University seeks leadership for institute

A search process is underway for the University’s first leader for a cross-disciplinary global women’s institute.

Barbara Miller, associate dean for faculty affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs and head of the search committee, expects the institute to be “a world leader” in research, education and public engagement on global women’s issues.

“There is no other unit like it, situated in a prestigious academic setting, in a national capital and with such breadth of vision,” Miller said.

The institute will address contemporary women’s issues through coordinated sponsorship and dissemination of research. Though it is not intended to spark any new degree programs, Miller hopes that schools and colleges within the University will build up their faculty expertise, curricula, policy engagement and service activities related to global women’s issues.

Miller said the search committee is seeking a leading scholar or professional with a “deep commitment to global women’s issues” and a broad range of experiences in issues relating to health, rights and the condition of women.

This institute was created after a directive from University President Steven Knapp. After witnessing the oppression of women’s rights during a trip to Saudi Arabia in 2009, he launched a campus-wide task force to create an institute to bring together various women’s rights efforts across GW.

Throughout the spring 2010 semester, a task force of nearly 20 students, faculty and administrators devised ways to incorporate both undergraduate and graduate communities. For Miller, the institute’s potential for broad outreach is “one of the things that makes it so exciting.”

She said the new director “will inherit a very involved community here at GW, spanning all 10 schools and colleges, administrators, faculty, students and staff.”

Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, said the institute will fill the need for a single entity that brings together and promotes “the broad array of scholars working in this area on our campus.”

The task force keyed in on areas of study that crosscut academic programs, such as human trafficking, maternal and child health, human rights, foreign aid and international development, leadership education programs and glass ceiling challenges in developed countries.

The institute is supported by a start-up fund provided by the Office of the Provost, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and the Office of the Vice President for Research, but Miller intends for colleges within the University to build a “pillar” of financial support for the institute – a gesture that could take many forms. Maltzman declined to provide an estimate of how much money was committed to the institute’s establishment.

Vice President for Research Leo Chalupa offered additional seed funds for a research project focusing on the challenges of balancing work and family responsibilities for women in the U.S. and Switzerland.

With the help of professional search firm Isaacson, Miller, the 20-member search committee has collected more than 50 names of possible candidates in the last few months. The committee aims to name a new director by the summer or fall of 2012.

After a director is selected, the institute will likely be governed by an internal advisory board as well as an external board, Miller said.

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