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Leela Fernandes named as next director of the Jackson School of International Studies

April 9, 2020

The Block W statue at the North entrance to the UW Seattle campus.
Photo by Katherine Turner

SEATTLE, WA —Leela Fernandes has been named the new director of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.

“The interview process demonstrated Leela’s thoughtful approach to operations and resource management, commitment to inclusivity, and a strategic vision, which includes expanding course offerings and improving the school’s visibility and impact,” said George Lovell, divisional dean of the Social Sciences.

Leela Fernandes

Leela Fernandes

Fernandes is a gender studies and political science professor and has a STEM background. She is currently the Glenda Dickerson Collegiate Professor of Women’s Studies with courtesy appointments in Political Science and Sociology at the University of Michigan. In her role as the Director of the Center for South Asian Studies, a U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center, she is also part of the governing structure of the International Institute at Michigan that houses 17 centers and programs.

“The Jackson School has a historic legacy in shaping international studies. The depth of knowledge about the world and the cross-disciplinary breadth of knowledge of the School is now needed more than ever as we navigate a world shaped by globalization, climate change and the complexities of responding to global health challenges,” said Fernandes. “The School’s commitment to public engagement is a critical source of leadership in our turbulent and interconnected global environment. I am delighted that I will be serving as the director of this vibrant intellectual community. Having spent my career working at public institutions, I am looking forward to joining the University of Washington and contributing to its mission of public education.”

After receiving bachelors’ degrees in computer engineering and English literature from the University of Michigan, Fernandes earned her master’s in international relations and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. Prior to joining the University of Michigan over a decade ago, she served on the faculty of Rutgers University, New Brunswick and Oberlin College.

In her previous work, Fernandes has been centrally involved in institution-wide initiatives, including in a key leadership role as a member of the Dean’s task force as part of Michigan’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. She also serves on the executive committee of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences College Executive Council at Michigan, an elected position.

Fernandes’ research focuses on democratic politics and inequality, with in-depth study of contemporary India to inform the dynamics of political, economic and social change. Her work draws on original fieldwork in India and is both archival and ethnographic. Recognized for her scholarship, she is the author of numerous articles, essays, reviews and four sole-authored books, and has been an invited speaker by dozens of universities and other institutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Fernandes will succeed Reşat Kasaba, a longtime UW Jackson School professor and administrator, who is retiring as director on June 30. Kasaba will go back to teaching and research at the Jackson School.

“I want to thank Reşat Kasaba for his excellent leadership of the Jackson School over the past 10 years,” said Bob Stacey, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Reşat has positioned the Jackson School at the forefront of international studies and policy analysis, and I am tremendously grateful for his service.”

The role also carries the title of Stanley D. Golub Endowed Chair in International Studies. The Henry M. Jackson Foundation established the chair in honor of Senator Jackson’s aid and cherished friend, Stanley Golub. Known for his exceptional character and integrity, Golub founded the Jackson Foundation and served as its first president. He and the Senator believed in the importance of international affairs education as a key to making smart, informed public policy and shared a keen interest in developing the UW as a leading international studies institution.

When she assumes her appointment on July 1, Fernandes will be the first female in the directorship role.

Founded in 1909, the Jackson School of International Studies is a nationally recognized leader in advancing the understanding of and engagement in world issues. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in both international and area studies and is home to 21 centers and programs. Its location in Seattle, a global hub of commerce, philanthropy and progressive policy, provides a diverse and dynamic environment that helps connect scholarship with what the world needs.