The definition of studying international affairs changes as often as politicians make decisions about the nation’s foreign policy. To best prepare students to enter a world increasingly focused on relations with Middle Eastern states, the Elliott School of International Affairs plans to open the Institute for Middle East Studies.
The institute will serve as the foundation for Elliott School’s masters’ program in Middle East studies and will be one of several similar research centers affiliated with the Elliott School and other schools within the University.
“The institute’s goal is to support faculty members’ and students’ work focusing on the modern Middle East,” Menachem Wecker, assistant director for public affairs for the Elliott School, wrote in an e-mail.
In addition to sponsoring student and faculty research, IMES will also host workshops, conferences and public lectures related ot international affairs and the Middle East.
Students in the institute’s master’s program will have the opportunity to study a specific region of the Middle East, while simultaneously gaining a greater understanding of the entire area.
“Obviously recent events make the Middle East of great public interest,” said professor Nathan Brown, director of the institute. “IMES aims not simply to respond to the headlines but to foster deeper understanding of Middle Eastern history, culture, politics and economics.”
Several prominent faculty members will be heading the program. Marc Lynch, a new faculty member, is widely known for his numerous media appearances. His blog, the widely-read Abu Aardvark, tracks events in the Middle East.
The Elliott School last announced their plans for increased Middle East study during the academic year.
“The Middle East is one of the most important and volatile regions in the world and will remain so for decades to come,” said dean of the Elliott School Michael Brown in a briefing last summer. “The program will help the Elliott School carry out its mission of educating the next generation of national and international leaders.”
The University currently provides funding for the institute but, there are plans to have other sources expand on this provided sum with donations.
“The centers and institutes each get their own funding, and I know these come from wide and varied sources,” said Wecker. “There is not one single source of income that will lead in any way to biases in the institute-sponsored courses and research.”
The Institute for Middle East Studies is just one of a host of research centers and programs housed in the Elliott School. Some are well-established and have already spent several years conducting research. The Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, chartered in 1986, is one such program.
“Our goal is to disseminate and foster knowledge about Europe and Eurasia,” said Hope Harrison, the institute’s director. Originally called The Institute for Sino-Soviet Studies, the center was formed as a response to the events surrounding the Cold War. The GW Cold War Group, a research group within IERES, is famous at both an academic and national level for its expertise on this period in history.
“This program is something unique to GW,” Harrison said. “To understand a lot of what’s going on today, we need to understand the Cold War.”
Additionally, IERES provides research opportunities for both faculty and students. The Visiting Scholars program allows professors from around the world to come and study at GW. In a program started last year, IERES gives a few undergrads doing research on Europe and Eurasia the chance to work with scholars in the field and access otherwise nearly unavailable resources.
“We want students to be more involved,” Harrison said. “That is definitely one of my objectives.”
The Institute for International Economic Policy supports research of emerging global economies. It received its charter from GW in July 2007.
Brown said “I think with the creation of the new centers and institutes, the Elliott School will now have a far fuller array of such research-support bodies commensurate with its position as one of the leading schools of international affairs in the country.”