wants to strengthen the program in Latin American studies—the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the Latin American Studies Program at the Elliott School and the Center for Latin American Issues at GW’s School of Business and Public Management a grant for undergraduate programs on Latin America, which will help fulfill Harding’s goal. It also is very important, Harding believes, to continue to raise the school’s public visibility. “We are still not as well known as we would like to be,” he says. The school’s new headquarters will help. The spacious auditorium, large reception areas, and well-equipped conference and classrooms—including one with simultaneous translation devices—make it possible for the Elliott School to host more public events. Visitors also will begin to associate the Elliott School with state-of-the-art facilities.”

And the school is expanding its global reach by forging more and stronger partnerships with academic institutions worldwide. Currently the network includes universities in 10 countries, ranging from Japan to Australia and from the United Kingdom to Beirut. “We originally did this to bring more international students here,” Harding says, “but among our students there is a strong interest in going abroad.”

What do Elliott School graduates do after graduating? About a third who hold Bachelor of Arts degrees enroll in graduate programs right away. The remaining students find work in all three sectors: public, private, and non-profit. Alumni of the graduate program go on to careers in all three sectors in about equal numbers. Michelle Reibeling, the 2003 graduate, is headed for a career in the U.S. Foreign Service. Claudia Barrientos, BA ’94, is a senior program officer for Latin America at the National Democratic Institute. And Deborah Lehr, MA ’88, is chair of international trade practice at the Washington office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw.

Shortly after accepting the position of dean of the Elliott School, Harding attended an open house for prospective students interested in graduate schools in international affairs. “Student after student asked, ‘Why should I take two more years of liberal arts education in schools like yours when I could go to either business school or law school and be sure of finding a job?’ None of the representatives had a very good answer to that question,” Harding says. “I said to myself, ‘The first school that can answer that question will have a tremendous advantage.’” Harding would be the last person to claim to have answered the question once and for all. But in developing a curriculum that provides training in professional skills, he has pioneered a new way to study international affairs and led the Elliott School into the future.

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