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Director’s message: Spring 2020

June 22, 2020

Professor Resat Kasaba
Anne H.H. and Kenneth B. Pyle Professor of U.S. Foreign Policy Reşat Kasaba. Photo by Colette Cosner

I have come to the end of my tenure as Director of the Jackson School. Leading this institution for the past 10 years has been a distinct privilege; certainly the high point of my professional life. The exceptional faculty of the Jackson School, our extraordinary students, and the skilled and capable staff that help run the School make this a very special place. In this newsletter you will see examples of our recent accomplishments and I am sure you will join me in admiring how much the Jackson School does in furthering our collective understanding of the world.

Our spring quarter was anything but normal. Starting in February, the global coronavirus pandemic spread across the entire world and disrupted everything we do. We moved all our teaching online, faculty and staff have been working from home, and all our activities, including our Convocation, was conducted virtually on Zoom.

As we were dealing with COVID, first the U.S. cities, then urban centers across the world were rocked by massive demonstrations to protest state violence against Blacks. In the U.S. the demonstrations were sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery who are only the latest victims of racist violence that has a long and painful history in this country. Typically, the end of a School year calls for joyous celebrations, but this year while we applaud and feel proud of everything we have accomplished, we also feel sad and angry.

Unsettling as they may be, a period such as the one we are living in also offer opportunities for us to address our problems in new ways. We can be imaginative and creative without being burdened by the deadweight of old, and failed practices. As you will read in this newsletter, with programs such as the COVID Global Conversations; courses we taught; public lectures we delivered, and the many articles the Jackson School faculty and students have published, we are already far along in contemplating our future.

There are three principles that guide me and my colleagues as we engage in these activities and try to make sense of our world. First, we believe that being globally engaged starts with the work we do here at home, as part of our own communities. Our students don’t wait for that special internship or job at the State Department or some other government agency or an international organization or non-profit to have an impact on the world. They are already hard at work and fully engaged with the world.

Second, we value the importance of historical knowledge for understanding our contemporary reality. Specifically, from the many painful episodes in history we know that when international organizations decline and opportunities for international interaction and collaboration diminish, we become poorer and less capable of addressing our problems and more prone to conflict and war.

Third, we in the Jackson School work hard to erase real and imagined boundaries that separate us from each other. From COVID to climate change to cyber security and human rights, all the major issues of our world call for an approach that is collaborative across nations and combines social sciences with humanities and professional expertise.

We know that post-COVID world will be different from the one we have been accustomed to. What this world will look like, however, is not clear at all. One trend that is becoming quite prominent is the fraying of international institutions and global networks.

Schools like ours are very well positioned to study and understand the numerous local and regional phenomena that are demanding our attention every day. Studying the world requires literacy in other cultures and histories. At the same, our students will have to be prepared to help rebuild the international connections and global institutions that have been systematically undermined. This is a challenging agenda, but it is also one that offers tremendous opportunities to a new generation of students and scholars.

Reşat Kasaba
Director – Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
Stanley D. Golub Chair of International Studies