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Ed Whitman for Lightstruck Studio

By Kathleen Kocks

In August 2005, GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs experienced a change of stewardship, as Dean Harry Harding returned to teaching at the University and turned over the school’s reins to Michael E. Brown. Possessing an impressive resume of international expertise, Brown quickly began enhancing the capabilities built into the school during Harding’s decade-long leadership.

Julie Woodford

Educated at the University of Pennsylvania (BA, MA) and Cornell University (PhD), Brown became a senior fellow and member of the directing staff at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, senior fellow and associate director of the international security program at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, founding director of Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, and director of Georgetown’s master’s program in security studies. He also has written and edited numerous books on the topic of international security and is a co-editor of the International Security Journal.

GW Magazine spoke with Brown about his first-year impressions of the school and what growth to expect in the coming years.

GW Magazine: In your view, what is the overriding purpose of the Elliott School and how does it fulfill that purpose?

Dean Brown: The Elliott School has three overriding, interconnected purposes. The first is to educate the next generation of international leaders. We do that at the undergraduate and the master’s levels through a combination of rigorous academic education and policy studies.

Our second purpose is to conduct scholarship, research, and analysis to help illuminate the problems in the world. We do this through our individual scholars and through our research centers and institutes. The latter two are force-multipliers: They bring people from different disciplinary backgrounds together to address the world’s interdisciplinary problems.

Our third purpose is to reach out to the policy community nationally and internationally, to bring our ideas to policymakers. The Elliott School is in a unique position to do that because of its incomparable location. From the seventh floor of our building at 1957 E Street, you can see the State Department, the Pentagon, and the Capitol. We are just around the corner from the IMF and World Bank. These are important institutions shaping the world. Our proximity to them enhances our ability to learn from the policy community and influence policymaking.

GW Magazine: In what ways do you believe the Elliott School is exceptional?

Dean Brown: More than our location makes the Elliott School exceptional. We bring part-time faculty and practitioners into the classroom. They add important real-world dynamics to our academic programs. Students have terrific opportunities for internships and networking. We also have a unique network of 13 international educational partners. This provides fabulous study-abroad opportunities.

Because of our network of international partner schools, international students have special opportunities to come to the Elliott School. They not only study here but interact with our students, professors, and other Americans. This helps international students learn more about American perspectives on international affairs, and it allows Americans to learn more about international perspectives.

The Elliott School also is exceptional because of its focus not just on high diplomacy but on the human dimensions of international affairs. GW has first-rate anthropology and geography departments, which offer courses on peoples, cultures, and human geography. This is important because billions of people are living on the edge. The Elliott School is helping to make a troubled world a better place.

GW Magazine: Why do you think the world needs a school like the Elliott School?

Dean Brown: There are six billion people in the world, and one billion try to survive on less than a dollar a day. There are armed conflicts in many countries and regions. Disease and health care are tremendous international problems. Industrialization and globalization are powerful forces that will continue to shape the 21st century. The population of the planet will increase from six to nine billion in the next 50 years, making many of these problems worse. The next 50 years is a critical juncture in human history. More than ever, the Elliott School is needed to advance our understanding of these problems and educate the next generation of national and international leaders.

GW Magazine: What types of students does the Elliott School attract?

Dean Brown: The Elliott School attracts many different kinds of undergraduate and graduate students. Their diversity in terms of their knowledge, experience, and expertise is part of what makes this a great school.

A student relaxes in the lounge of the Elliott School’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies

Claire Duggan

The Elliott School currently has 2,000 undergraduates and 650 graduate students. Most have studied social sciences and languages, but others have a variety of academic backgrounds. The Elliott School is an interdisciplinary school, and we value these different perspectives on international affairs.

Our students also come from a variety of national backgrounds, so we truly have an international student body. Many of our graduate students come from different professions. This adds to the school’s interdisciplinary strengths.

GW Magazine: As you begin your second year at the Elliott School, what do you hope to accomplish to expand the school’s capabilities?

Dean Brown: For one, we will be adding faculty and courses on conflict and resolution, as well as national and international security. We are making it a priority because we feel it is important for the school to be strong in these areas. National security coursework will include homeland security, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and intelligence analysis, in particular. International security studies look at the full range of military and nonmilitary factors that influence conflict problems.

We also plan to expand our course list on Africa, and we will create a new master’s program on Middle East studies. The Elliott School received approval from the University’s leadership in May to launch this new program in 2007. We will be designing courses, plus recruiting students and faculty in 2006-07.

An additional focus is to continue expansion of our international partnerships. It is important for our faculty and students to have as many opportunities for international travel and study as possible. The more we can do, the better we will be. We are currently negotiating with schools in South Africa, India, Latin America, and other regions.

Another priority is to strengthen our existing research centers and institutes, and to add a few new centers and institutes. These centers bring people and ideas together, support our research and teaching programs, and sponsor important international affairs events. They are part of the infrastructure that allows us to continue to expand as a great school.

