When it comes to strengthening international affairs education, Reuben E. Brigety II is starting with the man in the mirror at his new task at hand – leading the Elliott School of International Affairs.
Brigety spoke to faculty, administrators and students Thursday, his first official day on the job as dean. The former U.S. representative to the African Union was hired in August.
Here are the main takeaways of Brigety’s vision for the future of the Elliott School:
1. Building leaders for the world
Brigety started the event by showing the music video of Michael Jackson’s hit song “Man in the Mirror,” saying the specific crises shown in the video have changed since its creation in 1987, but the world still needs leaders to solve international problems.
“What the daunting challenges of today have in common with those seemingly impossible challenges of the past, is that their resolutions require leaders,” he said. “Leaders who have knowledge, leaders with skills, leaders with character. And that is why we are here to build leaders. To build leaders for the world.”
Brigety said he will take an already high-ranked international affairs school and “place it firmly” among the most elite institutions by asking those in the school to work together even more than they already are doing.
2. Taking a STEP forward
Brigety said his goals for his tenure as dean of the Elliott School are to be as “collaborative and transparent as possible” by focusing on STEP: scholarship, teaching, ethics and practice.
He promised to promote scholarship in the school by providing resources for tenured and non-tenured faculty to achieve success in their research, and acquire scholarship grants.
Brigety recognized research as important to the Elliott School, but its “heart and its soul” lies in its students, which is why he will emphasize quality teaching. He said he encourages faculty to meet with students outside of class, like he did when he was a professor at George Mason and American universities.
“I regularly met students for music and coffee in sessions I called ‘jazz with Dr. B,'” Brigety said. “I hope to institute similar sessions here on Foggy Bottom, so students, be on the lookout for ‘jazz with Dean B.'”
He also plans to strengthen the application of ethics to international affairs during his tenure, so students can not only know about relations with other countries, but also how best to create those relationships.
3. Remembering names
“How do you plan to remember all these people’s names?” Brigety’s son asked during a question and answer session.
Brigety said his priority, especially at the beginning of his tenure this fall, is to get to know and collaborate with as many stakeholders in the Elliott School as possible.
He has already set up a series of meetings over the next month to get to know faculty and students, and even has a coffee date planned for Thursday afternoon with a dozen students.
Brigety is also scheduled to travel internationally in November to meet with donors and potential students.
4. A future in Africa
Brigety promised in increased concentration on African affairs in the school by creating an institute for African studies, an area that faculty have said needs attention.
“By the time it’s done, it will be the place, certainly in Washington, if not in the country to do African-related policy and research. That’s how strongly I feel about it,” Brigety said.
He said he’s open to debate on who will lead the program and the specifics of what the program will be, but he wants to get it under way “sooner rather than later.”
Brigety served as the U.S. representative to the African Union and also worked as a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of African Affairs and in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. He said a knowledge of Africa is essential for anyone working in international affairs today.