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Director’s Message: Winter 2020

April 2, 2020

Resat Kasaba

Dear Friends,

Normally, this would be the best time of the year to be on the campus of the University of Washington. We usually enjoy the cherry blossoms at their peak in April, admitted students participate in various activities and visits, and we start to prepare for the end of the academic year and celebrate graduations, and another year of teaching, research and programming.

Yet today, there is an eerie silence on our campus. To abide by Governor Inslee’s decree to shelter in place, all our teaching and administrative activities was moved online in March. We finished our winter classes, evaluated the Task Force reports, and put the Spring quarter courses online within two weeks. Especially challenging was to change the format of the Task Force evaluations. As you will read in this newsletter, my colleagues, instructors, students and the evaluators connected from around the world and conducted a full and extremely rewarding set of reviews on March 13, the Task Force Day.

We in the Jackson School have a unique vantage point in trying to understand the COVID-19 pandemic. In our classes we teach about the devastating effects of diseases that have left a deep imprint in world history. Plague in Middle Ages, small pox in colonial America, cholera in early modern world, influenza in 1918 are all remembered as epochal episodes, in the sense that they closed and/or ushered in distinct periods in global history.

It is more than likely that COVID-19 will be remembered as such a point refraction. We don’t yet know what our world will look like once we leave behind this difficult period. But there is little doubt that in coming years how we learn, teach, work and socialize will carry the mark of what we are experiencing today. Equipped with our knowledge of history and deep familiarity with other parts of the world, my colleagues in the Jackson School are already hard at work to make sense of this period, and imagine what is likely to emerge once the pandemic passes.

When COVID-19 hit Washington, we had already started planning our Trump in the World course. Like everything else, these lectures and discussions have now been moved online. We have also asked each presenter to touch upon the impact of the pandemic on their topic. We are also planning a series of events that will specifically address the global pandemic itself. We are contacting alums, scholars, practitioners and volunteers in several countries to find out what is happening where they are living. These interviews/conversations will be recorded and posted on our website. Towards the end of the academic year we are planning to host an online talk with Enrico Letta, former Prime Minister of Italy and currently the Dean of Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po in Paris for a wide-ranging discussion about the world, Europe and COVID-19.

Until we were hit by the pandemic, we were busy with a full slate of programs, tackling some of the most important issues of our time. For example, on January 28, we hosted Daniel Estrin, the Jerusalem correspondent of National Public Radio. In front of a capacity crowd, he gave a “behind the scenes” account of how he puts together the stories we wake up to in the mornings.

The world-class faculty in the Jackson School continue to write outstanding books that reflect the amazing breadth of their interests and their excellent skills. We have included in this newsletter announcements about some of their most recent publications. I hope that looking at these titles will make you appreciate once more what a special place the Jackson School is!

Living through something like the coronavirus pandemic forces us to rethink everything we take for granted or thought we knew. Some of the best literature on international studies and world history were produced during times of crisis by scholars who were trying to make sense of was happening around them. I am confident that my colleagues and our students will also rise to the occasion and help us understanding the profound changes we are going through.

As we move into Spring, we will also get ready to welcome Leela Fernandes, who will be taking over as the Director of the School on July 1. As you will read below, Professor Fernandes is an accomplished scholar with strong administrative experience. We are all looking forward to her arrival this summer.

It is regrettable that this newsletter will have to end on a somber note. We are deeply saddened by the passing of Peter Hardin Jackson, the son of the late Senator Henry M. Jackson, and a friend and enthusiastic supporter of the School. Peter’s unwavering commitment to social engagement will continue to be a source of inspiration to me, my colleagues, and our students for many years to come.

As always, I am indebted to you for your continuing interest and support. I look forward to hearing from you. I am especially interested in finding out if any of our alums are involved in work, research, or any other engagement related to COVID-19.

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