Online Deans Meeting Help Schools Prepare for the Future

Online Deans Meeting Help Schools Prepare for the Future

From January 11 – 14, 2021, 60 representatives from 46 institutions in 15 countries gathered for the annual APSIA Deans/Directors Meeting. This year’s session was held online due to the global pandemic. Discussions included dealing with widespread exhaustion, fundraising, building diversity, equity, and inclusion into the curriculum, and assessing geopolitical risk. The meeting also featured a keynote address by former US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.


On Monday, January 11, Jim Levinsohn, Director of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale moderated a conversation to evaluate what lessons have we learned over the past year. Peter Cowhey, Dean of the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego, and Rachel Kyte, Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts, offered opening remarks.

The conversation considered how the triple pressures of racial injustice, COVID, and democratic decline prompted schools to re-examine their programs. Schools were called to do more than issue statements; we have to show leadership, grit, and resilience in new ways. We saw how our interdisciplinary approaches give students the chance to weave together elements of history, technology, policy, economics, sociology, and other fields. The blurry interrelationship between domestic and international issues has been clearly on display in the last year around the world.

Later that day, Carissa Schively Slotterback, Dean of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at Pitt, and Mark Welsh, Dean of the Bush School at Texas A&M, moderated small group breakout sessions looking at supporting junior faculty beyond extending the tenure clock and linking students’ lived experiences (with COVID, race, etc.) to what’s going on in the classroom respectively.

Then, Sung-han Kim, Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at Korea University, moderated a conversation looking at opportunities and challenges for international affairs schools in Asia. The discussion considered the impact of the pandemic, as well as geopolitical events, on content and delivery. Students still want to explore Asian concepts of order, hegemony, and other aspects of international relations. However, schools had difficulty supporting internships and experiential opportunities.


On Tuesday, January 12, Laura Bloomberg, Dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, led a conversation about dealing with widespread exhaustion among students, faculty, staff, and deans. The conversation looked at ways to address exhaustion among staff in particular. A common theme was the need to create space for people to do less.

Next, Merit Janow, Dean of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, moderated a session to consider current geopolitical risks and their impact on our schools. Joel Hellman, Dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, Judith Kelley, Dean of the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, and Marie-Laure Salles, Director of the Graduate Institute of Geneva, offered kick-off remarks. Long term planning, some said, might be futile in this environment. We do not know how these tensions will be resolved. The best way to prepare students to navigate a changing landscape is to cultivate their “complexity savviness.”

To close out the second day, Peter Cowhey and Carla Koppell, Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, moderated conversations on fundraising in the current environment and building anti-racism/diversity, equity, and inclusion into the curriculum respectively. Carla Koppell and her team have created DEI curriculum resources to make it easier to incorporate diversity points of view into curricula.


To begin the day on Wednesday, January 13, Andrey Baykov, Vice Rector of MGIMO, oversaw a breakout session on conducting a curriculum review while Mark Hallerberg, Deputy President of The Hertie School, led a breakout on retaining a human touch in a virtual/hybrid environment.

Finally, Merit Janow and Enrico Letta, Dean of the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs, moderated a keynote conversation with Jack Lew, former US Secretary of the Treasury. Secretary Lew talked about domestic and international challenges. There will be a great need to show that our systems – domestic and international - work. Functional systems can deliver messages that are hard to dispute. Make that functionality the shared fact, Secretary Lew said.

To close out the meeting, Christine Chin, Dean of the American University School of International Service, hosted an online information conversation among the female APSIA deans around the world. They talked about some of the distinct challenges of being a woman and a dean, discussed opportunities to mentor future deans, and committed to connect virtually again soon.


Special Public Event with Bloomberg Education

On Thursday, January 14, APSIA and Bloomberg Education teamed up to host a public event.

Featuring remarks from Rachel Kyte, Enrico Letta, Susana Malcorra, Dean of the IE School of Public and Global Affairs, and Danny Quah, Dean of the National University of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, the session explored critical de/stabilizing factors in the world, their potential impact on the markets, and how these factors could alter the university experience globally going forward. A recording of the event can be found (registration required).