GW Magazine: Regarding the international affairs events, the Elliott School does an extraordinary job attracting speakers and attendees. Can you elaborate on these events?

Dean Brown: The Elliott School and its centers and programs sponsored 205 events this past year. This enriches the intellectual life and academic community of the Elliott School and the entire University. This is an important part of our academic mission, as well as our outreach mission.

The high point of our event calendar came on May 4 and 5, when two Nobel Peace Prize recipients spoke at GW in an amazing 24-hour period. The first was Shirin Ebadi, speaking in the Elliott School’s Robert J. Pelosky Distinguished Lecture series. The next day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke at an academic convocation in Lisner Auditorium. This was a triumph for the Elliott School and The George Washington University, and a clear sign of how dynamic we have become.

Schooling Global Leaders

In terms of being an instrumental force in the international community, GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs stands tall.

Founded in 1898 as the School of Comparative Jurisprudence and Diplomacy, the Elliott School has evolved into an excellent academic institution and a dynamic participant in today’s international affairs. It accomplishes this through four main avenues: academics, faculty, research, and outreach events.


The school’s keystone is its variety of high-caliber courses and programs, which are designed to provide an interdisciplinary education that addresses today’s multifaceted needs. Besides offering several undergraduate and graduate majors, the school also conducts special programs of study. Two examples are two-week, college-credit courses at the school’s U.S. Foreign Policy Institute and a three-day Governing in the Global Age program for state and local leaders.

Undergraduate and graduate students also can participate in study-abroad programs. These include studies at GW’s Paris and London centers, and more than 100 programs of study in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. The school currently has 13 international partner schools where students have the opportunity to learn.


The Elliott School faculty includes full-time, part-time, and adjunct professors, as well as guest lecturers who bring to the school a wealth of specialized and real-world expertise. For example, below is just a dozen of the school’s illustrious faculty:

Gordon Adams: 2006-07 Woodrow Wilson Center fellow; specialist in security policy, national security budgeting, and defense industry

Deborah Avant: director for the Institute for Global and International Studies; specialist in civil-military affairs

Martha Finnemore: winner of the 2006 Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Research Prize for excellence in teaching, research, and service; specialist in international organizations and ethics

Ambassador Karl F. Inderfurth: John O’Rankin Professor of the Practice of International Affairs; director of Graduate Program in International Affairs; specialist in South Asia, peacekeeping, and security

Kirk Larsen: Korea Foundation assistant professor of history and international affairs; winner of the 2006 Bender Teaching Award for outstanding teaching and development of faculty activities

Cynthia McClintock: 2006-07 Woodrow Wilson Center fellow; specialist in Latin American politics

Edward McCord: Associate dean of management and planning; specialist in Chinese history

David Shambaugh: director of the China Policy Program; specialist in Chinese politics and foreign policy and international relations of the Asia-Pacific region

George Fidas: adjunct professor specializing in intelligence and security issues and Mediterranean region; director for outreach at the Office of the Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production

Ambassador David Shinn: adjunct professor specializing in Africa, terrorism, and Islamic fundamentalism

Inder Sud: adjunct professor specializing in country development policy, formerly with the World Bank and consultant to numerous governments

Judith Yaphe: adjunct professor specializing in Iraq; Middle East project director for the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University


Serving educational and outreach objectives, the Elliott School currently has five centers and institutes and six research and policy programs (see list). The school also has a visiting scholar program and has established affiliate relationships at six centers within other GW schools. One example of the latter is the Center for Global Health within GW’s School of Public Health and Health Services. These affiliate programs afford Elliott School students more opportunities for interdisciplinary understanding of various international issues.

Centers and Institutes

• Center for International Science and Technology Policy
• Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies
• The Institute for Global and International Studies
• Sigur Center for Asian Studies
• Culture in Global Affairs

Research and Policy Programs

• China Policy Program & China Documentation Center
• Culture in Global Affairs
• GW Cold War Project
• Program for International Studies in Asia
• Space Policy Institute
• US-Japan Economic Agenda

Outreach Events

The Elliott School is a vehicle for discussion, communication, and outreach. The school sponsors and organizes numerous events each year—205 in 2005-06—attracting high-level speakers and attended by GW students as well as professionals within the international community surrounding Washington. Recent examples are:

Reflections on Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in Iraq: Speakers: Colin Kahl, Office of Stability Operations, Department of Defense; Stephen Biddle, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

The State of U.S. Relations with Latin America: A Luncheon with Hon. Thomas A. Shannon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Argentina’s Economic Condition and Prospect: Speaker: Eugenio A. Diaz-Bonilla, Argentine Executive Director at the Inter-American Development Bank

Making Institutions Work In Peru: Democracy, Development, and Inequality Since 1980: Speakers: Richard Webb, Director, Economic Research Center, Universidad San Martan; Francisco Durand, Professor of Political Science, University of Texas, San Antonio Coletta Youngers, Senior Fellow, WOLA

The Role of Diasporas in Developing the Homeland: A day-long seminar with five presentations.